Monday, 30 December 2013

Towards an economy fit for women, children and future generations:  initial reflections

New Years Eve 2013 marked the end of the 120 year anniversary of New Zealand's world leading campaign to win the vote for women. So I was disappointed to reflect that from 2014, all the prime-time political broadcasting roles in this country will be filled by (white) men.

It is not that I have any objections to any one of the individual broadcasters or commentators, many of them are thoughtful, interesting and engaging speakers and thinkers. But I am concerned if a cluster of men, with similar life experiences, influence public opinion in a small nation during a key election year.

 New Zealand news reporting often struggles to shake off a self referential and insular approach to political commentary. In a small island state which only has one radio station as the nations', non profit, public good, national broadcaster, we already face a difficult situation. It is not that any individual political commentator will tell us what to think (let alone agree with each other!), but their collective clout will certainly influence what we as citizens pay attention to, and what issues we think about.

So it matters very much if New Zealand's  major commentators all share similar life trajectories or experiences.Why? Because the contemporary problems we, like all other nations, face right now are very difficult and tackling these requires a wide variety of insights, perspectives and viewpoints.

Four key issues I argue confront all democracies at present include: unprecedented youth unemployment as our economies create wealth for some, but are failing to generate long term, sustainable new work for all;  dangerous environmental change as economic growth pushes at the limits of a finite  planet;  growing inequality as the gap between rich and poor widens everywhere; and weakening democracies as communities struggle to hold global corporate financial power to account.

 Benjamin Barber reminds us, that tacking complex collective problems is essentially a political task: "What shall we do when something has to be done that affects that affects us all, we wish to be reasonable , yet we disagree on means and ends and are without independent grounds for making the choice?" (p 120-121).

In complex situations, it matters very much that our choices, options and debates are enriched with a wide variety of voices and experiences. Yet at present as it looks like New Zealand political debate will be dominated by the voices of men. That is concerning, because in 2013 our small democracy was already exposed to a  cacophony of at times quite aggressively opinionated  male commentary, on everything from statutory rape,  to politics and civic morality.

Aggressive political debate is not confined to New Zealand and I don't I expect a new cohort of male broadcasters to perpetuate this norm, indeed many of these individuals hold quite strong views about nonviolence and all strive for informed debate. But hearing from yet more men in public life won't  improve the situation facing women right now.

Nor can we hope the rise of social media will counter the absence of women's voices. Commentators like @LauriePenny note the rise of misogyny on social media, and others have observed that once a wider norm of bullying and violence takes hold, it can be perpetuated in many areas of public debate.

Why women's voices will matter in 2014

However despite at times some quite vitriolic attempts in 2013 to belittle women's achievements, or silence their voices, some New Zealand women, especially young women did excel, in literature, music, politics, the economy, sciences, community life and in online media.

And in the coming year, 2014, women and young voters will again be crucial, this time in determining the outcome of the next NZ general election.

There are lots of reasons for this. First is a very practical one. In liberal anglo-speaking democracies it is largely women who still get other people to vote, and they are also the people who make talking about politics, and thinking about politics and the economy both accessible and possible.

It is mums, aunties, grandmothers, teachers, and neighbours who do much of the unsung civic work of democracy. The old joke that women are out the back making the tea while men plot the revolution is sadly not just a joke-women’s voices are far less frequently cited by news media sources, and women do not rank highly in university impact assessments, but it is the everyday conversations of women, their scholarship, research, writing and community action that makes political debate accessible and makes long term social change possible.

Much research has shown it is women who cajole sons, daughters, partners, elderly relatives, neighbours, nieces and nephews, grandchildren to both to register and get out and vote. It is the nation’s mums who retrieve the lost voter registration forms from where they have slipped down the back of the fridge and who encourage the new 18 year old to fill out a the form and who then post it.

It is grandmothers and aunties and older sisters, authors, teachers, female pop singers and celebrities,  who make forming and expressing political opinions Ok for young women in a country where many women still feel politics isn’t really about them or that the “ladies” in politics are not really like them.

It is mums shopping at the supermarket, or budgeting for rising housing costs who can cut through economic rhetoric and statistical hocus pocus to think about the consequences of what is going on in the economy. And it is women who are picking up the pieces in a context of reduced government social spending, as care work is returned to the informal economy of mums, grandmothers, aunties and sisters.

A snap shot of the political economy of New Zealand party campaigns

New Zealand’s  incumbent, conservative National Government, has focused extensively on “good news” for “working families”. However a quick scroll through the Prime Minister of New Zealand’s twitter page, reveals a future vision for New Zealand that is frankly fictitious for many women. The party is also under some internal pressure, it is not clear why the voices of compassionate conservatism have been silenced in public debate, despite Bill English's efforts, it is promoting harsh social policies that are difficult for many women to feel comfortable with.

In 2014 the incumbent National government may be hopeful that short term economic growth will lead to an election victory but at what long term cost to a party if it fails to rejuvenate its membership or win the hearts and minds of voters or worse, splits the country in a deeply divisive election campaign? This will be a hollow victory.

Moreover the short term good news of economic growth is not reaching women and families where youth unemployment, youth suicide, environmental degradation and  child poverty continue to be central and troubling concerns. To quote Noble Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, we continue to tolerate the intolerable.

