Rocio Gonzalez is a young researcher based in Mexico. As International Civil Society Week kicks off, Rocio shares her thoughts on local versus global civil society, and her experiences with the Case for Space initiative.
Talking global when it comes to civil society – and maybe everything (?) – is a tricky business. Personally, I have always been a fan of the “small is beautiful” perspective, so attending the International Civil Society Week, organised by CIVICUS, is an appealing, and yet a bit frightening, experience for me. The main factor behind my fear for the global is my personal belief that civil society faces all kinds of different moments, agendas and environments that are related to the local context and so, if the local conditions are not great, how can civil society focus on the global approach?
Take, for example, the Mexican environment for civil society. Civil society is surrounded by high levels of corruption, impunity and the lack of trust among society and government members. This means they face difficult times because of the high risk, poor support, weak channels for dialogue with authorities and the constant feeling of impotence in actually making significant changes. Mexican organisations are trying to get on board with transparency, technology and stakeholders engagement while defending their own safety from police and drug cartel persecution.
Now, take a look at the India case, where civil society seems like a habit, more than an effort. A place where there are about 4 million charities. I have heard them talking about tokenism, NGO-ism and the need for civil society organisations to be transparent about resources. The Indian and the Mexican picture seem far away from each other.
These are my fears with the global. However, this past year I have learned that going global can be just as beautiful, if you take extra care on not losing the local insight. The one example that I can provide is the Case for Space initiative, where Restless Development, War Child and Youth Business International asked to the world: what is the enabling environment for children and young people to have better livelihoods, mechanisms of protection and conditions for participation?
The answer that 18 global young researchers -myself included- provided is not a single voice nor a unique answer. It contains 18 global contexts, and a much larger diversity of all the voices involved with this project. It captures the specific challenges and paths that civil society needs to cross in each local context, but it recognises the importance of seeing the big picture of youth actor’s efforts to make a difference. Having these 18 local researchers has allowed us to establish a dialogue; to know each other; to see the future ahead us or the common present. It has also made me corroborate that “youth” can mean so many different things around the world, but at the same time is the common factor in social change.
Somehow, this global experience has made me look at the big scenario and be hopeful about the global networks because it brings back together the idea of the different and, in contemporary times where there is an increasing fear of difference, I like to think that youth actors are still betting on each other to be the ones responsible for embracing that ‘otherness’. In that way, the International Civil Society Week seems like the perfect lab for me, and the rest of the Case for Space team, to be among those others.