very Progress Conference provided a forum within the individual region where sociologists, philosophers, theologians, journalists, political scientists, cultural scientists, historians, literary advisors, economists, cultural mediators and development experts met – individuals who rarely come together to discuss an issue. For everybody concerned it was a challenge to find a common language with which to deal with the issues that will shape the future, transcending individual ideas and disciplines. At the end of the day all project participants agreed that their deliberations were an inspiration for their own fields. They expressed the urgent desire to continue this dialogue in their own countries.
'I want to thank you for inviting us to an extraordinary get-together which has contributed immensely to international development dialogues on the centrality of the human condition to all dialogues between people. I learnt a lot and for me it has certainly opened my eyes to many aspects of issues which one tends to take for granted.'
Shobha Raghuram, Director of the regional office of the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (HIVOS) in Bangalore, India
Both the Goethe-Institut and GIZ have continued to work with the same participants since the Progress Project, so that their own work can benefit from the inputs of representatives of disciplines that are new to both organisations.
Opening the door for a frank dialogue
ince the question of the nature of progress was closely linked to the prevailing political situation in the region, the abstract concept became more tangible, extremely topical and relevant for all participants. The discussion of the concept of progress opened the door for negotiations on some highly sensitive political topics, and provided for an exchange between groups which initially had nothing to say to one another only to discover that there was in fact a great deal to say. Progress became synonymous with the future and with viability that transcends regional, religious, political and cultural borders.
he conferences attracted impressive audiences of 300 or 400 people each. The conferences in Bolivia, India and Namibia in particular enjoyed a strong media response with reports on local and in some cases national radio stations, newspapers and television. The major lines of the deliberations could thus be presented to a wide audience and further discussed. The conference results in Bolivia were documented in the form of several complex publications, and the results of the youth workshop were presented to a wide audience during an open day. In India the topic inspired other institutions to hold similar events of their own: a public panel discussion was held in Kolkata entitled 'Fly Over Calcutta: Visions for the Megapolis', a Bengali drama group put on a production that dealt with development and politics, and other artists too interpreted the concept of progress in their own ways.
n Bolivia another voice, that is generally kept out of participatory processes, made itself heard – the young generation. The results of their meeting were clear. It is cultural diversity that makes Bolivia fit for the future and it must then be a top priority to preserve this diversity. The contribution of the young people was presented to the constituent assembly of the country. In future the young people want to have a greater say and plan to set up political groups at local regional and national level, and to establish political organisations.
'We are not only here to hand in our ballot papers. We are also here to make suggestions, provide answers and stand up for our needs and for the needs of adults and children.'
Juan Carlos (24) from Cochabamba
In Alexandria the heated debate about the concept of progress led to the founding of an NGO. The same young people, who initially had to learn to respect the opinions of others, were united in their desire not to leave the future of Egypt in the hands of others. Together they have overcome initial bureaucratic obstacles and are now planning individual small-scale projects, which tackle what they consider to be the main problems of the country – environmental protection and education.
In Cairo a placement agency was founded in a slum area on the initiative of the youth group that first came together as a result of the Progress Project. GIZ has been able to incorporate this agency in its urban development programme, and since it was founded it has been able to find work for several young job-seekers. This is a very practical way of helping to shape the future.
n Namibia the first dialogue forum for the discussion of the concept of progress has spawned seminars and dialogues on conflict transformation. Prof. Johan Galtung, winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize, provided many ideas on how entrenched lines of conflict can be seen in a new light, and how creative approaches can be found, thus resolving potentially conflictive situations peacefully. In seminars on peace journalism, for instance, journalists learned how they can avoid aggravating violence through the media and can help defuse situations. In this way they can make a major contribution to the peaceful and sustainable development of Namibia.