Development cooperation: how can education unions work best as a network?

published 24 May 2019 updated 3 September 2019

In an Education International’s EdVoices podcast, Danish Union of Teachers’ International Secretary Tore Asmussen and the Director of international and social justice programme of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation Dan Martin reflect on the importance for education unions to work collectively as a network on development cooperation issues and stress the need to ensure the sustainability of development cooperation projects.

“Essential that we look for opportunities to work together”

Asked how important it is to work collectively as a network, Dan Martin stressed that “it is extremely important and essential that we look for opportunities to work together. We seek unity within all the countries where we work, and we very much want to foster a cooperative approach to working in the countries where we are engaged. And I think that the same principles should apply to us as partners from the North.”

“One of the things is that those of us who work with development cooperation (DC) are a very small part of our whole organisations,” which “are very focused on national issues,” Tore Asmussen explained.

Noting that “we, as staff members of our organisation, are kind of isolated working with international affairs, and most of our colleagues will say ‘international sounds very interesting’, but they don’t really know so much about it.”. He pointed out that this DC meeting “is also an opportunity to meet with colleagues who work in the same kind of organisation with the same kind of issues, and that is a revealing learning experience where people who are in the same situation share things, from sharing methods to sharing information on what people know and have seen”. It is on many levels that we actually can gain from being together.”

Education International is extremely important in making sure that the recipient organisation is being heard”

On connecting working as a network with working towards the sustainability of a DC project, Asmussen mentioned that “this is especially an issue when you have a partner which ‘is weak’, because maybe four organisations are working together to support them, and we will have our discussions with them.”

But “are they strong enough to go up against us and say ‘Listen, no, you are thinking wrong, what we need is actually this?” he asked.

He went on to highlight that it is “an area where Education International is extremely important in making sure that the recipient organisation, the partner organisation out there, is being heard and their interest is being addressed.”

Martin also tackled theissue of sustainability, insisting that “essentially that is all we want to do. We want to work ourselves to the point where we are no longer needed. We want the partner organisations to develop the capacity so that they are responding to the needs of their members, they are becoming responsive and relevant teacher organisations that are willing, fulfilling a mandate that they have.

He therefore agreed that “there is so much to be gained by working in partnership in consortium that it is certainly an area that we are going to be looking forward to doing more in the years to come”.

Listen to the full podcast published on SoundCloud: