You may have noticed that there have been few blogs posted in recent times. This is because we have been reprioritising our work as we wind things down here in the office. These are our final weeks in the office and as you can imagine, there is much to do.
What follows are my personal reflections on recent times.
The last three years have been incredibly challenging for Global Focus. The world changed around us and the Government changed too. The strategic policy framework articulated between the NGOs and the previous government became increasingly invisible until it was pretty much acknowledged that it no longer carried any weight. (Although at the time this post was published that document was still on the NZ Aid programmes website).
Global Focus experienced increasing intrusion from the main funding body as rightly or wrongly the approach changed from the agreed core-funding model to a ‘contract for services’ model. Our funders felt growing ownership over our activities which therefore included the associated risks, both political and financial. It is my belief that eventually those perceived risks outweighed the perceived benefits and triggered the total withdrawal of all financial support. This coupled with the realisation that we didn’t have a powerful constituency supporting us, meant we were considered expendable.
But perhaps somewhat obviously, I disagree with that assessment. In fact I believe a voice which helps people understand their lives in the context of contemporary global issues is more important now than ever. We have been accused of being too radical and not neutral enough but I now think that perhaps we didn’t go far enough.
In a world were the global media is dominated by a few key groups with specific self-centred interests, we have a duty to present a differing view points. In a world where famines are still occurring we have a duty to get people thinking about why that might be. In a world were peaceful protesters are being arrested while financial criminals aren’t held accountable because they happen to be in positions of privilege, we have a duty to keep talking about global injustice. We have a duty to remind people in Aotearoa New Zealand about the injustices that exist here, in our own backyards, lest we get lulled into a sense of false security that bad things only happen anywhere but here.
As we sift through our collections of publications we looked at one from 20 years ago. It was talking about the same issues that we discuss today; poverty, aid, food. Depressingly, not much seems to have changed. That publication barring minor edits is probably still just as relevant today as it was when it was published.
Does that mean we failed, that Global Focus didn’t change the minds of enough people to make a big enough difference? I don’t think so. I just think it means the size of the problem is bigger than we could manage on our own. Once lessons pass from living memory they are often forgotten and we are doomed to repeat them. (Three year election cycles don’t help) Resolving this requires more resources not less.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana
I hope the larger development sector (which includes all organisations involved in international, social and youth development work and education) will continue to recognise the value of global education and will resource the work of teaching knowledge, skills and the values in ways that go beyond communications and marketing strategies.
Maybe there won’t be an office of Global Focus staff who are producing regular documents for you to read, helping you to formulate your opinions or for you to use in your classrooms. But you can still continue the work of our organisation on our behalf. You can challenge harmful assumptions, you can take meaningful action. You can start with your own actions in your own communities.
Our publications are still available on our website and will be for the foreseeable future. Please put them to good use.