Friday, October 13, 2006

Blood, Sweat and Tears

The fruit of our efforts from last week's ATHGO International Symposium. Out of 200+ international participants, 16 of us were elected to create a "Resolution Committee," which was charged with drafting a concrete and innovative UN resolution proposal which will be distributed to UN missions worldwide, and other governmental and non-governmental bodies for consideration. As the moderator of the resolution committee, I have to say I was extremely impressed with the vision of our group, and truly think we have a remarkable idea to propose to the developing world. I hope you can work your way through the formal language and grasp the ultimate idea we have proposed. Mr. Surbuland Khan, executive Director of the UN GLobal Alliance for ICT and Devleopment (UNGAID) was impressed, so on behalf of my group, I hope you are too.

To Whom it may Concern:

Attached please find the Resolution Committee's final draft of the resolution emergent from the 2006 Symposium in Yerevan, Armenia. We proudly present it to you as a plan of action to bring before all organizations and governments you see fit.

Accompanying this resolution is a supporting document outlining in further detail our vision of the solutions we present. If further clarification is needed, please do not hesitate to ask.

We would like to thank ATHGO International and its distinguished guests for allowing us the opportunity to participate in this symposium. Events such as this allow our voices to be heard with greater impact within the global community, and provide a point of inspiration for further individual action. We would, with pleasure, enjoy presenting our position at any and all future events, including the Cairo Summit in May, as suggested by Mr. Khan.

Thank you once again.

On Behalf of the 2006 ATHGO International Yerevan Symposium, Respectfully Submitted by:

Andranik Ayvazyan
Nina Balayan
Chiara Bortoluzzi
Justine Espiritu
Vadim Gordienko
Gohar Grigorian
Kirsten Hildonen
Amalia Horsepyan
Iman Kamali
Ani Koeharyan
Logan Koffler
Marilisa Lorusso
Stefano Mosso
Arpine Sargsyan
Anoush Tatevossian
Charlotte Von Dewall

ATHGO International
13 October 2006


Recalling the United Nations Millennium Declaration, resolution 55/2 adopted 8 September 2000, and resolution 57/295 of 4 March 2003, in which Member States pledged to financially and technically support the formation of a global partnership for development, and subsequently identified the need to establish a comprehensive United Nations information and communication technology (ICT) strategy, recognized the importance of global networks and stressed the implementation of training programs to ensure maximum use of technology in developing nations,

Guided by the additional challenges extant in Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) due to their geographic orientation, including small domestic markets physically isolated from the world economy, it is understood to be paramount to use ICTs to virtually connect their local markets to global ones, thus establishing a link that will reduce demands on both LLDCs and their transit countries regarding physical access,

Fully aware many LLDCs do not possess the requisite infrastructure to take full advantage of ICT connectivity, it is nevertheless necessary to proceed with ICT development in areas already so equipped to handle it, while acknowledging attention still must be allocated to infrastructure and transit solutions such as outlined in the Almaty Programme of Action,

Emphasizing the mandate for partnerships among public, private and civic sectors within individual states to ensure ICT programs are both appropriate to and cognizant of unique domestic demands,

Believing a state’s own educated youth are a crucial and underutilized resource for advancing ICT presence, and one that can be depleted by a lack of opportunities for employment and career advancement within LLDCs,

Deeply convinced LLDCs should not remain bound by and dependent upon international intervention to maintain ICT program viability, but instead organizations providing ICT assistance should forge partnerships with national institutions and local communities to ensure ICT initiatives will create self-reliant and sustainable development, respectful of national identity, traditions and heritage and in avoidance of harmful cultural imperatives, by focusing on networks among LLDCs and self-perpetuating liberal economic growth,

1. We call for the establishment of a nationally coordinated network involving public, private and civil society under the mentorship and coordination of UNGAID;

a) This body should be sustained by a mixed financial system consisting of international, national and private sector funds;
b) Funding should be structured in a way that all parties have an equal voice in the designated goals for the fund, meaning there should be no connection between the amount of money contributed and voting share;
c) UNGAID should assume mentoring responsibility in incubating these national bodies, grant legitimacy and provide valuable leadership and guidance from the experience of UNGAID’s inclusive, decentralized, multi-stakeholder network;

