A World in Crisis… What is the Alternative?
I spent this weekend nosing round some of the fascinating buildings in the Edinburgh Doors Open Day and at the POD Village Fair in Portobello. Last Sunday I enjoyed the Portobello Car Free Day event. All these events are evidence of the flourishing civil society for which Edinburgh is renowned. Civil society is what happens when people do things to make the city a better place to live, and often have fun in the process. One of the things that marks Edinburgh’s civil society is a concern for the world beyond Edinburgh.
Every year since 2005 there’s been a Festival dedicated to this concern. The Edinburgh World Justice Festival started as part of the wonderful Make Poverty History event in Edinburgh. The site of 100,000 people marching in solidarity, dressed ethereally in white for global justice has joined the canonical images of Edinburgh.
This year’s Festival takes place from 15th October – 23rd October. The main events are over the weekend 16th and 17th and involve a number of speakers, workshops and discussions. But there are spin off events throughout the week. The theme is “A World in Crisis… What is the Alternative?”
Now is a very different world to the one of 2005. There’s a great deal more uncertainty. The path of development that prioritised high finance has become bankrupt and may yet bankrupt us all. But that is not an experience unfamiliar to those in Latin America. Following the 1999 Currency Crisis countries like Argentina have found alternative paths to national well-being. It has led to a continent wide rejection of the Anglo-Saxon growth model and the rise of our decade’s greatest statesman, Bolivian President Evo Morales. You can hear from the Bolivian ambassador about how her country is using its resources to create a better nation.
The new models of economy and society in Latin America draw on civil society and grassroots action to improve communities. They are neither managerial, nor based on the shifting sands of global finance. Instead of organising just some weekend events, the whole economy is organised around community action. It places the things that are really important at the heart of state action: family, friendship, sustainability and community control. There’s plenty here for us to learn.
The Festival will develop themes from the European Year Against Poverty and Social Exclusion. It will also reflect on the progress in meeting the Millenium Development Goals, with only 5 years left until to achieve the targets.
The theme of the Saturday event is “Two Crises, One Solution” – reflecting the need to link social and environmental justice. This draws on the theme of the groundbreaking Peoples Conference on Climate Change that took place in April this year in Cochabamba, Bolivia. You can hear from participants on what lessons there are for us, and participate in a Scottish response.
There are also excellent looking events on Afghanistan, the Cuban health model, ‘Honour’ based violence, the role of the arms trade in impoverishing people in the UK and around the world, the Robin Hood Tax and the future of Nuclear Weapons.
The business of remaking our world has become more important since 2005. There are important lessons to be learnt from around the world, and the Edinburgh World Justice Festival is bringing those to Scotland. The world is undoubtedly in crisis, you can help build the alternative…