The Internet and other communications technology are helping to speed up international mobilisation to causes and campaigns and are contributing to changes in governance structures.
A new booklet entitled From local to global, published today by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), examines the implications for civil society organisations and other activists. It was produced following the fifth in a series of special seminars entitled 'Engaging Citizens', organised by the ESRC in collaboration with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).
Individually and collectively, citizens in the UK, along with those of many other nations, respond to calls for support of global causes and appeals. Often, local initiatives are part of a wider response seeking to address issues that have a global impact (eg collective action to cancel third-world debt). This booklet explores how links between local and global groups are forming effective social movements for campaigning and advocacy. In addition, it highlights why social movements benefit from a better understanding of the inter-relationships between the different forms of political and economic power.
From local to global draws on presentations at a seminar given recently by John Gaventa, professor and research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, and Christopher Rootes, Professor of Environmental Politics and Political Sociology at the University of Kent. Their research has identified the challenges and benefits of achieving international engagement and global citizenship.
John Gaventa outlines the need for civil society organisations and other activists to understand the changing nature of governance worldwide. His research highlights the importance of acting at multiple levels and forming vertical alliances to achieve effective global outcomes.
He says, "The key to understanding the changing nature of governance lies in the interactions between the local, the national, the regional and the global - and the way in which each impacts upon and is in turn affected by the other. It's not so much a question of either the local and the national or the global, but of both the local and the national and the ways in which these interact with the global." As citizens do engage in such transnational forms of action, John Gaventa's research suggests new identities as global citizens may begin to emerge.
To illustrate his point, he points to research he carried out with colleagues in India about local activities to support the Global Campaign for Education. He observed that, as a result of the success of the campaign, non-government organisations and trade unions from around the world, as well as India, have gained recognition as legitimate voices in the development of national education plans.
Christopher Rootes concludes from his research that, despite advances in communications, the obstacles to the realisation of global citizenship are considerable. Increasingly, the public engage strongly with global issues (eg local groups contributed substantially to Make Poverty History). However, building organisations that are genuinely global in scope, or that effectively embrace global issues, is constrained by limited resources, cultural differences and the under-development of political structures to assist the process.
He says, "There is growing popular concern about issues such as global social justice and climate change. Civil society organisations are increasingly effective in bridging North-South differences, and contribute to a more encompassing social movement. But, in the absence of a global state, it is premature to speak of 'global citizenship'. Rather than risk a backlash by people who fear an influx if people from the South exercise their rights as 'global citizens', we would do better to emphasise our common humanity and embrace collective action to tackle global problems at their roots."
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR A COPY OF THE BOOKLET, CONTACT:
Amanda Williams at the ESRC on Tel: 01793 413126 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. From local to global is published by the ESRC and follows the seminar organised in collaboration with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations that took place at NCVO, Regent's Wharf, 8 All Saints Street, London, N1 9RL on Thursday 28th June 2007. Speakers were John Gaventa, DPhil, professor and research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and Christopher Rootes, BPhil, Professor of Environmental Politics and Political Sociology and director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Political Movements at the University of Kent.
2. The event was part of the seminar series 'Engaging Citizens' jointly organised by the ESRC and NCVO. Earlier seminars examined faith-based voluntary action, how information and communications technology impacts on social capital, how individuals become involved in voluntary participation and on localism and local governance. The next seminar in the series is entitled, 'Human rights, a tool for change'.
3. NCVO is the umbrella body for the voluntary sector in England. It works to support the voluntary sector and to create an environment in which voluntary organisations can flourish. It represents the views of the voluntary sector to policy-makers and Government and consults with the sector to inform on issues generic to the sector. It also carries out in-depth research to promote a better understanding of the sector and its activities. NCVO has a growing membership of more than 5,000 voluntary organisations, ranging from large national charities to small local community groups. More at http://www.
4. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2006-2007 is £169 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.
5. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.