Here is the organization direct website: https://www.amnesty.org/en/
As we have learned, there are many organizations and networks that are involved in issues that cross national boundaries. The purpose of this last essay is to review the readings on globalization and use those readings to analyze a specific organization working on global issues. Like the earlier paper, I am giving you a basic structure that you can follow for this assignment. There should be four general sections (see below for specifics): (1) a review and commentary on the readings on globalization, (2) a careful description and analysis of one organization, (3) how your organization exemplifies (or not) the themes we studied in this class, (4) a reflection on the obstacles and possibilities of informed global citizenship.
This project will be evaluated on:
• the clarity and organization of your writing
• the depth of your understanding of the book and other readings
• the clarity of your presentation of the organization you choose
• the clarity and depth of the relationships you make with themes presented in this course, and your ability to reflect on the meaning of this for your own life. Be sure to refer to the O’Connell article in your case study.
As you develop your case study essay, be sure to respond directly to the questions below. You may choose from the list of global issues organizations or, with my permission, substitute an organization of your own.
Perspectives on Global Citizenship:
Write a review and commentary on the globalization readings. Begin with a brief discussion of what globalization is, and then briefly summarize what aspects of globalization are most important to citizenship at this scale. (I suggest you review carefully the readings of Unit 5 and 6 before venturing into the later units).
Organizational Description and Approach and Issue Exploration:
In this section describe the mission, structure and/or key programs or activities your group engages in. Discuss one or at most two key issues that your group works on.
Based on the very short description of approaches to global civic action in the article, The Challenge of Global Citizenship, what approach or combination of approaches does the group you are studying use in addressing issues? Feel free to expand, combine, or modify the categories presented in the reading. What do you think are the relative strengths and limits of the approaches used by your group?
Relationship to class themes and issues::
Develop TWO or more connections between the work your group is doing and issues/themes covered in class, pay particular attention to the first portion of your essay.
Based on your encounter with your group, relevant ideas on the brief essay on global citizenship, readings and themes covered in the previous units of the class, and your own reflection, what do you see as the possibilities and obstacles for involvement in global issues as your own life unfolds?
The Challenge of Global Citizenship, Tom O’Connell
This reading is a companion piece to the global citizen action project which is due on the last week of the course.
Imagine the scene. The college teacher has just finished an impassioned lecture on human rights abuses around the world. He has augmented his talk with a powerful film documenting efforts of human rights organizations around the world to challenge the oppressive policies of governments and global corporations. Assured that he has raised the awareness of his students, he is surprised when several students come up after class to let him know just how depressing it is to have to think about issues like these. After all, what in the world can they possibly do to make a difference?
The teacher I am referring to in the scene above is me. And you the reader may well be one of the students who wonder what you can or even should do to address some of the issues raised in class. It is hard enough, you may think, to get involved on issues that affect your immediate community. Isn’t the very idea of global citizenship unrealistic, at least for most of us? What role should I, or could I play on the world stage?
Citizenship: National and Global?
To whom do we owe our allegiance: the fellow citizens of our nation, or humanity as a whole? In the United States, a country with a strong (if somewhat recent) tradition as a nation state, most citizens identify first as Americans. To be a citizen is to be an officially enfranchised member of the United States of America. As an imperfect democracy, deep economic and social inequality means that some citizens are more equal than others in practical terms. But, as the strong public reaction to September 11 makes clear, citizens do have a strong identification with America and will support aggressive measures to defend our security and the security of the nation. But this is not all. Citizenship in America (or any other democratic nation state) is a legal status that allows us certain rights to speak out, choose our leaders, participate in the shaping of politics and policy.
Global citizenship on the other hand, is a metaphor. We can identify as members of a global community. We can act with others through international organizations and networks, but we really aren’t citizens of a global political entity because, quite simply, there isn’t one. We don’t vote for President of Planet Earth. We don’t pay taxes to a world government. But thanks to the growth of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and the spread of modern communication technology we can develop working relationships with people around the world who share our interests, concerns and values. And we do indeed have shared interests. This has been made most clear by the global environmental movement. Global warming doesn’t recognize national borders. If the earth’s atmosphere heats up high enough it will hurt nations whether they are good stewards of the environment or not. To paraphrase old Ben Franklin, “Either we work together, or we hang separately.”
