I am in Mexico City participating in a regional conference for academics and practitioners which focuses on challenges and opportunities for development in the region. Themes included human rights; identity, citizenship, and nationality; and governance and political processes.
From my brief, 3-day stay in Mexico City, my participation at the conference, and in meetings I had with organizations working in Mexico and regionally on issues of human rights, community development, and peacebuilding, I have drawn some observations that I share here. The observations range from the specific to the general, from mundane to more significant, and are simply a snapshot.
• Mexico is ready for the World Cup! Signs are up, venues are preparing for viewing, and you can buy the national jersey everywhere! Is Boston ready? Not like this!
• No one can make sense of the traffic patterns in Mexico City. Some people says its worse between 6-8pm, and others says its always bad! I walked to a nearby hotel in 10 minutes, but it took almost 45 minutes to return by taxi.
• Wireless at the hotels in Monrovia, Liberia, work more quickly and consistently than the wireless in Mexico City.
• Decisions around the use natural resources, and who holds the rights to culturally significant and prosperous land are relevant in almost every country of the region. In most countries there are deep tensions, sometimes addressed through violence, sometimes through the judicial system, sometimes through dialogue, and sometimes unresolved, between indigenous communities who may have historic rights to the land, or presently occupy such lands, and the government, who is eager to use the land for its economic benefits, which may or may not bring wider societal benefit. Addressing these tensions through non-violent and participatory means is critical for sustainable development, economic growth, social inclusion, governance, and international relations. (See the Coexistence International paper on natural resources).
• How can national education systems become more inclusive? An inclusive system is one, where, for instance, children are attending school at high rates (not like an example I heard here, where in one community 25% of school-aged children are not enrolled), where different cultures/languages are represented, and where the caliber of education is strong because teachers are well prepared and curriculums are dynamic. Throughout the region there are national education systems that are not serving to unify or embrace different populations. See the interesting work of the Organization of Interamerican States on this topic. These questions are equally relevant to education in the United States. A CI paper on coexistence and education looks at these questions from an international perspective.
• The election of President Evo Morales (2005 and again in 2009), a leader from the indigenous community in Bolivia is a topic in international political circles, and was the focus of a number of presentations at the conference. Morales is the leader of a political party called the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). MAS was involved in social protests such as the gas conflict and the Cochabamba protests of 2000, along with many other groups, that are collectively referred to as “social movements” in Bolivia. The MAS aims at giving more power to the country’s indigenous and poor communities by means of land reforms and redistribution of gas wealth. A particular nuanced and informed presentation raised questions about the impact of Morales’ presidency on national and pluri-national identity, the redefinition of state identity and its manifestation in the new Constitution, and the exclusionary practices of his government.
- Spanish translation of “What is Coexistence and Why a Complementary Approach?”
- Jessica Berns’ powerpoint presentation from the FLASCO conference
Jessica Berns is the Program Director for Coexistence International (www.coexistence.net). She is presently on a trip to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Peru to understand the coexistence challenges facing the region, and those countries in particular, and to learn from non-governmental organizations and governments about their efforts to create shared societies.