NZ  Labour also has a long way to go to win women voters back. But it has a head start. The recent rejuvenation of the party was an important signal that women will feature in the campaigns of 2014 and beyond,  but the absence of women candidates contesting the 2013 Labour leadership contest was also, frankly, deeply disappointing in a significant suffrage year. Labour also has a long way to go to capture the new post growth economics fore-shadowed in conservative ex-MP Marilyn Waring's ground breaking work "Counting for Nothing or former Green Party Coleader Jeanette Fitzsimons' politics of enough. Progressives in New Zealand need to be debating how work can be created in new kinds of child and environment friendly economies which focus (perhaps counter intuitively) on lower productivity, high employment generating low carbon investment in so called  "care, craft (high end manufacturing) and creative" industries. However the focus on a living wage and tackling income inequality will at least direct citizen attention to a key weaknesses in our current economy, based as it is on short term, highly unsustainable growth.

In the past I was never much of a fan of the co-leader balanced gender leadership model of the NZ Greens, but under the circumstances, I’ve become quite fond of it! However the Greens have also struggled with the way the media attention continues to be on Russel Norman's voice, despite Metiria Turei's efforts. And the Greens face the difficulty that they need to campaign on new politics and economics of prosperity  in a local media environment which can be economically conservative, and where progressive ideas of post growth economics have been slow to be reported.

In New Zealand First a new significant voice for 2013 was Tracy Martin's. Her hard fought campaigns for schools and against the short term private financial investment model of Charter Schools, reflected her background on school boards and community service organisations and her voice brought a refreshing sincerity to public debate.

New ideas in NZ politics in 2013 

To mark the passing of 2013 I offer some  links to writing and works and ideas of New Zealand women thinkers, contributing to a sea change of political values on the left and right, that recognise why the current political and economic situation is not sustainable and why a child friendly, low-carbon, job-rich and more equitable future is so badly needed.

1.       In NZ  literature my pick is Eleanor Catton, her novel the Luminaries also subtlety brings the new ecological economic ideas about what we value and why, into the arts. The work celebrates love, but it also reminds us of the legacy of NZ’s individualistic, male dominated, gold rush thinking and its consequences.

2.      In NZ music the triumph of Lorde can not be under-estimated, and her anti-consumption critical lyrics have also, subtly opened new political ways of thinking for young women  that resonate directly with new youth economic debates internationally.

3.      In NZ democracy, I can’t go past the voice of Dame Anne Salmond who used her award as New Zealander of the year, to remind New Zealanders of all political view points, to hold on democracy and what is atstake in current reforms.

4      In NZ economics, Prof Jane Kelsey has simply driven a formidable critique of the impact that greater trade liberalisation will have on New Zealand political and economic sovereignty but Prof Susan StJohn has been also very effective. She and colleagues at CPAG took a  case to the Court of Appeal arguing the NZ tax structure subsidises low wages by topping up family incomes (allowing those paid low wages to claim tax credit) but then discriminates against children in the very poorest homes who also really need this income top up because they don't receive this help as their parents are not in paid work. In trade unions, Helen Kelly and Sandra Grey’s voices have been equally significant arguing for fairer pay at the low income end, and fairer tax for high earners.

5     In NZ social policy and health there are many terrific women rethinking what is happening - especially significant is Dr Liz Craig’s child poverty monitor and Ngai Tahu’s Arahia Bennet, here in the South who has a unique ability to bridge political divides and to encourage people to listen and work together for significant long lasting change.

 Internationally there are some significant writers and speakers also making an enormous difference, here are just 5:

Kate Raworth’s donut model ofeconomics- reminds us that we need work-rich, low carbon economies 

Shelia Jasanoff’s work on scienceand technology offers new ways to think about how communities and cultures can be heard and valued in a changing climate 

Martha Nussbaum on why we need the arts and her work on deep freedom, what we need to support the capability of all citizens to flourish 

 And Aung San Suu Kyi, on securing freedom.  Her work reminds us constantly that really significant far reaching political change, takes determination, courage, and grace.

But my hero of 2013 remains the astonishing Breanna Fruean –who, at just 14 lead a phenomenal campaign on climate change in Samoa and her voice has far reaching significance.

Best wishes for 2014, and my thanks to those working for the flourishing of children and young people everywhere.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

120 years of NZ Women's Suffrage 19 September 1893-2013

Today marks 120 years since New Zealand became the first nation to win the vote for women.

This year also marks 100 years since Norwegian women gained the vote. In June I visited an exhibition in Oslo celebrating Norway's suffrage campaign-a campaign which had focused of maternal health, domestic violence, poverty and unfair working conditions. Norway's story echoes  New Zealand's experiences and reminds us of the links across time and space in women's struggles for voice and justice.

From the Norwegian Women's Suffrage exhibition Oslo, 2013

Assc Prof Katie Pickles of the University of Canterbury has written a thoughtful piece in today's Christchurch Press on the historical conditions which contributed to the success of the New Zealand campaign 120 years ago.

How did women in New Zealand achieve the vote a full 35 years before Britain enfranchised women as citizens on equal terms with men?

And how, as my mother proudly remarked to my daughter recently, did women in New Zealand achieve the vote using petitions, argument and strategic politicking, without having to endure hunger strikes, force feeding, or other violence associated with some of the intense struggles elsewhere?

Historians Pickles and Annie Mikaere argue there are complex reasons for the comparatively rapid success of the NZ women's suffrage including an alignment of time, place and the process of colonization. Women's suffrage benefited from a coalition of political, social and cultural aspiration, pressures for land alienation and practical necessity. Each pressure diminished the power of objectors who might have otherwise opposed women's enfranchisement.

