Conleth Burns, as part of the main organising committee, gives us an insider view of the Dare to Care International Convention 2021.

[New City Magazine – July 2021 page 4-5]

‘We know what it feels like to give care and receive it – we think politics should feel like that too. This is the dream of #daretocare – to see care reflected in our politics and active citizenship.’

These are the words of Luxembourger Johnny Ziade during the Dare to Care International Convention 2021. In a nutshell he explains the #daretocare mission that I wrote about last year in the July 2020 edition of this magazine.

Johnny and Belgians Febe Dedonder and Rita Ameya presented the opening and closing moments of the #daretocare international convention 2021. The iconic Atomium building was the venue for the event. Made in 1958 for the World Expo, the scientific structure was made under the theme of ‘towards a more humane world’. More than five decades later, the Dare to Care community which has grown over the last year joined together virtually with a similar and equally powerful message: towards a more caring world.

The event took place during United World Week – the United World Project’s annual campaign week – that runs in the first week in May. This year, much like last year, was full of zooms and online meetings, as countries around the world continued with lockdowns and stay-at-home orders to deal with the virus. Notwithstanding the zoom fatigue, hundreds of local and global events used creative ways to inspire and engage an audience in this mission of building a more caring and united world, locally and globally.

Online concerts from Gen Rosso and Gen Verde framed the week. The Politics for Unity Movement celebrated its 25th anniversary, with a call for a new quality of politics, acted as a centrepiece, and hundreds of online events (and some in person ones too!) meant that the message of #daretocare was shared and heard across themes, sectors and geographies.

Brussels Convention

Since before the pandemic, a group of us had been working with communities across Europe to prepare for the central event of United World Week 2021 which became the #daretocare international convention.

We saw this event not as a concluding event, but rather as a bridging event. Firstly, bridging the first phase of the #daretocare campaign on active citizenship and politics for unity with the second, focusing on the environment and our ecological conversion. Secondly, bridging the gap between the activists of our campaign and the political leaders in Brussels. Thirdly, building a bridge out to those who never heard of #daretocare before, but would like to get involved.

A part of this bridge was certainly built in the moment of dialogue between young people from across Europe and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. They asked him about how young people could get more involved in democracy including the recently-launched Conference on the Future of Europe; they asked how Europe could do more to see progress on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and how Europe could be more welcoming of refugees and take more decisive action on the climate crisis.

President Sassoli responded to the presentation of Dare to Care saying:

‘Politics has this horizon, it cannot have others, it is the horizon of politics: taking care of people, of one’s own community, of one’s own cities.’ He called on those listening to get involved saying ‘politics can do a lot of things, but it can’t do much without citizens, especially without young people.’

Many organisations built up the Brussels event. Former MP and founder of New Europeans, Roger Casale, led a workshop entitled ‘What difference can I make to the future of Europe?’ A dancelab in Florence launched a new network to connect dancers and artists wanting to build a more united world. The young people of the Economy of Francesco shared their ideas from the villages of ‘Work and Care’ and ‘Policies for Happiness’. A group of young activists involved in the migration sector convened to talk about how they could work better together to respond to the refugee crises around the world. The performing arts group from Spain, Mosaico, added moments of reflection and song throughout many of our programmes.

From global to local initiatives

From the global campaigns on the Friday, we entered into the local realities on Saturday May 8th. In Ireland, a leading economist led a discussion with community and social action organisations on the theme ‘An Ireland which cares for everyone’. In Portugal, a group of children committed to the ‘Kids Citizens’ project addressed European leaders gathered in Portugal for the Porto Social Summit asking them to do more in their ‘duty to care’ for children and young people like them all over the world. In Italy, New City and the Italian Politics for Unity Movement organised a webinar looking at more just and peaceful approaches to the Balkan Route.

In the UK, there was a whole host of events during United World Week. Young people took part in a virtual tour of parliament, people of all ages from all across the country shared videos about how they lived #daretocare in this pandemic year. The ‘Guardians for the Earth 2021’ campaign was launched in conjunction with the Islamic Unity Society and a ‘Who cares?’ webinar was held in conjunction with Together for Europe exploring the Christian roots of care with stories from young people across Europe and insights from Canon John McLuckie, Rector in the Scottish Episcopalian Church.

A campaign made up of thousands of commitments

Right from the start, Dare to Care has been a campaign one-hundred percent dependent on the commitment of thousands of people from all over the world who were willing to step up, have courage, take responsibility and be the change they wanted to see in the world.

During the convention, we were able to catch up with some of these people who’ve made Dare to Care commitments in the past year (and beyond):

– Ursula and Hermann Doerpinghaus, an 80-year old couple shared their decades-long experience of active citizenship, democratic activism and community organising in Solingen, Germany – responding to a simple, yet powerful, question: what can we do in our town?

– Javier Baquero and Cristina Guarda, young politicians from Colombia and Italy who helped launch our campaign back in June 2020, explained how the campaign and the idea of Dare to Care has helped guide them in the difficult choices they’ve been navigating with the pandemic in the last year.

– Jean Berchimas Siboniyo, the National Co-ordinator for Together for a New Africa in Burundi, explained their leadership and mentoring programme for young African leaders.

– Eli Granados, a young leader from El Salvador, shared the experience of building a road alongside her rural mountain-top community. She described the change in the community as a result of the initiative as a move from thinking about ‘your own backyard’ to thinking about ‘all the backyards of all the houses in the community’.

– One of the most powerful and sobering experiences of the convention was the anonymous testimony of democracy activists from Myanmar. They explained how they drew inspiration from the #daretocare campaign on how they responded to the coup by military leaders following the election last year. They concluded their courageous account of protest and peaceful resistance with a short, yet powerful conclusion: ‘for the people of Myanmar, Dare to Care is not a slogan.’

The next steps

The final day of the United World Week (and our Brussels Convention) felt less like an ending and more like an exciting beginning. The next stage of the pathway #daretocare was launched which will now focus on people, planet and our ecological conversion. With COP26 coming up in Glasgow in November, there’ll be a chance for us to talk more about this in the future in the UK and around the world.

Our launch on May 9th shared practical stories and testimonies of how to care for the planet and bring people together from Belfast to Burkina Faso, Poland to the Philippines, Guyana to Thailand. People were asked to make a commitment to care for the planet in the year ahead and you can find out more information about this and the other elements of the campaign on:

‘A Vaccine for all’ campaign was launched on May 20th, inspired by the experiences of the #daretocare campaign to call for vaccine equity and accessibility to all those around the world – prioritising those most vulnerable and in need – and doing what we can to help those without access to vaccines and Covid therapeutics through supporting communities in the Amazon. You can donate and find more information here:

You can listen to and watch many of this year’s United World Week events on the United World Project’s website and YouTube channel.

Photos © Sylvester Production/United World Project

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