Development Education in

Development Education

Historical Background

Development Education (DE) in Belgium has a history of about thirty years and has undergone several relevant changes. It is difficult to give a comprehensive picture and to adopt the same point of focus for the Wallonian and the Flemish parts of Belgium. The study Flemish people and the Third World, NCOS (1987) is an attempt to describe how these changes have taken place since the 1960s, at least in the Flemish part of Belgium.

The oldest NGDOs find their roots in the sending of volunteers and in fundraising activities organised to support small-scale development cooperation projects in Africa following the decolonisation process. But it is mainly in the early 1970s that we can talk of effective DE programmes aimed at promoting awareness raising activities in Belgium. These programmes were often coordinated with national campaigns such as `Brazil export' `Chile', `UNCTAD Conferences' etc. During these years, the number of NGOs grew and they were formally recognised by the General Department for Development Cooperation of the Belgium Government.
Today, over 70 Belgian NGOs have a formal relationship with this Department concerning education activity. In addition, many more local groups are active throughout the country.

Social and Political Context

The Belgian division into three linguistic parts (Flemish, Wallonian, German) and the polarity between the Wallonian and the Flemish region have brought both positive and negative aspects to the field of social movements in general and of international solidarity in particular.

In fact, this has generated a strong tradition of social work and of initiatives based upon cultural identity. Both Protestant and Catholic churches have played an important role in this framework and it is not by chance that some of the main socio-cultural associations have a Christian background. Some of the formal school and educational structures also are basically influenced by the Catholic, Protestant or Liberal national coordination structures, as is the case in the Netherlands.

These cultural and religious identities are also reflected in the presence of many youth centres and in a tradition of cultural events that has recently been used positively for DE activities and festivals:
Belgium also has a colonial past in Africa which has influenced part of its development cooperation policy and which has brought many people from Congo/Zaire and other ex-French colonies to study and to work in the country. Manu Dibango, the `father' of African World Music, originally started to play alto saxophone while studying in Belgium.

More recently, Belgium has witnessed a growing racism against immigrants from Third World and other Mediterranean countries. In reality their number has remained almost the same over the last ten years, and less than half of the 900,000 foreign people living in Belgium come from non-EC countries (around 3.4% of the total population, including 25,000 refugees). The conflicts which have arisen, particularly in Brussels, Antwerp and Gent, led the Belgian government in March 1989 to create a Royal Commission for Immigrant Policies, which is now responsible for several educational activities in this field. It has published a pedagogical dossier (May l 991 ) including very concrete suggestions for teachers, and educators, which is fairly informative about the possibilities for coworker on these issues with many DE NGOs.

An Indication of Trends and Structures

A turning point for Belgian NGOs was the Ethiopia crisis of 1984. This helped NGDOs to realise not only the tremendous fundraising and information potential of these issues, but also the possibility for diversifying DE methods. This has led to strong national campaigns, such as the one for 0.7% of Belgian GNP to be given to development cooperation and action : ` 11.11.11'
The 11.11.11 Campaign is run by the National Center for Development Cooperation (NCOS), the Flemish umbrella organisation for NGDOs, solidarity groups and local committees in Belgium. For its national fundraising campaign it counts on over 500 active co- workers and 25 000 volunteers spread around 150 local committees. They are able to stimulate a concrete (monetary) response from about 5% of the total 5.5 million Flemish population, giving a sum of around 160 million Belgian francs. These local committees are part of a larger network of 330 groups.
`11. 11. 11' stands for November 11th at 11 o'clock. Always the same day at the same hour. Since the mid 1980s, year after year the national fundraising campaign has tried to make development cooperation a recognisable central issue of Belgium's political and social life.

The main objective of the NCOS national fundraising campaign is to reach as many people as possible and to urge them to support international solidarity projects promoted by Flemish N GOs. For instance, on the l 1 th of November 1992, NCOS volunteers distributed thousands of money bills from Third World countries to astonished Belgian citizens.
The 1992 sticker for NCOS' 11.11.11 campaign summarises many of the ideas behind it. A black hand (above) is giving money to a white hand (below). The message is very straight forward: "please stick it upside down! " Once done, one might get the point concisely: we face an unjust world order and we must turn the flow of money the other way around. The South is paying for our development. Let's start paying back before this very unbalanced development turns into a vicious circle.