'Women voting in Auckland, 1899', 
 (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Jun-2013

But the historical circumstances which aided the struggle, do not detract from the skill of the franchise campaign which still had to be fought strategically and fiercely. A fascinating audio interview with a first time "lady" voter of 1893, Mrs Perryman captures some of the spirit of the time.

Mrs Perryman reminds us of a few basic realities- firstly not all women wanted the vote. She also comments on the considerable organisation it took for 600 women across the country to come together to gather signatures for three petitions and many bills. The petitions gathered thousands and thousands of names.

Christchurch, the home of leading NZ suffrage campaigner  Kate Sheppard, is rightly proud of Sheppard's leadership in this campaign, but Perryman reminds us, many women and men supported the effort. No social change benefiting the powerless has ever occurred without significant collective effort.

Kate Sheppard
New Zealand Suffrage Campaigner Kate Sheppard 
Source: Tessa K. Malcolm. 'Sheppard, Katherine Wilson', 
from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 
updated 30-Oct-2012 URL:

Individual actions matter very much, but social transformation also requires education, communication, and co-ordinated action to challenge well resourced vested interests. In the case of NZ suffrage; Temperance unions, church groups and Unions including for example the Tailoresses 'Union of New Zealand (created after the sweat shop 'scandals' of 1888 -1889 exposed ‘appalling working conditions for women in Dunedin) all contributed.

The debt we owe generations of women and men who have quietly stood up for social justice, 'unseen, unheralded', in everyday lives, is worth celebrating.

So tonight, at the end of suffrage day I just want to briefly highlight three remarkable women I've been thinking about today whose lives span three centuries, cultures and places:
Meri Te Tai Mangakahia

Source:  Mareroa Collection, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
 updated 19-Sep 2013
Licensed by Manatū Taonga for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

In her ground breaking speech to Kotahitanga the  Māori parliament, in 1893, Meri Te Tai Mangakahia of Te Rarawa called for women to be given voice in parliament. Her call was ahead of its time, because women could not stand for election in New Zealand until 1919. Nevertheless she argued strongly for the right to stand for election, not just vote when she argued:

E whakamoemiti atu ana ahau kinga honore mema e noho nei, kia ora koutou katoa, ko te take i motini atu ai ahan, ki te Tumuaki Honore, me nga mema honore, ka mahia he ture e tenei whare kia whakamana nga wahine ki te pooti mema mo ratou ki te Paremata Maori.

 I exult the honourable members of this gathering. Greetings. The reason I move this motion before the principle member and all honourable members so that a law may emerge from this parliament allowing women to vote and women to be accepted as members of the parliament.

The life of another far sighted thinker I've been reflecting on today is:

Mary Muller

I find it moving that in 1850 Mary Muller fled domestic violence in the UK and began a new life, which included writing (and corresponding with John Stuart Mill) from her home in Nelson. Under the pen name 'Femina', Mary, wrote a series of remarkable pieces for the Nelson Examiner from 1869 also anticipating the NZ suffrage movement.

Finally this week, while working on a piece for UNICEF with colleagues at the University of Oslo, Voices of the Future team, I interviewed a remarkable 14 year old:

 Brianna Freuan

Brianna is Samoan and  she has spoken recently in New Zealand at the climate and youth conference, Powershift.

There are many things that are striking and inspiring about Brianna, but one that stands out across time and space, is the way her campaign for a new climate justice for communities of the Pacific has united large numbers of people, and used powerful principles to resist injustice-principles of collective action, education and hope which also characterized the Suffrage movements of history.

Celebrating Brianna's voice and effort seems a good way to mark today's events. Brianna's remarkable achievements remind us of the power and potential of women and men across time and space who imagine, organise, work and struggle for a more just and sustainable common future.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Three Years On...The Politics of Disaster  

Public lecture 
for NZ politics and Policy, 
University of Canterbury, NZ 
3 Sept, 2013
By Dr Bronwyn Hayward
Senior Lecturer 
School of Political and Social Sciences

My  thanks to students of the University of Canterbury, colleagues and the community of Christchurch, New Zealand-this discussion is developed in Ecology and Society (forthcoming), Relational Architectural Ecologies (2013), A Changing Environment for Human Security (2013), Children, Citizenship & Environment (2012) and in NZ Politics and Policy 2014 (forthcoming)
*And see also the Manifesto for democracy . 

The Politics of Disaster 

I begin this discussion acknowledging that here in Christchurch, New Zealand we have been standing on very shaky ground. It feels good to use the past tense.  Now the immediate uncertainty has eased we are beginning to feel we can  'trust the ground we walk on 'again.  We're still living with disruption, snarled traffic, damaged homes, all part of the daily reminder we live on a dynamic planet.  But the initial overwhelming shock and grief which accompanied the dramatic events that began on September 4, 2010 in Canterbury, has passed. 

Yet there are still many new challenges to face and in these two lectures I'd like to reflect on the experiences of our community and call for expanding our political imagination about both the possibility for a democratic recovery and the potential and limits of community resilience.

Turning first to the issues of democracy-  tomorrow marks 3 years since the first quake, but its fair to say that it is probably 12.51pm on February 22nd 2011, that is the date that looms largest for most Christchurch people. Then Ruaumoko, the Māori god of earthquakes unleashed his most devastating energy killing 185 people, ‘munting’ or severely damaging the homes of many of our friends or neighbours, and destroying iconic buildings.

Our own university moved into tents for 10 weeks, literally putting the concept of camping bck into campus!

