FEEDING THE PLANET FEEDS PEACE: POPULAR EDUCATION AND CITIZEN’S PARTICIPATION

Rossana Mengozzi

Abstract


The Legislative Assembly of the Emilia-Romagna Region and the KIP International School began their collaboration several years ago for the organization and promotion of the René Cassin Prize, which currently allows three young graduates to do an internship in the field of human rights with the Universitas Programme. On the issue of participatory democracy, in 2010 the Emilia-Romagna Region adopted the Regional Law 3/2010 which promotes the active participation of citizens and regional civil organizations in government decisions. In September 2014, the International Training Seminar on "Participatory Governance and Territorial Development" took place in the Region, with the participation of a Senegalese delegation. The goal of the seminar was to learn about and analyze innovative practices and policies of participatory governance of territorial development. Attention to human rights, local development and participatory governance are the key elements that led KIP International School to invite the Legislative Assembly of the Emilia-Romagna Region in a day shared with Senegal, to the KIP pavilion at Expo Milan on July 30th 2015.

The day at Expo was opened by a press conference in the room where panels, dedicated to the fight against hunger taken from Maestro Alberto Manzi’s work, were exhibited. The day continued with a role-playing game on participation, in which administrators of the municipalities of Emilia-Romagna and Senegal discussed how to access public financing according to a scheme of work that simulated the functioning of local committees of participatory development. At the end of the day, the Tree of Participation, made of cardboard, was symbolically planted, on which any visitor could hang their own ideas on the theme "Food, rights and participation".

In preparation for the event at Expo, we wondered if our experience was in line with the theme of the Universal Exposition and its declination chosen by KIP, "attractive territories for a sustainable world", if Maestro Manzi and his educational challenge and the René Cassin Prize could be effective in other contexts and if participatory governance can contribute to the development of the territory. In particular, we asked ourselves if, indeed, participatory processes can help increase the social capital of the community, making policies more pertinent to citizens, leading to a sustainable, inclusive and attentive development of local territories. We examined concrete cases, realized on our territory, and not hypothetical participatory processes. The analysis of the case studies on participation indicates a valuable path, which, without presuming to offer global solutions but rather from the perspective of "small is beautiful", shows that it is possible for participatory processes to "contaminate" many sectors of public policy and suggests that the development of the territory, supported by actions shared by citizens, is possible. This "dissemination" of participation in the territory is already a small success, beyond the concrete results of its influence on local policies.

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