Wednesday, November 4, 2009

UNESCO. Second Global Forum on the power of peace. Bangkok.

Recently I was invited to assist the Second Global Forum on the Power of Peace organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Bangkok. It was the first time I attended to an event organized by them.

I was quite pleased to meet extraordinary people who are really engaged in making a better world, kind of utopian even though I felt filled with hope, a lot of young, middle-age and old people working together to develop the power-of-peace network.

Nevertheless I could realize that most of these people, at least the ones who have a greater power and contacts to make this happen are filled of motivation and good will; but they lack strategy and intellectual knowledge to make it happen.

Their approach is rational and positivist, their goal is to reach mutual understanding in order to have universal agreements. The utterance mutual understanding is directly related to the public sphere; and the universal agreements we can associate it to general consensus, which of both are proved to be utopian and outdated (if we can say that they were applicable in a certain period).

The communicational action - action oriented towards understanding - which the mutual understanding and the universal agreement are counting on; and through which the best arguments (no matter the economic status, racial, sexual, etc. of the utter) could achieve a general consensus legitimized and accepted by all citizens is merely utopist; if we were to consider the socio-cultural heterogeneity (multiculturalism, ethnic and religious pluralism) stance which the UNESCO is operating on, a unified public culture is almost inconceivable.

Mutual understanding assumes a rational process and a common background between the parties. The former one is one of their biggest obstacles to achieve their goal; when speaking about cultural, religious, social issues we are not meant to understand, we can only be respectful and tolerant. For example not eating pork for the Jewish and Muslims amounts to a matter of faith, and it does not have a rational explanation, for it doesn’t need one, all it needs is to be respected and tolerated.

With the later one, UNESCO has to realize that it is not addressing to equals. I’m not speaking in terms of value but in opportunities and cultural backgrounds. A large amount of the world’s population is unable to express openly their needs and thoughts; even less the opportunity to express them through the use of ICT’s. I was quite surprised when one of the speakers Mr. …. A Thailand scholar affirmed that the traditional mass media are obsolete and outdated; his commentary seemed out of place since most of the people attending this conference worked or came from countries in development as himself, where traditional mass media still have a huge power.

UNESCO speaks about empowering people, so the first thing to do is: “recognize the level of individualization [...] and the growing sense and value of personal autonomy, a lack of enthusiasm for authority figures, and a disinclination to become a part of large organizations or entities, where one sees little chance of influence. [...] Instead, social horizons tend to emphasize personal life and the graspable local milieu. In this regard, it could be argued that individualization in an indirect way contributes to the engagement in the new forms of politics, as many citizens come to make political connections via personal commitments rather than overarching traditional ideologies.” (Dahlgren: 2009: 45)

The UNESCO could work on the notion of Global citizenship, since the people are suffering from a lack of motivation to involve in something; they share a feeling of bitterness and impotence. The cultural weather full of taboos, prohibitions, formalities and conformism creates a xenophobic, anti-migrant, racist, repelling society, can motivate them to work in a larger scale as many people are doing now, engaging with environmental, alter-globalization, etc. movements.

UNESCO first of all has to deal with an uninformed citizen, spreading knowledge about their own and other cultures could wake up their sense of belonging and curiosity towards the other. The knowledge and proximity can inspire respect and tolerance towards the different; and grow an individual sense of consciousness through the experience; becoming a way to prevent conflict and encourage participation.

UNESCO has a lot of work to do, but they have to find the right way to do it, if not everything is going to end up in good intentions and not into results. I know is difficult to regenerate an institution that was created 64 years ago. But their approach, philosophy, methodology and modus operandi have to be updated; if they want to stop becoming an obsolete monster. The UNESCO needs to evolve as fast as the world changes.

No comments: