Casa Asia and the Barcelona City Council have organised the East-West Dialogue once again. After eight years of intense debates regarding conflicts, challenges and objectives established by international relations and people's rights, this edition is structured around the reflection about the role governance should have analysing its meaning and its strategic role in economy, finantial crisis, globalisation, social movements and the international governance system.
While young people from around the world -in Western democracies and in the Arab Spring- question the rules of the game power is based on in a government system, and while markets continue threatening European countries in the current economic crisis, the East-West Dialogue gives voice to actors from different countries to propose new formulas of management, new ideas and a joint strategy to improve global governance. As a platform and laboratory of ideas to generate a change towards new joint paths, the role of youth and women is highlighted in this moment of transformation in great part of the world. The role of youth and women will be essential in the perspective of leadership and political participation to solve problems such as poverty eradication, conflict solving and sustainable development.
A Multidisciplinary Perspective
At the presentation of the 8th edition, Juan José Herrera de la Muela, General Director of Casa Asia, has highlighted the current importance of governance in the programme of the Dialogue because it aims to “giving voice to the different entities to promote a new governance structure that emphasizes women and youth from leadership”. According to Herrera de la Muela, we are before a systematic transformation of the paradigm where a redefinition is needed: “States are not the only relevant actors anymore, but more and more voices work on the redefinition of the rules of the game”. Western democracy is not the only model which is why "the challenges of the 21st century must be focused from a multidisciplinary perspective”.
On the other hand, Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations, has guaranteed that “citizens need a change, an agenda towards a future we all want, with opportunities for all, sustainable development and where we all have a voice”. Akasaka has added that “economic and finantial problems are shared by many countries, which is why no country can face them on its own”. Moreover, he pointed out that the United Nations is the best forum to achieve this purpose, even if more association between states is required and the UN must lead this path.
The Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Department of Presidency of the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat), Senén Florensa, has begun his intervention assuring that “there is a need for a new global governance, as well as a new relationthip between global and local governments”. Likewise, she added that "the restructure of a more democractic multilateralism that takes all actors into account: the whole of the international community without exceptions” is required. She insisted on the fact that decentralised governments has an essential task “to approach society more” through decentralisation processes because “with less geostrategic interests, greater freedom of action”. “Catalonia is the entrance of Asia and the Pacific which is why we must encourage its economic, commercial and human relation”, he added. In this sense he has assured that the presence of Casa Asia “has allowed to strengthen Asian communities at home and made our institutions be more and more present among Asian countries”.
The Councillor of the Horta-Guinardó District of the Barcelona City Council, Francina Vila, has highlighted the voices that demand another democracy, “a real democracy”. Vila has affirmed that until not long ago people thought that democracy only needed votes, “but it needs more, it needs quality, transparency and other values we must vindicate”. “I claim for another way of doing politics because the voice of democracy is also in the streets and the squares”, she continued, “as well as the fact that the voices of a few cannot question the rights of the majority”.
Visions on Global Governance
The moderator of the plenary session of the Dialogue, the journalist Núria Ribó sustained that globalization requires new models of governance. Emergent countries would like to be represented in international organisations where their voices will be listened to, which is why "it is necessary to reflect on the new strategies for a new model of governance", she added.
Vicenç Navarro, Dean of Political and Social Sciences at the Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona and Professor of Social Policy at the Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore (USA) considered that “the word governance is overused: it is an argument used to defend impopular policies”. Instead of more divisions, he assures that more unity is need to “discover the points in common of popular classes of Asia with those of Europe”. In this sense, Navarro believes Chinese popular classes have more in common with European popular classes that with the governing elites of their own country.
When it was Kiyotaka Akasaka's turn, he warned that there are differences between ideas of how to govern in China, India and Japan. A debate about universal values that are taken for granted in Spain has taken place in Spain. “There are good and bad elements in Asian values: in Japan first we try to maintain employment and in other countries they are more focused on social and individual values”.
The director of Musawah “a global movement for equality and justice in Muslim families” from Malaysia, Zainah Anwar, insists on the fact that we are before an exciting movement where there are religious debates for the first time because “anyone can form that meaning and understanding of Islam”. In this sense, Muslim women “talk to defend our place and rights in our religion”, but she clears up that it doesn't consist on a struggle for the interpretation of the Koran. Anwar has sustained that “there is not difference bteween the Tea Party of the USA and what happens in Muslim countries”, which is why it is necessary to expand the public and democratic space that recognises the space between the State and religion.
Mary Michele Connellan, representative of the Catalan Model of the United Nations, United Nations Association in Spain (ANUE), has pointed out that there are different perspective that depend on the fact if they are from the East or the West, even though human rights and justice are not necessarily related to these perspectives. “We need to go back to basic human rights”, she concluded.
