An Alternative to Brussels

In an earlier career I had the privilege to be responsible for officially sponsoring the Royal National Lifeboat Institution over a period of 3 years. This inspiring institution was formed in 1824 and since then has saved over 140,000 lives, at a cost of 600 lives lost in service.

It is funded by legacies and donations as well as being paid by local authorities to train and equip the RNLI lifeguards who operate on more than 200 beaches. Most lifeboat crews are volunteers. In addition to work in national waters the Institution operates Flood Rescue Teams both nationally and internationally.

This essential service, whilst a charity, could be construed as that of a ‘MultiStakeholder Network’ (MSN), because of its interactions with other bodies. Nowhere in any of its work does government hold sway and this independence has assured the Institution full control over how it (successfully) goes about its business. Distress at sea is its sole calling and has functioned for nearly 200 hundred years without political or financial controversy or scandal.

What MSN’s clearly demonstrate is the inclusion of like-minded people and bodies to focus and apply their joint resources and skills to a common aim. Here it is saving lives at sea through unified democratic action.

If we then compare this to our current political environment we can see a diametric opposition of values and aims, as globally they now pursue a policy of exclusion from their activities.

Across the Planet democracy is under threat as our liberties and personal initiatives are constantly restricted or threatened. The surveillance state and the increasing difficulties of peoples voices getting heard is causing growing anger and frustration.

Nowhere is this more evident than with our young (18 – 34 year olds), who increasingly face a future devoid of worthwhile employment and inclusion in the running of a Society they are very much a part of.

Modern Party Policy increasingly brooks no argument, as an ever more muted Civil Service is overridden, in its remit to seek ‘value for taxpayer money’ with government spending, through greater ministerial dominance and control.

However, the young are fighting back on several fronts, including their involvement in and development of the proliferation of Multi Stakeholder Networks now springing up across the Planet. They take the shape of Advocacy, Platforms, Operational & Delivery, Watchdog, Policy, Governance Knowledge, Global Standards and so much more, that is now making a significant contribution to our global Society.

Global Network Initiative – From the Americas to Europe to the Middle East to Africa and Asia – companies in the Information & Communications Technology (ICT) sector face increasing government pressure to comply with domestic laws and policies in ways that may conflict with the internationally recognized human rights of freedom of expression and privacy.

In response, a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics spent two years negotiating and creating a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector, and have formed an Initiative to take this work forward.

Kiva.org carries out the work that should be done by our global banking system, by allowing us to lend our money, via the internet, to low income entrepreneurs and student in over 82 countries. Profit is not the dominating criteria here but a desire to help people grow their way out of poverty by developing their own businesses, many of which are now incredibly successful and something moneylenders modern banking would not go anywhere near.

The VOST movement (Virtual Operations Support Team) provides successful ‘network’ management of emergencies and disasters across the globe. It has evolved from a few small groups of volunteers into this huge network, whose common aim is to navigate through the cascade of crisis information and prioritize and send it to the front lines of that crisis.

VOST members share a passion for understanding how social media can facilitate disaster relief efforts, making life easier for both emergency personnel and the victims of the disaster.

In Canada for example, CodeSearch partner’s employees with smartphone apps that can notify if a child goes missing. It works closely with law enforcement and the Missing Child Society of Canada to send out geo-targeted alerts to any of their agents in an area where a child has been reported as missing.

The Right2Debate campaign, initiated by the Quilliam Foundation, is only in its infancy but attracted 2500 young members on its first day. It is a platform which enables students to organise if they feel a ‘hate’ preacher in university may be undermining the principles of mutual tolerance and respect.

Students are of the opinion that they cannot rely on censorship to counter intolerant views that do not break the law but undermine the human rights of others.

Quilliam University Outreach Officer and King’s College London Postgraduate Student Haydar Zaki said. “#Right2Debate campaigns for the protection of free speech by contesting these views using opposing speakers and other opinions, undermining the indoctrination that is based on divisive and intolerant narratives.” 

Demonstration is one form of revolt but as we have seen with the TTIP petition, no matter how many millions sign, the establishment can simply ignore/exclude it. Doing something about it is not only so much more achievable, in our new technological and ‘joined up’ world but also immensely rewarding and far more beneficial.

The EU is now falling apart through outdated methods of control, which it is obvious can no longer function in the burgeoning open new world order. It should be allowed to collapse, for a more democratic multi-stakeholder network to take its place and represent the hopes, aspirations and investment of the people and businesses it represents in this new era.

Let’s not make the same mistake we made with the banks and keep a decadent and abusive infrastructure in place because it is supposedly “too big to fail”. The banks are more abusive now than when we bailed them out because we were suckered by media propaganda.

Let the EU fail, in the certain knowledge that an alternative form of collaboration will replace it and benefit us all in the learning we have gained from the disasters of this monolith. Other European countries will quickly support an initiative that is finally expressing what so many millions across Europe are feeling.

An alternative to Brussels is possible by the decree of the people . . . Ending the ‘exclusion’ policies run by the old establishment. What have we possibly got to lose?

Until the next time

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes