A few months ago, I encountered an interesting quote from Barack Obama. I don’t remember it word for word, but it basically said that that politics (from the grassroots movements to the ones at the top of the pyramid) don’t really change as we move from local level, to national level and then to regional and global level politics.

When I entered the United Nations General Assembly building for the first time a week ago, I was reminded of this quote when I overheard a man going through security and telling his colleague: “I’m from a small town, you know?”

Then I thought to myself, “Aren’t we all, in a way?”

The Complexity of Global Politics

Many years as a heavy consumer of American culture led me to think of the UN, global politics and New York as something mythical. My time working for the global Bridge 47 Network (which works on national, regional and global levels) led me to believe that global politics is something quite complicated. During the days leading up to the High Level Political Forum 2019 (HLPF), I kept thinking that I would never be able to remember the names of all our partners, their organisations and their strategic goals.

After a week of attending HLPF, my impression has changed radically. Global politics is not necessarily complex so much as it is vague. You talk about potential and you follow scripts as you communicate in symbols and gestures, yet you rarely come to meaningful decisions. Real political power at the UN is extremely difficult to find. On the good days, HLPF discussions and events create an atmosphere of change, where the member states get themselves in somewhat vulnerable positions; opening up space for other actors ( ie: NGOs or other member states) to fight for change. On the bad days, HLPF is a series of formal presentations, the impact of which is sometimes questionable.

Bridge 47 and The New Way of Action on a Global Scale

In the past week, Bridge 47 has been able to attract quite a bit of attention at HLPF. I think it is mostly because we have a very clear offer for those who approach us: we’re providing a space where change can happen by inviting people to raise their voice in support of Global Citizenship Education and other value based educations; and everyone's radical and transformative agendas can find a voice here.

To have a clear voice in the vague ocean of global politics is everything. That’s why I I also feel that Bridge 47 has to keep its promise long term and keep fighting for concrete things; creating space for its members to act politically and be supported by the network. Within the sphere of the United Nations, this alone could be a small revolution.

Small Town is the New Big Picture

I personally spend most of my work fighting the good fight in Global Citizenship Education advocacy and innovation on a Slovakian national level. I do that because it is the only level where I see impactful decisions about the future of education being made. So that’s my bigger picture.

At the same time, it’s a privilege to be a member of Bridge 47 Network. With a clear voice in a sea of vague global politics, it reminds me of my own small home town of Bratislava.

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