The 8th EI Congress dedicated the 23rd of July to celebrating democracy and rallying to support and protect it. Guy Ryder of the International Labour Organisation and Maria Ressa of Rappler addressed Congress and offered words of encouragement and solidarity.
“These are times of intolerance. When untruths are peddled as facts and truth is dismissed as fake news,” stated guest speaker Guy Ryder, Director General, International Labour Organisation (ILO). The former General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation and of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions further described the circumstances of our times in which wages fall and inequalities grow. He explained how the ILO constitution stipulates that labour is not a commodity, “and nor should education be a commodity.”
Ryder praised Education International (EI) for successfully lobbying and securing a sustainable development goal focusing on access to quality education: “it is a tribute to the ethics of EI and affiliates.”
“Education must safeguard democracy, global citizens and a common goal,” added Ryder who also reaffirmed the ILO’s commitment to work with EI to ensure that education is placed at the centre of the agenda.
Standing together for democracy: Maria Ressa addresses the EI Congress
“If you have no facts you can’t have truth. Without truth you can’t have trust. If you have none of these, there is no public space and there can’t be democracy.” Maria Ressa began her Congress speech by sharing her experience as a journalist in the Philippines under a hostile government. The editor of Rapple and 2018 Time Person of the Year, Ressa argued that social media had become weaponised by authoritarian regimes and special interests in many countries of the world. And the tide is rising. Many journalists are in a battle for the truth, in a landscape where saying a lie often enough makes it become truth.
Ressa stressed the importance of educators and education in building the critical thinking skills all citizens must have in order to make informed decision: “We have to stand up against bullies, report the lies because that’s how courage spreads.”
The EI Congress replied to her rallying call with a thunderous standing ovation.
Inspiring “Ed-Talks” ignite discussions
During lunch time, delegates gathered around the Educators’ Lounges to listen to the many “Ed Talks” organised during the week. The day’s talks covered the following topics:
- education unions taking action to end school-related gender-based violence;
- global response in Europe;
- private tuition and public education, and
- organising for quality education – The Red for Ed(ucation) Movement.
The afternoon programme consisted of four parallel breakout sessions in which participants had the opportunity to share and learn from each other: Living our values: No to harassment; Making it happen: Confronting privatisation; Taking the lead: Tackling climate change; and Union renewal: Unions fighting back.
Among the resolutions debated and adopted in the morning plenary include:
- Affirming women’s and girls’ rights;
- Elimination of all forms of sexual harassment and sexual violence in education unions;
- Securing LGBTI rights;
- Conducting research exploring the contributions strong trade unions make to societies with robust human rights;
- Ensuring education for democracy.
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