That February 2011 earthquake event was one of a complex series of earthquakes which racked Christchurch after the first a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in the Canterbury region occurred on 4 September 2010, 40 kilometres east of the city. In the nine months after that  earthquake, residents experienced an average of one aftershock over magnitude 5 every 10 days.
In total, the community experienced 59 earthquakes at magnitude 5 or more in the two years between September 2010 and 2012. Each event renewed our collective grief and exhaustion.
New Zealand’s former head of the Reserve Bank, Alan Bollard once described the Christchurch earthquakes as "one of the biggest natural disasters in relative terms to befall an OECD country since World War II”. In many ways, residents of Christchurch, like those in Japan currently struggling with their own devastating cascade of disasters, don’t need to rethink or redefine democracy or resilience, we are simply living these debates- however as philosopher Hannah Arendt  reminds us, it is also important that we take time to 'think what it is we do'.

I'd like to argue that we can "think differently" to use the phrase made popular by one of the Gapfiller projects below, (a shared library of second hand books which began after the quakes). We can reclaim a more active, more compassionate and more critical perspective on democracy and resilience. Drawing on our communities experiences, I argue that the future for Christchurch could be more inclusive, more creative and more socially just 

Three reflections on Disasters and Democracy: Klein, Solnit and Honig

When disasters threaten a community, whether it’s a series of slow cumulative, almost imperceptible daily changes like a change in climate or a sudden cataclysmic event like an earthquake, these challenges test more than our physical resilience. They tear at the fabric of our economies, our democracies and our citizenship. However disaster also brings opportunity for new insight and a chance to rethink basic principles – including democracy.

In Strong Democracy, Benjamin Barber reminded us that making decisions democratically is rarely easy, it requires us to think :

" What shall we do when something has to be done that affects us all, we wish to be reasonable, yet we disagree on means and ends and are without independent grounds to make the choice?”" (Barber 1984)

In the experience of the earthquake, and the confusion that followed,  New Zealand was confronted by precisely this problem. At times  recovery has seemed an overwhelming task so it is not surprising, but it is deeply disappointing, that many well meaning people argued there was no time for democracy, or that decisions were so serious and far reaching that they needed to be taken by informed elites, not by the community as a whole.
After an initially euphoric start in which 1000's of people turned out to 'share an idea' for the central city rebuild, central government stepped in, sidelining the city council and developing its own "100 day plan" based around precincts and anchor projects (including for example a stadium and convention centre). 

The elected regional government (ECAN) had similarly been sidelined before the earthquakes, on the grounds that water planning for new dairy industries was so serious that elected representatives had to be replaced by government officials who could do the job more effectively. After the earthquakes, this arrangement was extended for a further 5 years despite significant  public protest.
The locally elected city council has also been marginalized  in decision making by a newly created central government department, CERA or the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority headed by a single Minister in sole charge of the region's recovery. This arrangement has  been criticized for the far reaching, almost unrestrained powers of the Minister, under the Earthquake Recovery Act. Others question the centralized government department culture of CERA, which is inappropriate for a local community which needs more face to face support and service delivery.

The limitations of this command and control response have been well rehearsed- lawyers expressed concern about the sweeping constitutional reforms (see here), colleagues in political science have voiced concern about the changes to the regional council (see earlier post), and concern has been raised in mainstream news editorials and by others including  Fiona Farrell, and in social media. (See also Hayward 2012
I describe this situation as an example of a FEARS model of authoritarian decision making. In this model citizen agency (or the ability to imagine and effect desired change) is frustrated as the community is excluded from environments it values, and decision making becomes authoritarian. In this model justice is defined in retributive ways as we search for people to blame, (e.g. it’s all the Minister's fault). In the process, our democratic imagination is silenced. 

In recent weeks however concerns from all sides of the political spectrum have begun to question Christchurch's present decision making. The centrally controlled decision making response to the quakes was flawed from the start-but the city council itself had also developed a culture of closed door,  managerial decision making long before the earthquakes which is also highly problematic, and makes it even harder to achieve effective public decision making at present. Moreover as Dame Anne Salmond, (New Zealander of the year)  argues,  many of these problems are not confined  to Christchurch,  democracy is also being eroded in New Zealand as a nation.

Alternative, democratic approaches to disaster

An authoritarian response, including sweeping suspension of local democracy and exclusion of the public is not the only way to respond to a disaster, let alone the most appropriate.  In a changing climate, as urban communities are increasingly exposed to more severe weather events:   floods, heat waves, and coastal erosion for example, disasters will be experienced more often -it is therefore incumbent on us, to consider how can we maintain and sustain democracy in dynamic and changing world.

Three contemporary writers have shared reflections about alternative ways to think about what happens to democracy through disaster.

The first is Naomi Klein - In her controversial work Shock Doctrine she has argued that governments have frequently seized on disasters, (real or manufactured), to promote unpopular far reaching economic policies of neoliberalism which introduce new market principles into public life. Under normal circumstances, Klein argues, these principles may be rejected or at least hotly contested as policy options but in cases where a community is distracted, tired and overwhelmed these controversial policies can be rushed through. Her book by the same title has been made into a film.You do not need to agree with her entire case, to acknowledge for example that in New Zealand  the Labour Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas used tactics he termed  policy 'blitzkrieg' to rush unpopular economic policy through New Zealand parliament following a fiscal crisis in 1984.

Moreover while Christchurch is hardly a shock doctrine, urgency was used to justify sweeping aside locally elected bodies, and cordoning, rezoning and bull dozing large areas of residential and commercial land. 

