The Topics


March 10, 2005

Mobilizing Civil Society

Creative Policy Debate Question 9

Recent events in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia demonstrate that internal reform can be mobilized at a grass roots level, independent from external political interference. In the fight against terror, the persuasive power of local NGO’s, civil groups and other grass root organizations is often overlooked. The strengthening of the civil society is vital in the War on Terror.

What roles can citizens play in strengthening democracy and fighting terror and what policies can Western democracies develop to encourage a greater civil role in promoting democracy? (Policy Debate)

Participants in Mobilizing Civil Society Creative Debate


[Jack Duvall]

We cristalize knowledge resistant not violent groups what ever they fight against dictator, women violence... Q we are receiving appeals from groups of civ in the world to do things like Lebanese or Ukranian. How can an international elite transfer democratization knowledge and skills. Only local based groups can do it, maybe with some materials, instructions inputs, etc.

They also want to communicate with each other and coordinate in different parts of the world.

[Yael Danieli] How do you apply anything crossculturally?

[Shimon Samuels] Do you give your material indiscriminately to anyone?

[Jack Duvall] It has to be a complete compromise to be non violent. Our materials are ridiculous; they won't be useful for nazi or violent groups, terrorists...

[Jack Duvall] If we limit access they would say we have a hidden agenda.

[Rosalia Lloret] Ukrania, Georgia, Serbia. there was a student organization in Serbia supported by the West... that was exported to Georgia and Ukrania..
The fact of western support it can be understood as a kind of intervention. This includes finance from the State Dept.

[Sama Hadad]

About the work we do in Iraq:

1. Democracy promotion: establishing debating societies and news letters. We started in 2003, two main universities in Iraq to teach young Iraqis tolerance, freedom of expression... This was alien to them but they picked it up quickly and debate flourished around basic things and high political issues.

The newsletter is very much based in funding and no money, no newletter. Establishing a non profit printhouse would be ideal to expand the project to all major campuses in Iraq.

It is essential to expose youngsters that have only lived under Saddam. It is about enhancing committment with democracy.

2. Iraqi Constitution Project: expanding among students and young profesionals and make them discuss about different isssues to be tackled in the constitution. We compile everything in a report.

80% of students are very pro-democracy however some key issues about it is that their understanding is superficial: thats why a lot of work is needed. If not how commited are you with democracy... they may agree with the trade-off of democracy for security; or have a complete misunderstanding about democracy.

3. Producing reports about what is going on in Iraq. We influenced the selection of the electoral system.

4. We do regular news analysis.

Democracy is absolutely crucial in fighting terrorism. How do you ensure long term democracy? Answer: by founding grass roots in the long term.

[Ejovi Nuwere] How can you only adress a small amount of population?

[Sama Hadad] Targeting young and well prepared university students is the best strategy to expand it. These are going to be the future leaders of Iraq.

[Ejovi Nuwere] Should we not start with teenagers?

[Sama Hadad] No problem with it, but university students are the key generations.

[Michael Stohl] There might be many other groups that need to be movilized. i.e mothers. One should know the target to address.

[Daniel Lubetzky] There has to be some basic security for democracy to consolidate. Security or democracy?

[Sama Hadad] If someone understands democracy superficially it is easy to change your mind about it.

[Yael Danieli] My project in Bosia in Shrevreniza, working with the victims. Once they feel better they suggest to go to Serbia in Banya luca and they all get together Serbs and Bosnians. The only rule was not to leave the place.

Dialogue is the only thing that works. It is a process vs outcome. Democracy is a process not an outcome. I call the project Promoting Dialogue. Democracy cannot be built with the hands of broken souls.

[Sama Hadad]

The reason why newsletters are crucial: the main content are opinions. The submission of articles for these section are crucial. They adress previous articles..

[Rosalía Lloret] Internet is two ways while a newsletter is a one way means of communication.

[Andres Walliser] I would like the emphasis to be in locally based terrorism by criminal organisations.

[Shimon Samuels] In Paris young frustration in Muslims second generation excited by the Middle East media. We established 24 h line for victims of Antisemitism. When something happens in the Middle east the calls boost. This media has an impact on hate crimes.

When we got the statistics and we investigate every call. Now the Muslim community has come to us and want to copy us. We accept but we want to exchange the data.

[Michael Stohl]

There are two questions:
- How to mobilize non western civil societies?
- How to mobilize western civil societies?

[Jack Duvall]

Terrorism is fought not because you want to fight it but rather because you provide alternatives to people that make them not need it.