To be effective and sustained over time, global citizenship must be based on a sense of enlightened self interest and a wider moral identification with the good of humanity. Many Americans weren’t paying much attention to the state of the world when the planes hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon. After all, we’ve got our own problems right here in America, don’t we? Although the attacks led some to consider (often for the first time) the grievances of many in the Middle East, the dominant reaction was to rally behind the President in a War on Terrorism. No grievance against the United States, we were reminded, justifies an act of horror like that of September 11. Even to ask why, was viewed by some as an unpatriotic act. In a time when war is both metaphor and the reality, it is the soldier rather than the citizen who we look to for global action. But even as we track down our enemies it is vital to ask: how safe are we in a world where violence, repression, poverty are all too common? How secure are we when what the more fortunate classes of this society enjoy is so out of proportion to that of the rest of the world? The rich put up fences and hire security guards. Is that the kind of world we want to live in?
I know people who spend their lives actively working for peace, economic justice, and human rights. They are fired by a moral passion. Each has her or his own story about the source of that passion. Some find it in religious teaching. Some find it in the democratic creed. Some have been moved by powerful revolutionary and social movement traditions. For most of us, however, the movement from a privatized self, interested only in our own affairs and those we love, comes through a gradual understanding that we do indeed share interests with others. When Alexis de Tocqueville came to America in search of a democratic path for his beloved France, he commented on the extreme individualism of the Americans he met and how this individualism was tempered by Americans talent for creating associations. It was through these associations that Americans learned how to recognize their deeper interests through engagement in public life.
Whether inspired by a deep morally-based humanitarianism, or a developing sense of enlightened self interest, or as is often the case, a combination of both, to act as a global citizen is an extension of the civic act itself. Following are three of the most common ways people choose to act globally and some of the key strengths as well as limitations of each. Each of them has many variations which I have only hinted at here. As you read them over, which approaches to action could you imagine yourself being involved in?
Donating money or material goods to international humanitarian relief and development organizations.
Doctors without Borders
Books for Africa
Often addresses very basic survival needs such as food, shelter, health care.
In some cases organizations also provide training and community development which lead to the increased capacity of people to sustain themselves over time.
Involvement of the individual donor is usually limited to making the donation itself.
Doesn’t, in itself, lead to greater involvement in global issues.
Doesn’t challenge government or corporate policies that may cause or contribute to the problem in the first place.
It is some times difficult to determine which relief organizations are really effective in doing the job.
Ways to Maximize Effectiveness:
Actively research and evaluate the organizations you want to support.
Seek educational material on the issues your organization is engaged in
Go beyond making your own donation to raising money through social and organizational networks you belong to.
Direct people to people/community to community involvement often results in deep learning and relationship building across national borders.
The projects themselves often result in improved living conditions and (less often) increased community capacity.
Projects rarely address the root political and economic causes of social problems.
When not carefully constructed can reinforce paternalistic relationship between “helper” and “helpee.”
Ways to Maximize Effectiveness:
Provide strong background training on the politics, economics, and culture of the host community before going.
Have regular reflection and debriefing sessions as part of the learning process.
Involve local people in the project work.
Organizing and Advocacy
Human Rights Watch
Resource Center for the Americas
Raise awareness of key peace, human rights, environmental, and social justice issues.
Organize grass roots constituencies to change government and corporate policies.
When successful can change oppressive conditions (war, human rights abuses, environmental degradation and economic exploitation).
Requires long term and extensive commitment to make institutional change; while mounting powerful critiques of unjust systems, often lacks the power (political and financial) to make a concrete difference in people’s lives – especially in the short term.
Ways to Maximize Effectiveness:
Combine patience and persistence.