Governance, Economy and Globalisation
Factors such as governance, economy and globalisation experiment, in these moments of crisis, a process of transformation where the international society must question current models that are still valid today. This has been the topic that has centred the roundtable “Governance, Economy and Globalisation” moderated by Elena Pisonero, Partner and Senior Advisor to the President, KPMG Recursos, who has warned that “simple and linear solutions are useless”.
Javier Santiso, Director of the Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics, ESADE, has opened the dialogue highlighting the economic, finantial and technological "rebalancing" of emergent markets. "The world is being decentred at a great speed", the speaker has warned at the same time he urges the public to “reconfigure the spaces of international dialogue on a balanced base”. Javier Santiso has concluded his intervention affirming that even if the new world context presents challenges, it also offers opportunities.
For Sun Jisheng, Dean and Professor, Department of International Studies, China Foreign Affairs University, R.P. China, reform is necessary, as well as to improve the main finantial institutions, to promote the development of countries and the governance from a regional level. Jinsheng has mentioned that the media and social media can contribute to “reinforce positive values to create and more harmonic society”.
Finally, Braemar Mathi, Director of the Association of Women for Research, has begun her presentation with the challenging sentence “I am not an economist but I know that this is part of the problem”. Mathi described governance as “a decision making process that demands transparency and responsability” and highlights the crisis of political leadership and loss of values of the citizenship.
Women's Leadership for Social Change
Saniye Gülser, Director of the Division for Gender Equality–Office of the Unesco, affirms that “there is not person or country than can be considered an island” and continued highlighting the importance of this dialogue where the role of women as an active agent in the process of social change has been approached.
Expert in conflict solving in Muslim Mindanao, Amina Rasul-Bernardo, Director of the Philippine Council on Islam and Democracy, reminded us that “we must get out of our comfort areas becase possibly these others we do not know are the key of sucess”. According to Rasul-Bernardo, women submitted to the violence of war conflicts undirectly and unwittingly will make their children take part in the same violence.
On the other hand, Bandana Rana, Regional Coordinator for South Asia of the Campaign for Gender Equality and Executive Director of the NGO Saathi, stands out that despite the important presence of women in the General Courts, the Nepali Parliament “is still controled by men” and continued her presentation wondering “whether politics is a space suitable for women”.
The social pressure generated by a group of women can be imposed on the sharia law. This is what Ratna Osman has proved, Executive Director of Sisters in Islam, who has explained the task of raising social awareness in Sisters in Islam in Malasia.
For Queenee Choudhury, Donor Relations Specialist, UNWOMEN, “gender equality is not only a basic right but its achievements also have benefits”. Choudhury assured that the purpose of the body she represents is “to have a stronger and more dynamic organisation that defends women's and girls' rights giving them a more powerful voice”.
The Voice of the Youth. Global Governance: Challenges and Opportunities
“Life is short and ephemeral. Time to be young is very short. Therefore, use your youth in an efficient way”. With these words the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations, Kiyotaka Akasaka, has ended his contribution. Akasaka has shown his support to the young people of the world who take part, reconsider and demand a change in global governance to build a future committed to the future generations. “Young people believe in themselves, they can change society”, he said. Akasaka has considered climate change, human rights, social inequalities and sustainable economic growth as common challenges of the new global society.
Moreover, the spokespeople of the more than 40 young people that these three days have discussed the challenges and opportunities of the new global governance presented their conclusions. Among its proposals we highlight a greater promotion of ethical banks, the participation of young people in Parliaments and budgets, the creation of new communication platforms to reach all young people, the promotion of debates between children and the public administration, or a greater accessibility to politicians. But, without a doubt, the strongest proposal is to redistribute and share out power within the United Nations to avoid its abuse and achieve a greater representation of member states, as well as a greater capacity to solve world problems.
All in all, the two representatives of the youth are at unease and affirm that "we do not only reconsider problems, but we want to transform words into facts" because according to them “young people want the real change of the world”.
Before a Change of Model, New Rules of the Game
On the other hand, the speaker of the East-West Dialogue, Manuel Montobbio, summarised the current world with the metaphor of a larva that becomes a butterfly. This metamorphosis of the world we are approaching goes through the global transformation, the globalisation of economy, the incorporation of women to the world, the incorporatin of the youth and the separation of politics and religion. “It is necessary to create a new social contract so the larva becomes a butterfly and can fly towards a future full of hope”, he affirmed.
Closing: Building Bridges, Destroying Walls
Finally, the member of the Pakistani Parliament, Attiya Inayatullah, has closed the eighth edition of the East-West Dialogue 2011 highlighting the need to work together to create a new “us”. Inayatullah has insisted on “the union between countries as the only way to solve the new problems that the international scenario approaches”. A scenario that must be govened by common sense and ethics. According to Inayatullah, “the union we need will only be achieved building bridges and destroying walls”.