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Initiative for Democratic Education in the Americas (IDEA Network)

What is the purpose of the IDEA Network?

Public education is facing challenges that are an outgrowth of globalization, challenges that manifest themselves in ways that are increasingly common among different countries. In the Americas, the process of creating a Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) includes initiatives directly related to education.

The IDEA Network has been organized to bring together civil society groups throughout the Americas that have an interest in protecting and enhancing public education as a basic institution of democratic development and human rights. It works in conjunction with other civil society groups concerned about the impact of the FTAA process. These groups include ORIT, the inter-American labour organization, and the Hemispheric Social Alliance organized out of the People's Summit held at the same time as the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile in 1998.

What activities are planned?

The Civil Society Network for Public Education in the Americas is carrying out research, developing communication networks and publications, and holding conferences. All these are aimed at building an understanding of the impact of neo-liberal policies on education throughout the Americas and proposing alternative approaches that are consistent with strong public education systems.

Key events.

IDEA Conference--October 1999 in Quito, Ecuador.

This conference brought together civil society groups from around the Americas to reflect on the common issues and to develop common approaches. Participants came from teacher and student organizations, international organizations such as the Education International and the Confederation of Educators of the Americas, groups advocating on gender issues and indigenous education, and other civil society groups.

Research and policy papers were developed on several topics. These are available in English and Spanish on the web site of the Civil Society Network located at: www.vcn.bc.ca/idea/ideaconf.htm.

  1. The effects of 15 years of neo-liberal changes to public education in the Americas.
  2. An alternative vision for a just, democratic and equitable public education.
  3. Responding to globalization of education in the Americas—strategies to support public education.
  4. Education and a gender perspective in Latin America.
  5. The teaching profession and labour health and safety.

People's Summit on the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The next Summit of the Americas is being held in Argentina in November 2005. It will bring together the leaders of 34 of the countries of the Americas (Cuba is excluded). The focus of this leaders’ summit is on the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. An alternative People's Summit is being held in Mar Del Plata on November 1–5 and will include an Education Forum.

Meetings of the Hemispheric Social Alliance.

Links have been made with the other civil society groups that are concerned with all aspects of the FTAA process, including social and labour rights. Representatives of the IDEA Network have participated in meetings of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, which coordinates activities of unions, Non-governmental organizations and other social groups concerned about the negative impacts of globalization and trade agreements.

Coordinating Committee.

A Coordinating Committee organizes the research and activities of the IDEA Network. It includes participants from teacher unions in Argentina, Ecuador, Canada, from regional teacher groupings FOMCA (Central America), CUT (Caribbean) and the Tri-National Coalition. The secretariat is CoDevelopment Canada, a Canadian international development NGO. The organizing meeting of the Network was sponsored by the Canadian Teachers' Federation, along with the British Columbia Teachers' Federation and CoDevelopment Canada.

Activities of the IDEA Network have been supported financially by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, CoDevelopment Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency, along with some funding from the Organization of American States and UNESCO.

Contact information:

Steve Stewart, CoDevelopment Canada
Phone: (604) 708-1495; Fax: (604) 708-1497
E-mail: codev@web.net

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