Greetings from the sixth annual Interdependence Day in Brussels, Belgium. I am here with Rahool Goswami of the Neighbourhood Diaries project in Kolkata, India and Patricia Rakotomalala of the Foko project in Madagascar, both of whom are representing Rising Voices at the first ever Youth Summit of Interdependence Day.
Pati and Rahool at Interdependence Day
Intellectuals, political leaders and artists from around the world gather each year for the four-day forum that corresponds with the 9/11 anniversary to help find cooperative alternatives to terrorism, and to help create democratic solutions to global challenges related to economics, the environment, technology and health. The theme of this year's forum, “The City as Commons in a Divided World”, examines the challenges facing multicultural cities like Brussels as microcosms of the greater challenges to peaceful co-exitence in our era of accelerating globalization.
Here is a ten minute promotional video about the event:
At last year's Interdependence Day in Mexico City the organizers of the event realized the importance of involving young people in the discussions about achieving global interconnectedness and ‘interdependence’, which led to this year's inaugural Global Interdependence Youth Summit. Around twenty young participants from around the world representing Rising Voices, Remedee, OneVoice, and the The Flemish Youth Council all came together to discuss issues related to intercultural dialogue.
Participants of the Global Interdependence Youth Summit
The Youth Summit gave the participants an opportunity to interact with well known intellectuals and celebrities like Cornel West who candidly answered whatever questions were put to him. Here is Professor West speaking about the internet, hip-hop, and hierarchies of power:
Dalia Labadi, one of the Palestinian representatives of OneVoice also produced a video interview with Cornel West about the Palestinian struggle. The youths also had a chance to talk amongst themselves and lead their own discussions, including a dynamic group exploration of identity.
The final day of the conference was specifically dedicated to the Youth Summit. Unfortunately most of the adults from the previous three days did not attend the youth forum, but all of the Youth Summit participants were pleased to find out that they will be invited to next year's Interdependence Day which will take place in Istanbul in September 2009. They made several suggestions about how the Youth Summit can be expanded and improved.
The final panel of the conference examined “The Need for Intercultural and Transnational Collaboration.” It gathered Benjamin Barber, James Early, Adam Michnik, and Ferenc Miszlivetz along with four of the youth participants: Shlomo Haar from Israel, Christoforos Pavlakis from Greece, Patricia Rakotomalala from Madagascar, and Hainalka Szarvas from Hungary. Unfortunately most of the conversation bounced back and forth between the adults on either side of the table, which makes Pati's point about adults needing to take more seriously the thoughts and suggestions of youth all the more poignant:
There were originally supposed to be five young representatives from Rising Voices at Interdependence Day, but Diego Ospina, Deneiber Mesa, and Taslima Akter all had difficulties securing their visas. Hopefully they will be able to join Rahool, Pati and the other youths at next year's Global Interdependence Youth Summit in Istanbul.
While Diego, Deneiber, and Taslima were not able to join us, we were fortunate to receive a surprise visit by Sipagasy, a longtime supporter and volunteer of the Foko project who is based in Paris. She wrote a post in French on the Foko blog about her participation in the event, and particularly the guided tour of Molenbeek by activist priest Daniel Alliet.
Rising Voices has shown that, slowly but surely, the internet can bring together individuals from across cultures, countries, and languages. But nothing beats being able to sit down face to face and enjoy relaxing conversation. We are grateful to the organizers of Interdependence Day for enabling us to do just that in Brussels and we look forward to more great conversation with more diverse voices in Istanbul next year.