Last month I was fortunate to be a delegate at the seventh annual United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Global Forum having been selected to share my reflections of the UNAOC Fellowship programme of which I am an alum and you can read about my travels at my blog, here. The Global Forum is an annual event which brings together individuals, organisations, Government Officials and academics working on questions of Intercultural dialogue for three days of meetings, workshops and discussions. If nothing else, it is a fascinating opportunity to gauge where the sector is up to and to reflect on the place of 3FF in the sector.
As I returned from Baku where the conference was held, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I was to work for such an innovative and thoughtful organization. But the over-riding feeling was one of gratitude to my colleagues – every one of them cares, and cares deeply about the work, and in particular, about the impact that they are having on the people with whom we work on a daily basis.
The pressures on the sector and on us as a team to respond to the climate and context in which we deliver our work have never been higher. I personally find it incredibly heartening to know therefore that I have such a dedicated, hard-working, and crucially, kind team supporting me and developing new work. I feel strongly that 3FF should be proud of what it has achieved and the way in which it approaches the questions at stake.
To return to the Forum though, as I said, I had been invited to attend in order to share my reflections on the UNAOC Fellowship Programme. As a participant of that programme I travelled to Morocco, Egypt and Qatar to meet with individuals and organisations working in those societies on questions of intercultural dialogue and education. I had been asked by the Forum organisers to speak for two minutes on my experiences and how participating had impacted on the work that I do, you can read the text of my talk below. Details of the Fellowship programme can be found here, including details of how people can get involved. You can also watch video from the session at which I spoke here, the video is over one hour long, so I would suggest that you skip to roughly 29min 30sec if you are interested in viewing.
“On my second evening in Cairo, I found myself sitting in a café a short walk from Tahrir Square. Across the table from me was a young Egyptian activist; she spoke with great feeling about how she and her father had been in Tahrir Square during the Revolution against Mubarak, and about the sense of optimism that she and her friends felt during those days; her eyes clouded over though when she told me about what had happened since then, about the sense of hopelessness that had set in; she described how in the years since the revolution she had given up blogging and campaigning. But then she said something that surprised me; she said that she now tried to focus on the small, daily, personal revolutions that she makes in her own life, to focus on the changes that no government can take from her, to see the joy wherever she could. I found this incredibly moving and incredibly powerful and it has stayed with me since then.
In London I work for a large intercultural, interfaith organization called 3FF. We talk a great deal about youth leadership, social change and power. Until relatively recently though we talked a great deal less about powerlessness; or about what it means to do our work in conditions where people do not have the ability to make the changes that they want to see. Today though that is very much at the heart of our thinking and today when I sit down to develop a new project I have my Egyptian friend in my mind’s eye.
We cannot all be leaders, we do not all live in societies where the conditions enable us to flourish.
The challenge it seems to me, is how do we enable and inspire everyone, young and old alike, to strive for those personal, daily revolutions that no one can take from us.”
I hope that you enjoy reading! I would love to hear your feedback.