Raising awareness on what citizens can do and policy makers should do

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Stakeholder Opinion

Mural created in the context of of the project CULPEER4change - Culture and Peer Learning for Development Education based in Cologne in Germany. The mural painting was created by the artists Jaime Rodriguez Inungaray and Luis Alejandro Vasquez Aliaga together with students from the primary school Milan Šuštaršič in Ljubljana, Slovenia. [Platforma]

“We must be able to count on ambitious political commitment that takes into account local communities’ needs,” writes José Hila Vargas, Mayor of Palma, Balearic Island (Spain). He signs the forward of a publication on Global Citizenship Education just released by PLATFORMA.

José Hila Vargas is the Mayor of Palma in the Balearic Island, Spain.

The consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are more than ever highlighting inequalities across the world, making it crucial to provide a focus on global interdependencies. Raising awareness on what we can do as citizens and what we should do as policy makers is essential.

With nearly two-thirds of the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) 169 targets needing to be implemented at local level, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda depends in large part on the ability of the government level closest to citizens to learn, foster exchanges and act together against global challenges. We can and should act against climate change, discriminatory narratives and behaviours, lack of democratic channels, gender-based violence and unequal access to clean water and health systems.

Even if municipalities are generally well placed to bring together the local community stakeholders like local Civil Society Organisations, schools and youth organisations, any region or city can on its own go on the path towards sustainable development. We need more equal partnerships to move away from the traditional story of donors and beneficiaries that has dictated the discourse of development cooperation policies and instruments in Europe and abroad. For this to become a reality, systemic principles in global citizenship education should be incorporated and mainstreamed in decentralised cooperation actions carried out by subnational governments in coordination with national governments and local stakeholders.

At local level in Mallorca (Spain), the Fons Mallorquí (the Association of local authorities of Mallorca, of which Palma Council is member), is a good example of how municipalities are brought together with civil society organisations and youth to develop cooperation projects using the 2030 Agenda framework to inspire and implement actions in Mallorca with schools and for citizens to raise awareness about global challenges. Our nature, as associations of local authorities, puts us in a unique position to go beyond Mallorca and develop projects based on knowledge-sharing and capacity-building with municipalities in Peru, Bolivia and Burkina Faso.

In the municipality of Tenado, the diagnostic report of the situation of SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2 (linked to water access) done together with the municipality, showed that the access to drinking water is 73.8% according to national standards and only 6.6% of households in the municipality are equipped with a latrine. This kind of exercise could not have been possible without the cooperation between both municipalities.

For locally-led development cooperation, strengthening the role of local and regional governments and their associations as actors of development through increased political and financial support to Development Education and Awareness Raising/Global Citizenship Education at the European level is a need. We can’t waste more time. We must be able to count on ambitious political commitment that takes into account local communities’ needs, international interdependencies and a territorial approach to development to implement global education projects and policies with a high degree of social responsibility through those who are accountable to their citizens. We can’t just provide young people with a positive message that their energy is taken seriously, we should act accordingly.

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