The message is as shocking as in past campaigns, but with a big difference. The other 11.11.11 pro jects were always advertised with images of misery, hunger and death. This time, there are at least two major changes:

A most interesting fact is also that the 11.11.11 campaign has been linked in 1992 to another networking activity. Since 1991, NCOS has promoted the involvement of relevant personalities and members nf local city councils in NCOS committees. This network has grown at an unexpected speed, and NCOS local committees which can count on this qualified participation already number 308. An active involvement of 100 of these committees in the 11.11.11 campaign has been a first positive check-up for this initiative.

CNCD is the other active national platform and it coordinates Wallonian NGDOs. French-speaking NGOs involved in DE have recently promoted a coordination group specifically meant for activities addressed to the Belgian public. They hold regular meetings in order to facilitate an agenda for action and to compare each other's activity.
Only a few initiatives are actually meant for all population groups and this is generally reflected in a great deal of diversification, reflected not only in the language but also the working methods of most Wallonian and Flemish NGOs.

On the other hand, the few joint initiatives have proved very successful. A good example is the exhibition 'White on Blacks' that was jointly organised and run by some forty organisations in `De Markten' in Brussels, from April 3rd to June 30th 1991. It was able to collect funds from both the Belgian government and the EC, besides a great contribution of its own funds and voluntary work. The exhibition is based on the `Negrophilia'' collection and it is a powerful confrontation with everyday image-making in Western culture. The exhibition was originally hosted by Amsterdam's Tropen Museum, and it was visited in Brussels by some 45,000 people. It has also been effectively used for school activities as it is able to reveal the larger network of ideas underlying the various stereotypes of Africa and black people which are specific features of Western culture.

Some Priorities and Models of Activity

The search for more effective educational programs, and the need to respond to recent international events such as the Rin Summit, has led Belgian NGDOs to cooperate more closely with environmental and peace groups, and to develop a wider range of educational approaches that give more attention to new target groups, to the mass media, and to linking with relevant cultural and festival events.
New approaches have been designed in order to involve young people in international issues. Greenwich magazine, with its photo competitions and action day, and Nieuws Fabriek (the news factory) promoted by NCOS, are clear steps towards a more comprehensive development education strategy that takes into account what young people think about international solidarity issues.

The 'Students' Parliament' model nf long term simulation promoted by Jeugd en Derde Wereld (Youth and Third World) has been a successful example of a flexible activity in this field, and it has often been merged with other educational programmes. This is not the only case of an organisation that does not have a specific development cooperation background but which is able to design a very effective DE tool in this field. Other relevant examples come from organisations mainly working with children and the school system, such as Kinder Wereld Atelier (Children's World Workshop) and Cemuvo.
These have effectively combined simulati-on, story- telling, playing and other active educational techniques in activities that have originally been self-financed, and only more recently have had the opportunity to take advantage of the government DE budget through a coordinated national platform, namely the 'Co-program'.

Under the Flemish platform the different initiatives and working methods have been grouped into three main categories :
specialised information activities, which include

The school system has traditionally received much attention and it counts on a wide range of educational activities and tools. Some of them are gathered in documentation and educational centres that are effective reference points at national level: for example, `Informatief SpelMaterial' (Leuven) on games and simulations, and the `World MediaTeque' (Antwerp), a joint service run by Broederlijk Delen, Pax Christi and Welzijnszorg. The Third World Calendar also has a long tradition of being widely distributed and followed up by a monthly newsletter, addressed to some 25,000 teachers all over the country, suggesting further activities and useful information on each issue of the month.

In adult education, there is a general agreement that informative meetings have had their day, and there is a need for more active methods such as music, theatre and festival-like events which present cultural diversity in a rich and positive context. It is an issue that has stimulated creative responses by both trade union organizations and local and regional groups, such as those in Limburg who organise the `Coloured Culture' festival (an event that they share with their Dutch partner organisations).

Common issues of concern for both the Flemish and the Wallonian regions are:

NGDO-EC Liaison Committee: Development Education Group