Reach out to new constituencies.
Lower rhetoric when necessary to engage people who are not used to political/social conflict.
If you are like many Americans, you may already be doing the first (charitable giving). You may know somebody who has done an international service project (perhaps through a church) and though you don’t know where you would find the time or money, you could at least imagine yourself doing one yourself. It is the third category that is most challenging for many of us. Because to actively take a stand on global issues of justice and peace requires that we examine not only the issues themselves, but often the relationship of our government to those issues. Those bombs that dropped on Afghanistan and Iraq are paid for with our tax money. They are OUR bombs when they hit military opponents and they are OUR bombs when they hit innocent civilians. The sanctions that have caused so much misery to ordinary people in Iraq were OUR sanctions, the officials we pay to run our foreign policy put them in place. The decision to walk out on the Global Warming Treaty (the Kyoto accord) was made by OUR president. The decision to intervene in Kosovo was made by OUR last President – as was the decision NOT to intervene in Rwanda as tens of thousands of Tutsis were hacked to death by their Hutu countrymen. These may be good decisions or bad decisions: moral decisions or immoral decisions. But they were decisions our leaders made. Were you paying attention? Did you express your opinion? Did you weigh issues like these in voting for President and the Congress? Did you even vote?
The most important act of global citizenship that American citizens can take is to be aware and responsible citizens of this most powerful nation of the globe. Perhaps you are thinking, this is too much work for me. Besides, don’t we have leaders with the expertise to make judgments about complicated foreign policy issues? Yes, we do have leaders and none of us can possibly have all the information to make informed decisions about all the international issues that come up. What we can do, however, is to develop a perspective on global issues. That is what this course has been in part about. Do we believe in a world dominated by competing nation states where self interest and power dominate? Or, do we believe there is potential in supporting cooperative efforts among nations and citizens groups for shared approaches to peace and justice? Do we believe that the economic interests of the majority are best served by a global free market, or do we believe that a strong public sector and civil society is necessary to protect workers, the environment, and local democracy? Do we believe that human rights ought to be a standard applied to all governments and available to all people, or do we believe that in the “real world” such goals are impossible and therefore, not worth fighting for?
As I write these words, Israelis and Palestinians are locked in death grip, American troops are in Iraq, tyrants rule in dozens of countries around the world, the economies of Latin American nations are in a downward spiral, and the AIDS epidemic rages in Sub-Saharan Africa. Terrorism is the watch word of the day as the Statue of Liberty, grand symbol of democratic promise, gives way to border guards and internal surveillance. Yet opportunities remain, perhaps more than ever. Each of us can contribute in small ways or large to global justice. There is peace now in El Salvador (an uneasy peace, I know) because tens of thousands of Americans pressured our government to end its support for the terrorist military forces in that country. There is freedom now in South Africa, because millions of people around the world supported the freedom struggle in that country. College students on hundreds of campuses have learned about the human exploitation that goes into making brand name clothes and athletic equipment and they have taken action. And millions have been saved from starvation because “ordinary” Americans donate money to relief organizations around the world. Most of this history is made by people fighting their own battles for justice in their own communities. But people like you and me have helped.
I wrote earlier that the motivation for global citizenship is often based on some combination of enlightened self interest and moral values. Perhaps the two are really not all that different from each other. When I was a lot younger than I am today I helped organize a celebration to honor an activist from the 1930’s named Madge Hawkins. Madge made history in Minnesota, though few ever heard of her. What’s more she had the extreme pleasure of living in history. She lived most of that history in Minneapolis, but because she identified as part of a global movement for freedom, she imagined and in small ways contributed to history making around the world. She was well over ninety years old when we threw the party for her. Wheeling up to the microphone in her chair, she grinned at her audience and said, “If you want to be happy, join a radical group.”
I’m not sure “radical” is the operative word, but Madge was making the connection between a life of commitment and happiness; between a life of curiosity about the world and the great human drama that underlies our collective life on this planet. I, for one, think she was on to something.
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