Furthermore, elected school boards of trustees were also marginalized following the earthquakes, in a process of mergers, and closure of schools and proposals for  charter schools (see previous posts).

I will not revisit the decisive and unfortunate charter schools concept here (see early submissions to the NZ select committee),  but the case of school reforms is disturbing. Much research on children coping with disasters stresses the importance of minimizing disruption to education- its one of the most helpful things any government can do for its children in a disaster,  after basic healthcare, and shelter. So I admit, the failure of  NZ Ministry of Education officials to understand how serious the Christchurch disaster situation was and instead to use the moment to move quickly to merge and close schools  simply shocked me at the time, and still shocks me. If buildings were unsafe that was one matter, but wider education reforms could have waited and been achieved in 5 years time, with considered reflection, without exacerbating community anxiety in a crisis.

Recent research conducted by CERA has revealed increased stress, domestic violence and abuse problems at a 'three year point', post quake. In this light  it is also deeply troubling that many vulnerable, low income communities in particular who need help face school disruption now, at the very time when schools are the front line of support for many families and teens.

2. Yet a 'shock doctrine' scenario of rushed decisions sheds only partial light on what happened to local democracy in Christchurch. Author Rebecca Solnit's Paradise built in Hell, also speaks of the way many communities are able to find solidarity and spontaneously express empathy and act cooperatively in disaster situations. Her  work and Nigel Clark's study of community collaboration in a dynamic planet also resonates aspects of Christchurch's experience.

In Christchurch, the Student volunteer Army which many Canterbury students took part in, is a stand out example of the spontaneous way community collaboration can happen after a disaster.

University student SamJohnston and a small core group of others,  first organised 1-4000 students in September 2010 at the time of 7.1 magnitude quake . Building on what they learned in that experience, it took students only a week after the February aftershocks before they were communicating with  24,000 people. It wasn’t just face book and twitter that enabled this astonishing, youthful coordinated effort. There were a raft of pre-existing conditions that enabled young Christchurch citizens and many communities like them to act in new ways. One of the first common features of these successful citizenship initiatives is that they built on existing organisations and networks, improving their communication and relationships within,  between  and across different groups in the city.

The legacy of the spontaneous community co-ordination and regeneration is everywhere, in the new thinking of Gap Filler, and the recreation of public space through, for example: Greening the Rubble and new start up businesses of Life in Vacant spaces, or the experimental new economic models of Garden City 2.0 or the shared transition economies of Lyttleton. 

These experiences echo the work of a third writer, Bonnie Honig whose thoughtful study in 2009 Emergency politics, reminds us that if “ political emergencies” pose a threat to democratic life – we must pause and consider how should we respond democratically. 

Honig asks, must our only responses be to centralize top down decision making,  countering the growing power of the executive only by legal challenge? Or can we begin to rethink democracy as a series of daily emergencies, in which, as she argues, our task is less about focusing on disaster as an exceptional moment when we do everything differently and more about maintaining democracy as  a daily task: founding and re-founding  democratic vision, ideals and practice in everyday life.

Summary -next steps and why icon projects are not the answer

Unfortunately because we’ve carried a command and control form of decision making on, I argue in Christchurch we are actually now eroding our  recovery in two key ways.

First we are eroding future leadership talent- we need to plan for how the we will return the city and the region to elected, accountable local decision making which effectively manages CERA and the city as they merge their functions in the next two years.  At present there is almost no function left for a city council, we have one Minister required to make all the decisions and that is simply not healthy or helpful.

Secondly the idea of focusing our community recovery around a central city rebuild anchored by  icon projects will prove problematic. Around the world we see how big icon buildings and stadiums, have often become lightening rods for tension in urban communities where squeezed middle income communities experiencing growing inequality feel huge resentment about projects that are seen as costly and/or favouring the needs of an elite or  its ‘cronies’.

 I think sadly we can expect the icon projects to be more of a source of tension than inspiration -so for this reason its essential that decision making returns to local accountable and elected leadership where decision making is transparent and open to scrutiny and debate.

Studies by Mark Pelling at Kings College London, with Kathy Dil for Chatham House also show that after a disaster, despite much discontent, power tends to be reinforced in some elite groups

I’d like to hope that doesn’t 
happen here, I’d like to think that as a city we can do things differently. We could recover together and become a more multicultural, more egalitarian, caring and more innovative city. I hope we can.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Beyond Civics: 21st Century Citizenship Learning

Beyond Civics: 21st Century Citizenship Learning

Presentation to the NZ Electoral Commission:
 Voter Participation and Electoral Research 
23 August Wellington, 2013 

By Dr Bronwyn Hayward
Senior Lecturer, University of Canterbury, NZ 

My sincere thanks to the NZ Electoral Commission for inviting me to speak today.

Today I'd like to draw on some of the insights from focus group interviews with 160 primary school children (8-12 years) over 4 years in New Zealand. I report on those interviews and wider research in the book Children, Citizenship and Environment.

 I offer the following reflections in the hope it helps our discussion at a key time in rethinking how we teach citizenship in the 21st century here in New Zealand.

19 September 2013 will mark 120 years since women of New Zealand first won the vote.

We often say, "women got the vote",  as if it was a natural progression, not a 2000 year long struggle. In reality, communities have had to struggle against entrenched interests for centuries to extend a radical Greek idea that free men could govern, to include women and minorities.

Thinking of democracy as an ongoing struggle to maintain and expand participation against the resistance of powerful interests helps add urgency to any discussion about citizenship education.
How can we support young citizens, including the 1.145 million New Zealanders aged 18 years or younger, who can't vote?

