CivWorld is a global interdependence initiative hosted by Dēmos in New York City, where CivWorld’s Founder and President, Dr. Benjamin R. Barber, is a distinguished senior fellow. 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 Paradigm Project, The Working Group on Global Governance, The Art of Common Space Project, an Interdependence Day Multimedia Project, and The Civic Interdependence Curriculum.
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, and most recently in New York and other locations around the world in 2011. Interdependence Day 2012 will be held at McArthur Park in Los Angeles over a span of three days from September 8th to the 11th. Interdependence Day has given rise to a network of citizens without borders who connect on the new Interdependence Movement website.
The Paradigm Project
To assure that our work on Interdependence Day yields an ongoing, year-round program, and is rooted in serious research on democratic globalization, CivWorld developed a substantive project aimed at fostering an international research program focused on an “affirmative globalization paradigm”—a paradigm that will offer a philosophical foundation and practical floor for the realistic democratization of globalization. The research program reached out to like-minded organizations around the world willing to engage in common research, debate, conferencing and policy making. Cooperating institutions included the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, the Institute for European and Social Studies in Budapest, Haring Woods Studio in London, and La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City – their common activities having been coordinated by CivWorld at Dēmos in New York. Other individual scholars from China, India, Italy, France, Poland, Slovenia, Morocco, Libya, Turkey, Brazil and the United States participated in the global research program. This work set the stage for the Global Governance Seminars, which commenced in 2010.
The Working Group on Global Governance
Co-convened by Benjamin R. Barber and Professor Seyla Benhabib of Yale University, CivWorld at Dēmos’s Working Group met six times in 2010, with each session based on a pre-circulated paper followed by a critical response from another member of the group. The Group has brought together a modest group of distinguished scholars and practitioners whose work focuses critically on topics connected with the challenges of forging global governance in an age of interdependence where power remains in the hands of nation states and free market corporations, and where traditional international organizations remain rooted in associations of sovereign states. 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 crises (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 global governance working group will approach these dilemmas by focusing on the work its members are pursuing on networked cities, 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 leading edge topics. 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 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).
The Interdependence Multimedia Project
CivWorld has worked with the media company Projectile Arts on a media dissemination project aimed at educating a broad spectrum of people about the reality of global interdependence and the work done by CivWorld and the Interdependence Day forums. The project has three principal elements: an online video archive & interactive forum, a video podcast series for broadcast on television and the internet, and a future feature documentary film. These elements will combine to inform the public on the nature and challenges of our globalized world and inspire them to become more engaged in civil society from the empowered perspective of global citizens. Some elements of the program can be seen now at the website http://www.civworld.blip.tv where extensive video records of previous Interdependence Day are available.