Connecting local responses around the world
October 22, Bandung. Pak Sonny takes the floor, visibly moved. In his address to about 70 participants at the Global Learning Festival (GLF), he explains why he flew all the way from Papua to West Java. “Papua has known many programs to deal with AIDS, he says. They came and went. The one that stayed with us is SALT, because it made us understand what we could do on our own”. I cried. 6 years ago, a change in leadership had dashed our hopes to support Papua beyond the initial UNFPA support. Yet, SALT continues to stimulate local responses by the people of Papua. Contrary to my concern, our relationship with Sonny and his peers was alive.
Many participants took the floor at the GLF for the first time in public. That moment of sharing their unique experience transformed them from faceless people in need into irreplaceable individuals, main actors in their own lives. Because they are fascinated by numbers mainstream programs tend to consider people as interchangeable as long as indicators come out nicely for their managers. The GLF challenged that view.
SALT enables a change in world view. It replaces the mechanical view of a world full of deficiencies to an organic worldview of infinite possibilities. Hundreds of thousands of local communities, of associations and even of corporations live according to this worldview. They all live in harmony because they have care at the center. Care for oneself, care for others, care for the nature to which we all belong. However as long as that way of life remains limited to a small minority, mainstream programs to address a steadily growing array of needs will continue to deplete, not strengthen local responses, as it disheartens community to care for itself. Meanwhile, policy and institutional support to living systems will remain fragile and ephemeral.
One day the world will reach a tipping point: it will see the need to live in harmony as self evident. The GLF was a small, but significant step toward that point.