Development Education in Italy

Development Education

Historical Background

Development Education (DE) in Italy has experienced three distinct phases. Each of them reflects trends that shaped the development of international solidarity and development cooperation.

The first phase (late 1960s to early 1970s) was characterised by a direct link between the influencing of public opinion and campaigning. This link worked in favour of the attainment of human and political rights, of independence and, in the case of more charity- oriented campaigns, aimed at bringing relief from poverty, famine and natural disasters. The images and codes of communication tended to indulge in sensationalism and piety: The main actors in this scenario were solidarity committees and missionary- church based organisations.

The first law of development cooperation was issued in 1971 and was strongly centred around the concept of `aid' and the sending of `volunteers' to Third World countries. In this framework, the first secular and religious organisations were recognised as being eligible for public funds, made available for the "recruitment, training and sending" of volunteers to Third World countries. They were the embryonic forms of today's NGDOs. Educational activities were linked to the volunteers recruitment activity. At this stage, there were about 10 NGOs.

In the second phase (late 1970s to early 1980s) these organisations acquired more and more professionalism and focused their actions on projects in an increasingly systematic fashion. DE was now a means of raising solidarity support for the implementation of projects, and of informing the public about the objectives of the projects, the reality of the people they were meant to benefit, and finally about the imbalances between the North and the South of the World. DE paid attention to the concept of interdependence. Later this would. lead to a more comprehensive `global approach'.

In this period, a second law of development cooperation was issued ( 1979). It recognised NGOs as an important tool for the implementation of development projects and for awareness raising with the public. Even though it was still not recognised in the official legal framework, the educational dimension as a permanent, on-going process was already shaping up in the NGOs' actions.

At this stage, NGOs numbered about 60 and their source of funding for DE came mainly from churches and local authorities.
While the EC was becoming an important source of funding, only a minor portion of NGOs' DE budget came from the government development cooperation budget, which was mainly allocated for project implementation in Third World countries. Nevertheless, it was in the early 80s that DE acquired a role of its own, and it was no longer exclusively `functional' to the implementation of projects in the South. At the same time, the partnership with the South was - and still is - considered as the main source of competence, concreteness, contact and legitimacy for NGO DE activity.

In the third phase (late 1980s to early 1990s), NGOs started to play a special role in facilitating direct access in the North to the voices of the South. Many cultural exchange programmes became the core concern of DE.
DE was seen more and more as an effective means to build the attitudes of world citizenship which stem from the perception of interdependence and a global dimension. In this framework, DE started to link more frequently with other global educational approaches: environmental, anti-racist, human rights, peace and intercultural education.
The spreading of DE became part of an on-going participatory process. `Think global and act local' became the key approach. Consequently, the presence of local groups to carry out the work becomes crucial. Many national NGOs have set up active local branches in the last decade.

The third law of development cooperation ( 1987) gave recognition to DE as " an important type of activity to promote the culture of cooperation". NGOs therefore started to receive government funding for DE in considerably larger proportions than in the past (slightly less than 10% of the total amount of money allocated for development and cooperation NGO projects).
Many new NGOs were set up in the same period, focussing mainly on DE. At this stage, there were over 1,000 groups operating in all the regions, with the highest concentration in the North and the Centre, especially around Rome and Milan. 130 of these receive funds from the Government.

NGDO-EC Liaison Committee: Development Education Group