We are talking today about declining voter engagement in New Zealand (see Jack Vowles' 2010 and 2012). It is a pattern which is serious and worrying. However if citizenship education is to be relevant we need to understand the context of this decline. So I'd like to consider:
  •  The intersecting challenges currently facing young citizens 
  •  Three main types of social hand print or citizenship responses we model to young citizens 
  •  The limits of 'civics' and new opportunities for richer democracy education in New Zealand

But first, what do we mean by citizenship?

Taking children seriously as political actors in their environment forces us to rethink our adult assumptions about what we mean by the terms ‘citizenship’ or ‘environment’. In policy making we are used to talking about citizenship as a set of legal entitlements conferred on individuals living within nation states or political regions. This approach emphasises adult rights, duties and expectations (for example, voting, paying taxes and support from the state in tough times). Yet
this interpretation overlooks the way children also identify with their communities, make demands and contribute to civic life as citizens, in the sense of actors who participate in, identify with and belong to our communities, even in the absence of a full framework of adult legal entitlements and obligations.

What challenges face NZ's youngest citizens?

Young New Zealanders share many issues in common with over half the world who are now aged under 25 years. While each generation faces unique challenges, the issues confronting young citizens today are very different from those of their parents and grandparents.To provide effective and relevant citizenship education we need to understand these challenges better.

 In Children Citizenship and Environment: Nurturing a democratic imagination in a changing world I identified four intersecting challenges which I argue confront young citizens globally.

The first is dangerous environmental change including climate change, severe storms and heat impacts which have particular implications for highly urban, youthful populations. These challenges set the wider context for everyday democracy whether its voting, or engaging in public debate.

In New Zealand we are  inclined to think about dangerous environment change as natural hazards like earthquakes but dangerous environmental change , particularly climate change, is intertwined with a variety of human actions and exacerbated by policy choices. 

  For example, Japan's recent events remind us that dangerous environmental changes can interact with other decisions in ways that can create a cascade of devastating impacts. In  my own community of Christchurch, after earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 children's recovery in some communities was undermined rather than supported, by a government policy of rushed school closures and mergers in some of our poorest neighbourhoods, (see earlier posts) and by the policy priority placed on the central city rebuild at the expense of wider social recovery. Moreover grass fires of 2012, reminded Canterbury residents that our human actions impact on our climate which  on the East Coast  of the South Island is becoming drier even as we struggle to recover from earthquakes- its important to note that the decision to suspend regional elections in Canterbury was made on the grounds that water needs to be managed more effectively -so local democracy was swept aside (see below).

In another example of compounding dangerous environmental change, the children of Kaeo in Northland, New Zealand have experienced five severe floods since 2007 compounding problems of poverty deprivation in a region facing more intense rainfall and coastal erosion.
(Photo:  Northern Advocate)

The second challenge confronting young people everywhere is unprecedented youth unemployment as a global economy fails to create sustainable new, paid work, and communities struggle with the imposed burdens of austerity policies.

While New Zealand has not reached the staggering levels of youth unemployment confronting  Greece (65 %) or Spain (55%), nor the challenges of the Middle East and Africa, there is little understanding that New Zealand youth, aged 15 to 24 have accounted for as much as 45% of all New Zealand's total unemployed (NZ Institute 2011 p 15) in 2009, meaning New Zealand youth made up the highest proportionate share of total unemployment among nations of the  OECD, (in large part because we have very low comparative rates for retaining youth in school or training).

( From Boven R. Harland, C. and Grace L, using 2009 figures in 2011 More Ladders Fewer Snakes: two proposals to reduce youth disadvantage. Discussion paper 2011/1 NZ Institute)
Moreover, today the youth share of unemployment figures remains very high at 37.4%, or 56, 900 young 15 to 24 year olds not in work, despite new, regressive 'minimum wage' policies.

Thirdly, young New Zealanders, like young citizens globally, also face the challenges of growing social inequality as the gap between rich and poor widens everywhere.

As an unlikely source of youthful debate on inequality, the Financial Times has recently published a series of thoughtful articles, arguing the global Occupy movement has pushed social inequality to the fore, and it is now on the IMF, academic research as well as public agendas. (Occupy from Wall St -Frankfurt-London-Christchurch, NZ).
New Zealanders have experienced the fastest  rise in inequality in the OECD  on average over 25 years, especially in the 1980s-1990s, when inequality grew faster than any other country except Sweden. In a strongly worded editorial the NZ Herald concluded: "In the space of a generation, New Zealand has become a country many New Zealanders do not recognise or like much".

Growing social inequality also has differential age, generational and ethnic implications. Dr Monika Queisser of the OECD noted, New Zealand is also the nation in the OECD with the greatest material deprivation gap between or elderly and children. What this means in effect (see figure below) is that while an estimated 2% of New Zealand elderly live at less than 50 % of the median income, (a remarkable achievement given New Zealand's comparatively low incomes), 15 % of New Zealand children, measured by the most conservative assessments, struggle in homes earning 50% or less of the median income. Those most likely to face deprivations of poverty are Maori and Pacifika children. For example, Maori and Pacifika youth unemployment doubled from 2008 to 2010

Perhaps most concerning is the extent to which rapidly growing social inequality and hardship for youth may have exacerbated New Zealand’s shamefully high rates of youth suicide. At its height in 1995, youth suicide reached 28.7 deaths per 100,000 amongst 15–24 year olds. See the graph above from the OECD, 2012 Family Database.Research by Chapman-Howden and Hales highlighted the way closure of larger former state employers, (particularly forestry and railways) in the mid to late 1980s and early 1990s, combined decreasing income support, severely impacted on the life experiences of young Māori men, while the New Zealand Mental Health Commission notes social exclusion is a particular problem for young women. Today, young New Zealand women aged 15–19 years lead the OECD youth suicide rates. (Update: see 2013 report just released here)

While economic growth does not equate to mental well-being, social exclusion is exacerbated under conditions of poverty, and this in turn compounds a fourth problem: weakening democracy.