[Michael Stohl]

I do think that we have many examples of missed opportunities in terms of mobilization. My suggestion is: if you seize an opportunity you have to monitor the possibilities, the potential. i.e. Ukraine or Lebanon...

Second thing is that: the help comes from the US or western Union... as opposed to Uruguay, Chile, where money come also from another places.

[Sama Hadad]

A real life example. First time in Iraq 2003 we met with a lot of young people: one was very critical with democracy. He was a violent radical but after seeing our work, voice vs bullet, he is an active member of our organization.

[Michael Stohl] Money can come from anywhere, but need to be for areas that exacerbate the conflict.

[Sama Hadad] What about when we have Iraqi people that are familiar with feeling the gap? I have not faced negativism just because I´ve lived in the West, just the opposite.

[Jack Duvall] It is a problem that proportionally there is too much US money going to these organizations. The ideal thing would be to arrange a UN fund in which money will be given with no regard of political or ideological agendas.

[Rosalía Lloret]

An international fund will be better received than U.S. money. Groups being supported by US in Eastern Europe had their legitimacy questioned in their own countries, despite they started on their own.

[Wendy Seltzer] Assuming there is this money what are we recommending to enhance civil society.

[Yael Danieli]

Coalition building is a very important tool. The U.N. has succeded in mine control, international criminal court... all of them succeded because we are a coalition of civil society. It is a very important tool: Everybody talks and learns from everybody.

[Ejovi Nuwere]

I don't feel confortable with people using dollar signs to solve the problems. i.e. sharing technology that is no longer used in the first world like printing technology. A way is to enhance communication between civil society and companies. I would like this to be a recommendation.

[Daniel Lubetzki]

The idea is to organize a global townhall system. Empowering people to communicate their succesful stories and experiences and have an interactive discussion. Then people would vote and decide how to stablish a global coalition.

It is a combination between using the internet, make coalition building, expose celebrities to these events...

[Jack Duvall]

In our experience, what indigenous groups need more is expertise. How to organiz? Second is tools: computers are non-violent weapons. Third: how to avoid technological control.

[Sama Hadad]
Our organization is a solely Iraqi initiative. We are genuinely Iraqi people. Support does not mean just money but to provide. i.e. an old print machine. Being an Iraqi organization means that our newsletter might stop, but not our action.

[Andres Walliser]

What if you dont have a plug or a computer around?

[Wendy Seltzer]

We should identify common problems to solve in communities with a minimum access to technology.

[Michael Stohl]
What matters is creating space, sharing knowledge and empowering, tools whatever they are. You have to help people to learn how to better learn to organize.

[Yael Danieli]

Terrorism is an attack on the community. the way to tackle is through any community based organization. In Africa we found that recruiting the gossipers of the town are the best informants of the community.
You want the community to react and build against that.

[Sama Hadad]

Best way to fight terrorism is to promote grassroots initiatives.

[Rosalía Lloret]

I think that specific tools on the Internet could help international collaboration. The effort should be building that space. A good way of enabling second hand technology is the diasporas/exile, they can take a positive role (Iraq, etc.) despite some well financed terrorism too (Ireland), but still it is a good way of creating economies of scale thanks to remittances and know-how export when they come back to their countries of origin.

[Yael Danieli]

People communicate with word, hands, words, still the developing world has a respect for all of that and we should not look down on it with our advanced technologies.

[Michael Stohl] The issue is the end, it is the end but processes are important too.

What is the recommendation?

List of recommendations

1. Independent institution that would agregate resources and support indigenous groups independently.

2. Interactive global townhall meeting: exposes best grassroot practices and people vote on common principles for civic discourse.

3. An organization to monitor the emergence of civil society organizations and give them a space in the media.

4. An organization that fosters promotion of civil society thorough the interaction between companies and civil society providing equipment, materials, etc.

[Shimon Samuel]

One of the most corrosive influences in democracy building is to manipulate young people for suicidal terrorism:

5. The idea is to support the characterization of suicidal terrorism as a crime against humanity and target not the terrorist or families but the instigators and the actual origin of it. The culture of death should be deprogrammed.

6. [Rosalia Lloret] Dialogue with the diasporas: workshop with them to infuse them with non violent culture and tactics, so they can in their turn transfer it back to their countries of origin.

7.[Wendy Seltzer] Matching grants to communities for communication technology.

Posted by: AtochaWorkshop at March 11, 2005 06:10 PM

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