2. We further recommend the primary operational task of this body should be to implement a national volunteer program utilizing each country’s own youth to educate rural and distant populations in ICTs;

a) Volunteers are students pursuing or possessing higher education, are subject to a rigorous selection process and intensive training program;
b) After comprehensive research, conducted by the parent body, a customized training curriculum is developed that addresses rural and distant populations’ specific needs and offers ICT solutions to be introduced by volunteers

3. We further encourage follow-up actions to ensure future sustainability whereby ICT knowledge augmentation will perpetuate through continued training and certification of qualified individuals within the local population, and through the initiation of an international Business Development Initiative;

a) Individuals showing the most aptitude throughout the training will be given additional instruction by the volunteer, culminating in certification as a local instructor to continue to advance ICT education within the population after the volunteers’ departure;
b) The Business Development Initiative will be an international program for LLDC trained communities wherein individuals within the local population may utilize electronic resources to design and submit business plans for potential start-up grants to establish local businesses;

4. We further support continuous program enhancement through volunteer evaluation and an independent monitor measuring regional progress;

a) Volunteers will be evaluated by both the parent organization and trainees within local populations to ensure effectiveness;
b) An independent monitoring agency or individual will be assigned within each country, subject to the approval of UNGAID, to revisit trained populations at predetermined intervals to assess the permanent impact of ICT training, gather statistical data and conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the local economic impact of the program.


Anonymous said...

sounds very-well thought out and exciting. I like your idea. But to play devil's advocate i have one concern - what do you mean by 'self-perpetuating liberal economic growth' and is it even possibe to work with private funds that do not have neoliberal profit motives or hidden power mechanisms that try to promote the late 20th century and early 21st century capitalism plaguing the world and accumualte more profits by dispossessing people of their labour value? I.e how is this project not a smokescreen for getting people to work for free to promote and connect them to global flows of capital which will ultimatly lead to transnational class hierarchies and relations based on class power. can the state not levy a tax on foreign capital coming in and out of coutnry and redriect it for these important intiatives rather than relying on any private funds.

Ps what are harmful 'cultural imperatives?' Sounds scary. does it mean Westernisation and American Imperialism.

Very impressive though. Does a lot more than i ever tried . I told ralph yesterday you gonna will be the UN secretary general within 15/20. See you soon hon. xx

Anoush Rima said...

thank you devil. let me try to answer your questions- if haphazardly. i will think through it more another time as well...(my next post will be my position paper on why i think developing countries need to become more self reliant in determining the direction of their development, rather than dependent on international aid, so look out for that one!)

the main question we were considering is the unique situation of land-locked developing countries. first the issue is that they MUST improve their economies. capitalistic or not, there have to be financial resources in a country for it to govern itself.

Harvard Professor of Economics Benjamin Friedman said: The most pressing economic problem of our time is that so many of what we usually call "developing economies" are, in fact, not developing. It is shocking to most citizens of the industrialized Western democracies to realize that in Uganda, or Ethiopia, or Malawi, neither men nor women can expect to live even to age forty-five. Or that in Sierra Leone 28 percent of all children die before reaching their fifth birthday. Or that in India more than half of all children are malnourished. Or that in Bangladesh just half of the adult men, and fewer than one fourth of adult women, can read and write.

What is more troubling still, however, is to realize that many if not most of the world's poorest countries, where very low incomes and incompetent governments combine to create such appalling human tragedy, are making no progress—at least not on the economic front."

Something has to be done. Perhaps this isn't the best idea, but we hve to do something.

The private-sector we want to engage is the domestic private sector (such as local Armenian IT companies, or software companies in Ghana) not giants like Microsoft (who, by the way, are increasingly being invited to the table in matters of global development. The UN has realized that most governments cannot make policy decisions without succumbing to the pressure of the big multinationals behind them. and so, this new "multi-stakeholder approach" to development actively engages those big companies because Governments and International bodies like the UN have realized that they can write policies until they are blue in the face, but if Microsoft, Boeing, etc. don't find it in their interest to oblige, it dosn't matter. So now, those companies get a say in global initiatives for development. For better of for worse) so, countries don't have to go along with the Western rules of neoliberal profit and market driven economies, they can develop their own homegrown approach. But they need SOME kind of financial stimulation domestically. They cannot, and should not, depend on foreign aid and foreign investment forever.