 Around the world, young citizens are confronted by weakening democracies as local communities everywhere struggle to hold global corporate financial power to account.

The New Zealand Electoral  Commission correctly highlights declining voter engagement as a serious issue which, if unaddressed, threatens to drop below  50% in three national elections. Declining turnout risks undermining the legitimacy of electoral outcomes in a small state.

But what are we to make of this decline?  We commonly attribute low turnout to low voter 'efficacy' (the belief I can understand politics and effect change), lack of competition, and costs of engagement, but new studies suggest that voter disillusionment is also exacerbated by inequality of political power.

Amartya Sen reminds us that growing corporate power is undermining citizens capability for effective action, and he argues we need to sustain the freedoms that enable effective citizenship.

Sen argues effective democracies must maintain the conditions which enable and support responsible citizenship in changing economic and social conditions. In this light it is particularly disappointing that New Zealand, having won the vote for women, appears so casual about maintaining this precious democratic freedom.

In Christchurch after the earthquakes for example, regional government elections have been suspended without regard to community or constitutional responsibility. Moreover the local council no longer holds any meaningful power in city recovery, with its roles and functions swept aside by a newly created central government depatment, CERA. All too frequently we hear the justification for this extraordinary state of affairs on the grounds that its much more "effective" or "efficient" to make decisions without democracy".

For many young citizens, the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes has resulted in sidelining citizen participation as the community is reduced to mere spectators in the city 'rebuild, a project largely focused on central city business and large iconic projects which inflate real estate values and short term construction but generate little sustainable long term work 
An alarming disregard of local democracy, intolerance of dissent and a failure to attend to the social and economic conditions which support responsible citizenship is not simply a post earthquake phenomena in New Zealand.  The erosion of Westminster democratic principles is visible in sweeping amendments to law extending the powers of the international intelligence agency GCSB,  a constitutional review which, while welcome, was instigated by only two political parties compromising its mandate, and series of new laws that have  prompted the NZ Law Society to raise serious concerns about human rights. In this context its no wonder Dame Anne Salmond, as New Zealander of the year, has argued strongly that citizens must defend New Zealand's democracy when governments 'go feral'.

New Zealanders citizens also seem increasingly concerned, especially about unaccountable corporate power.  Bryce Edwards  reported that 79% of 1000 New Zealanders recently interviewed by Colmar Brunton (2013) for Transparency International agree that 'this country’s government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves?" Moreover 44% of respondents answered this question to a ‘large extent’ or ‘entirely’. In addition  75% of New Zealanders surveyed believed that political parties are affected by corruption. 12% believe the parties are ‘extremely corrupt’.

The myth of youth disengagement and apathy

Nevertheless,despite these significant challenges and intense debates, young citizens are not giving up. It is a grave error to keep repeating the mantra that young people are apathetic, self interested and disengaged. Look around us. Everywhere, on twitter and facebook, in music and on streets from Tunisia to earthquake torn Christchurch, we've seen young citizens continuing to make a stand on issues that matter.

One of the working parties from the Christchurch Student Volunteer army which after the 2011 earthquakes was communicating with 24,000 people via facebook , arranging daily working parties across the city. Image  Sam Johnson 
In 2011 a world survey of young citizens was published for UNEP which I contributed to with colleagues from Surrey and Canterbury as a lead author for New Zealand and the UK chapters. Conducted after the financial crisis, the survey of 8000 young people aged 18-35 years in 21 countries asked respondents to talk in their own words about their hopes and fears. The results were often deeply moving. Across 13 languages, many respondents expressed modest hopes and aspirations: a 'meaningful' relationship, 'employment' and the opportunity to "make a difference".

Making a difference or agency, (the ability to imagine and effect desired change) matters. Loss of agency was also a key concern of survey respondents when discussing their worst fears: expressed as living without hope, unable to effect change, in war, famine or precarious work or most starkly: "caged".

This youthful citizen passion for agency is a precious democratic treasure or taonga, on which the health of our democracies depend, yet as Amartya Sen reminds us, encouraging free citizens is viewed with feared by those with power. Despite saying we want democratic engagement, we often teach something very different. I argue there are three dominant social handprints, or responses to citizenship which societies model for young citizens, not all of which are desirable or democratic

The social hand print: Three dominant models of citizenship 

How do young citizens experience everyday citizenship?  What our our dominant models of citizenship? We are used to thinking about our ecological footprint or the impact that we have on the environment , and in political science, of Franklin's (2004) work on 'voter footprints' as possible generational effects of voting, but what of our wider democratic legacy as citizens?- I offer a typology of citizenship here to highligh some of the democratic implications citizenship learning for

  • political agency, 
  • a sense of place or environment, 
  • legitimate decision making, 
  • attitudes to justice, and 
  • political imagination.

The first model of citizenship I argue we too often impose on children and young citizens, is one of the FEARS of Authoritarianism. In the book I consider the model in detail but I introduce it here.

