Johannes Trimmel: Europe in Finland. Finland in Europe. Kehys’ journey in CONCORD
It was back in 2003, but I still remember very well entering the conference room where the Founding Assembly of CONCORD, the European NGO confederation for relief and development, took place. I was new then, as a representative of the Austrian EU Platform. For many people in the room the Founding Assembly was the end of a nearly two year long process to get CONCORD off the ground. For all of us it was the start into something new.
It was the start into a European adventure, bringing together national NGO platforms, networks and families to work together across Europe for upholding global justice and solidarity, demanding a strong European role in the fight against poverty and inequality. This fight is still on. The world and Europe have changed since 2003. And so has CONCORD. However, not all has changed. CONCORD is still equally determined and unbowed in demanding just and fair European politics that put people and planet first. And CONCORD still believes very much in a Europe that overcomes nationalism and embraces diversity in working together for a sustainable way of living.
CONCORD is a good example for moving an agenda jointly, across different nationalities, languages, cultures, traditions, types of organisations, and size of organisations. Kehys is only one out of the fifty CONCORD members. But could we imagine CONCORD without Kehys? Definitely not! It’s not an exaggeration to state that Kehys has been one of the most active CONCORD Members over the last 15 years.
Joint European initiatives have been taken up by Kehys in the engagement with the Finnish public and decision-makers, to move things in Europe, and not only in Brussels. The excellent relationship of Kehys with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Finnish Members of European Parliament plays an important role in our work. Just last November the Finnish Permanent Representation in Brussels hosted the launch event of the CONCORD Report on Sustainable Development, challenging Europe to put forward an ambitions transformative programme to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Kehys has also shaped the agenda of CONCORD. To many of us Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) was a hard to crack nut in our political work, when Kehys made it a top priority for the Finnish EU Presidency in 2006. As the Austrian EU Presidency was immediately before the Finnish, we linked up, and I directly experienced the impact of this Kehys initiative. Policy Coherence for – Sustainable – Development (PCSD) has never left the CONCORD agenda since, even though at times it disappeared on official agendas. The upcoming Austrian (2018) and Finnish (2019) EU Presidencies will definitely need to address PCSD again in areas such as migration or food production and consumption, to just name two.
I cannot think about Kehys without thinking of Global Citizenship Education and Active Citizenship. Kehys has not only been a strong internal advocate, but also took leadership in advancing this work across the Confederation for example with the DEEEP projects. Global Citizenship Education and Active Citizenship are probably getting more important than ever before. We have a concrete vision for a just and fair Europe that works for a World We Want, which leaves no one behind. It is fundamentally important to engage citizens across Europe in our vision. It is time now to rethink Europe – and to do this together. Citizens across Europe do believe that injustice is unacceptable; they do believe that no one should starve or live in poverty; they do believe that inequalities need to disappear. They are the majority. It’s up to us to mobilise this majority – especially in the current political environment.
Back in 2003, as a co-founder of CONCORD, Kehys showed commitment to work together in Europe for a just and fair world. We have gone a long way since then, matured and got stronger. Kehys stayed committed throughout this way – also in times of change, in times of trying out new ways not everybody was confident with. We still have a long way to go, and the need to change ourselves to change Europe – and the world – is increasing. I am very confident for Kehys to continue with enthusiasm and determination this active engagement. We in CONCORD – and even more so the people we work with across the world – need it. Thank you all in the Kehys community – staff and members!
The author is the President of the Board of CONCORD Europe and Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB)
This blog entry is part of an anniversary blog series that celebrates Kehys’ 15-year journey. The #Kehys15 -blog series consists of one guest blog for every year Kehys has been active.