The harmful "cultural imperatives" are indeed westernization and American imperialism. Again, that's why our project focuses on creating a NATIONALLY based body which determines its own approaches for its development (taking into consideration its own cultural and social realities, instead of implanting a cookie-cutter prescription from the IMF, et al.). The idea of gettiing the country's youth involved promotes pride in the nation as well. In a room full of about 100 young Armenians, all of their eyes lit up when we introduced this idea. They'd be ready to sign up if the program existed today. Because they don't want their country, their villages, their rural populations to be left behind and they want to play a part in helping make things better. Furthermore, if they are the ones to go and work with the rural populations, its that much more of an organic process. You don't have language problems, you don't have cultural insensitivity problems or problems of hidden Western agendas being infused.

On the question of whether this project is exploiting free labor-- yes and no. In many transitional economies at least, the main problem is unemployment. In India, they developed many enormous academic institutions to train students to become IT specialists. Then the companies in India recruited the best graduates from those schools. Building universities is an expensive endeavor. If we had a program like this where the youth get practical experience and certification without the bulky and expensive infrastructure of building physical institutions (by working for free for a period of time, yes), the local businesses could look to this pool of young experts as a recruiting tool and those "best and brightest" young people can find jobs IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY instead of fleeing to the US or Europe, thus perpetuating the 'brain drain' that so many developing countries suffer.

I'm not sure how to answer your question about whether this won't promote 20th/21st century capitalism, but I'll just reiterate that it seems to be an economic reality. Without money, your country will starve. Without some kind of skill or product you can't make money. I think people in small villages are even aware of this reality. If teaching them a few skills (which, in the framework of this program would be highly customized: for example, a village that has an irrigation problem could be taught how to use softwares/technologies that teach them how to maximize water usage. A small town that is trying to strenghten its educational facilities can be connected to an e-learning portal and receive video conferenced lectures from professors remotely. Or, a village that produces corn can use online resouces to find out what the market price on corn is that day...this last example actually already occurs in villages in India) will help them revitalize a local economy then I think its important.

Basically this is an idea to empower people in developing countries by educating them and giving them tools. It's up for debate though, I'm ready to tweak it until it works.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comprehensive answer. You are extremly brainy and have this stuff down.

I guess another voice i'm trying to put forward though is one that says if your trying to be more egalitarian and share the resources of a country - ie its youth and labour - to improve the financial resources in order govern then why not just try a more socialist project and call it that.

I totally agree that the state is less powerful today than it once was and that multinationals fill the vacated space and as sucha ny project is dependent on their input financial or ideological. That doenst mean we should just back the global system in place.

Saying that though what youre doing can and does make a difference to everyday lives in the imeediate, short-term - an obvious good thing. Improving skills, life expectancy etc. In the long-term though it veers into maintaining the status quo and perpetuating inequalities that lie behind the modern way of life, the cultural imperatives you talk of (they are hidden in most conversation about development, becuase ultimately most ideas on development come out of Euro-American intellectuals, schools and institutions, just as there is too much culture flooding the world that is american via the media industries, films, tv, music,; there are too many euro-american ideas based on enlightenment rational that gave us slavery, colonialism and most recently neoliberalism. No matter how you try to raise up a developing country it will never be on an equal footing with already developed nations, thats the point of the world system to maintain an uneven playing field. Strutural violence is build into capitaism, things like corruption, social exclusion (‘climates of fear’/(in)security), urban segregation (‘gated-community life’), poverty (underinvestment), social discrimination (politically strategic development of services), and a class-power structure.

So while your position today to do something immediate is totally where you should be, in the longer term what can projects like this and people like yourself do to offer alternatives that come up from a non-Imperial point of view. What are the alternatives?

Your penultimate paragraph makes sense in terms of how skills can improve people's lives. I guess though i think you have to be careful on what you mean by economic, define its process, its structures, its mechanisms. don't enter into the future thinking the everybody who works hard will get ahead line - that is never true because of uneven ground, cultures and institutions.

Ok now im losing my thread. sorry. Youre doing good. this is a great idea. its not a solution. lets talk more. i think we need a face-to-face conference.

Anonymous said...

you look very official

Nareg said...

>In the long-term though it veers into maintaining the status quo and perpetuating inequalities that lie behind the modern way of life

I disagree. Why would it ? The point of this process is to steadily build up human capital on a local scale, and it may be a slow process, but it very much upholds long-term goal.

The cultural imperatives are quite unavoidable, though, I agree. It may not always be a bad thing, however.