CivWorld/ the Interdependence Movement
CivWorld is a global interdependence initiative hosted by the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at the CUNY-Graduate Center in New York City, where CivWorld’s Founder and President, Benjamin R. Barber, is a Senior Research Scholar. CivWorld oversees several closely linked projects aimed at raising awareness of the interdependent character of global society and fostering transnational and interdependent solutions to global challenges: Interdependence Day, The Working Group on Global Governance, The Art of Common Space Project, and The Civic Interdependence Curriculum.
2015 Interdependence Day takes place in New York City, hosted by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Please visit InterdependenceDay2015 for full details.
Following the horrendous events of September 11, 2001, a group of intellectuals, political leaders and artists from a dozen nations wrote a “Declaration of Interdependence” and founded Interdependence Day, to be held each year on September 12, the day following 9/11, to seek alternatives to terrorism and the war on terrorism, solutions rooted in cooperation and pooled sovereignty rather than national hegemony and unilateralism. Starting in 2003, when a group of 300 persons met at Benjamin Franklin’s American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia to plan a course leading from independence to interdependence, an annual forum has been held in a global city – Rome in 2004, Paris in 2005, Casablanca in 2006, Mexico City in 2007, Brussels in 2008, Istanbul in 2009, Berlin in 2010, New York and other locations around the world in 2011, Los Angeles in 2012, Dublin, Ireland in 2013 and in Amsterdam in 2014.
The Working Group on Global Governance
Co-convened by Benjamin R. Barber and Professor Seyla Benhabib of Yale University, the Working Group on Global Governance meets periodically to discuss a broad number of international issues. The Working Group begins with the premise that there is a deep asymmetry between the challenges of a 21st century world defined by interdependence and cross-border crisis (ecology, crime, markets, health, drugs, terrorism, technology) and the 19th century world of independent nation-states defined by sovereignty and territorial frontiers. Democracy too is tethered to nation-states and its origins in the social contract and popular sovereignty. This suggests that unless we can find ways to globalize democracy or democratize globalization, we will neither be able to sustain democracy into a global age, nor respond to the challenges of interdependence. Yet with no clear path to global governance or democratic globalization, and there are many reasons for skepticism.
The Working Group approaches these dilemmas by focusing on the work its members are pursuing on networked cities (Dr. Barber’s upcoming book is titled If Mayors Ruled the World), as well as immigration and migration (of labor and capital), global rights and global justice, the international courts system, transnational civil society and citizenship, virtual democracy, international institutions, confederalism, and other cutting-edge topics. The Working Group met for six sessions in 2010 and 2011 and will reconvene later in 2012. A major conference on global cities in New York is being planned for fall 2012. Read papers and watch video highlights here.
The Art of Common Space
Art, politics, commerce and culture all unfold in space that is essentially public – civic, common, shared. Our social relationships are sculpted by the architecture and design of space. That is perhaps why architecture is so essentially political, even when it is not intended to be; why culture is common, even when it is insular and parochial; why design speaks to how and even whether we live together. The linkages between art, architecture and design and the manner in which we live our shared political and cultural destinies turn out to be determinative in ways that are often invisible but always critical. In CivWorld’s joint international research project on the Art of Common Space, which arose out of collaborative work with Haring Woods Studio, a group of artists, urban planners, engineers, democratic theorists and commercial developers explore the many innovative approaches that have emerged in recent years that utilize art and architecture in thinking about common space and democracy. These approaches include engineering designs that address poverty, ecology and human suffering in the developing world as well as cultural paradigms that address anomie, privatization and commercialism in the developed world. A major seminar meeting of the research group – that included many partners of the Paradigm Project – was held at Interdependence Day in Mexico City, September, 2007. Five more gatherings took place: May 2008 in London hosted by Haring Woods and Gunpowder Park; CivWorld’s Interdependence Day on September 10-12 in Brussels; Berlin with the Hertie School of Governance in October 2008; New York City in Spring 2009 and at Interdependence Day 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey. We have learned from Machiavelli and Rousseau to speak of the art of politics. But there is a deeper, anti-ideological politics of art – a civic architecture of the commons – whose lessons are yet to be learned.
The Civic Interdependence Curriculum
In all countries where it is taught, civic education remains a parochial and nationalist enterprise aimed at cultivating the arts of liberty, within rather than among, national societies. As a result, otherwise virtuous civic curricula end up undermining an awareness of interdependence and the need for global cooperation and democracy. Arising from CivWorld’s Interdependence activities, a small group under the leadership of former City College President Dr. Yolanda Moses and Benjamin R. Barber has developed a “civic interdependence curriculum” meant to be a template for real civic education courses at the high school and college levels. A version of the curriculum has been adapted to meet New York City public school benchmarks, and has been used at Williamsburg Prep in Brooklyn, N.Y.; other schools, including Humanities Prep, The High School of Environmental Studies, and Eleanor Roosevelt High School are potential partners in teaching the new curriculum. In addition, a reader has been published under the title The Interdependence Handbook (edited by Benjamin R. Barber and Sondra Myers).