Even in long standing established democracies like New Zealand, not all children have the opportunity to learn to think of themselves as citizens, nor to value democracy. Some children struggle to experience citizenship as any form of positive democratic participation or belonging. The experience of domestic violence, poverty, increasing securitisation and threat of environmental risk and disaster can inhibit children’s capacity and resources for citizenship. While there is growing recognition that children have significant potential to exercise agency in the face of very difficult circumstances, we cannot ignore the way suffering undermines many children’s capability to act as citizens, testing their physical, emotional and social resilience and well-being. I summarise these children’s experiences as: Frustrated agency, Environmental exclusion, Authoritarian decision making, Retributive justice and Silenced democratic imagination

By contrast, other children may express quite marked expectations of personally responsible citizenship which I describe in Children Citizenship and Environment as ‘SMART’ citizenship of: Self-help agency, Market participation, A priori justice, Representative decision making and Technological transformation.

I argue the net effect of SMART citizen education is that citizens learn that desired policy outcomes (particularly in the case I was examining, environmental outcomes) are achieved through individual efforts in the market, guided by universal rules or contractual agreements, representative decision making, and a political imagination informed by technological problem solving. These SMART education experiences help young citizens address some of the symptoms of the current challenges and wider sustainability crisis, but they leave the drivers of ecological and social injustice unquestioned and unchallenged.

Thirdly, some children, however, have opportunities to learn about citizenship in ways which I argue offer more promising foundations for a new kind of more democracy. I summarise these experiences as the SEEDS of strong ecological citizenship. These experiences include: Social agency, Environmental education, Embedded justice, Decentred deliberation and Self-transcendence. In this model children learn about citizenship as social agency or the ability to affect choice and act in collaboration with others.

 In the study of Christchurch children which I report on in the wider book, social agency was most effectively learned by doing, that is through real action with others, particuarly in mid decile public schools, in sports teams, in indigenous Maori language programmes and through taking part in local community protests, and observing adults around them running the PTA, serving the board of trustees and making decisions with children for the school and its community.

Arguing after  Vygotsky, I suggest these community interactions are also very important for supporting a child’s ability to reason about justice which is accelerated when children have the opportunity to debate moral issues with more experienced adults or peers. In the face of overwhelming and challenging situations which confront many children, the chance to share stories with others, to 'decentre' experiences in space and time and to transcend self, or place our experiences in a wider context, spiritual, cultural, historical, to gain support is also extremely important.

The limits of 'civics': opportunities for democracy in New Zealand's curriculum

Where are the spaces for citizenship teaching for the 21st century in the New Zealand curriculum?
As professionals I think it matters that we strongly resist the introduction of the language of civics, into New Zealand education which conjures up dry facts and standard tests, all of which we know fail to address the needs citizens have to learn about democracy by 'doing' democracy.

Active participation in democracy in classroom and community is a key lesson of the Crick report in the UK and of the pithily titled "No child left thinking"study by Joel Westheimer of the USA. Both studies emphasize engagement with real communities in real life learning situations, and the need for democratic principles to imbue the  culture of the school and its everyday interactions.

In this light are already some important opportunities for democratic teaching and learning at present are implicitly woven through the principles, values, and key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum.

These opportunities are most clearly framed in the learning objectives of the social studies curriculum. In the absence of much professional support from schools from political science as a dsicipine, New Zealand teachers have done a sterling effort to help create a sense of a shared participatory society. For example at level one students will "understand how belonging to groups, and why "places, the past and cultures" are "important for people" . At level 2 this expands to understanding "social, cultural, and economic roles, rights, and responsibilities". By level 3, they gain knowledge skills and experience to understand "how groups make and implement rules and laws". Elsewhere in Maori indigenous programmes children learn a strong sense of whananatanga or mutual support, and ways to develop social capital through kapa haka, koreo and te reo.

All these opportunties are significant, but it is concerning, given the now, very diverse nature of the New Zealand's, under 14 year cohort, that no where in the curriculum do we explicitly use the words "democracy". We teach people about "laws", "government"and "rights". We talk about belonging, which is vitally important in a rapidly diversifying community, but we also need to model democracy as a desirable social norm.
Children sign a calico petition in the tradition of Kate Sheppard,
to keep schools open following the Christchurch earthquakes

A survey of the "civics"  knowledge of year 9 New Zealand students (eg questions about recognising the flag, knowledge of rights, expectations of the media, trust in institutions), suggests that while children in this country rated above the mean in a recent international survey, there were significant variations among groups of children. These findings echo concerning results a decade earlier in both the Perry and Webster values studies and a review by NZ Treasury. Both reports noted significantly greater tolerance for authoritarian amongst those who have only attended primary school, and disconcertingly narrow bands of shared values.

There are many exciting opportunities to support classroom teaching, and individual teachers, researchers, schools and agencies like the Electoral commission and parliamentary education programme and ESOL, all of whom are doing a terrific job to fill a void in democratic learning. But in a rapidly changing world, as political science educators, its now time we stepped up and offered more coordinated support to schools, particularly in a period of rapid education reform which could see an erosion of democratic values and growing social inequality as a result of haphazard introduction of new public private Charter school models of education in New Zealand.

We need to be explicit and focused in our support of conditions through which children learn about and come to appreciate a democratic tradition in New Zealand.

In 1965 Rachel Carson wrote about nurturing a child’s sense of wonder about their natural world. In the 21st century we also need to nurture a child’s sense of wonder about their democratic world, and the extra-ordinary possibilities of ordinary people acting together to effect change for a more just and sustainable common future.