Canada and the rest of the world are struggling to deal with a United States which is turning its back on the rest of the world. This follows an uninterrupted seven decades of political, ethical and financial leadership from a mostly benign US. The changes will at best lead to years of instability and at worst could lead to a political “High Noon” - overt conflict as other nations rush to fill the political vacuum left by the US. This is the end of an era and the question now is what will replace the old international system? And will it be better or worse? Some days the world seems awash in social injustice.
And yet, if we look at today’s events within the context of long-term history, we recognize that the tide of injustice has ebbed and flowed throughout history. It is important to remember that since the dawn of the post World War II world in 1946 Canada and Canadians have demonstrated leadership within the UN and other international bodies. From former PM Pearson to former Supreme Court Justice Louise Frechette, Canadians have used their professional skills for the greater good of the world through the UN or other international bodies.
But where is the next generation of Canadian leaders of the UN? Teachers are well placed to encourage the next generations of Canadians to demonstrate leadership within Canada and the international community. Most importantly, we need to remind students that the bedrock of a functioning international system is a respect for human rights. Respect for human rights is the responsibility of each individual whether he or she demonstrates that respect at their community-level or internationally. There is no room for complacency.
As long as individual Canadians are prepared to participate in civic action and not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by current events, there is reason for cautious optimism that the world will not reach the “High Noon” of history.
This presentation does not pretend to have all the answers to some very complex questions, but it is offered as the first step in what could become ongoing discussion about positive leadership from the international down to the local and individual level.
A resource package for secondary social studies teachers will be provided.
Social Studies 10/Explorations 11
George Somerwill is a Canadian former CBC journalist, NGO humanitarian worker and United Nations staff member who worked for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in a number of peacekeeping and other UN operation al areas from 1996-2011. His UN work has taken him to Angola, Iraq, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan and Liberia. He retired from the UN in 2011. