Common Cause Brussels meets The Widening Circle

On 6 November 2012, some of the more active supporters of Common Cause here in Brussels had the chance to meet Uchita de Zoysa, Global Coordinator of The Widening Circle. According to the website, The Widening Circle is an action campaign to advance a global citizens movement for a Great Transition: global citizens are to engage for “a future of enriched lives, human solidarity and environmental sustainability” based on a “new suite of values”, namely quality-of-life, human solidarity and reverence for nature.

While Common Cause shares this values-based approach, I must admit that I felt very ambivalent about The Widening Circle. The Great Transition originates in academia; a so-called Coordinating Circle manages and conducts the activities of The Widening Circle. Members of the Coordinating Circle and the Circle of Representatives are renowned figures of civil society and academia from all around the world, such as Michael Narberhaus of the Smart CSOs Initiative or Prof. Veena Sirka of the South Asia Women’s Network.

Yet, it was not clear to me where this initiative is heading. Do we need a global citizens movement? Is that something we can create, or is it not rather something that develops organically? Can (or should) we all have the same message, or is there not reason for pluralistic opinions and approaches, also in the NGO sector? If we want to overcome competition in the NGO sector, do we not have to change the prevailing system of funding? And, do I or my organisation want to be part of a Great Transition and a Global Citizens Movement - branding phrases that seem almost a little evangelical to me?

I think we all agree that we need to start focusing on more intrinsic values, values such as solidarity, universalism, sustainability and freedom. Indeed I believe strongly that we need to work together, and keep the discussion going in the public sphere and engage citizens to participate in this dialogue. Whether we need to trigger a global citizens movement, or maybe just another initiative running in parallel and maybe even in competition to excellent existing initiatives, I could not say. Uchita de Zoysa affirmed that he is still collecting ideas and gathering feedback; The Widening Circle is still in the making. Certainly, it is worth keeping an eye on the campaign’s activities.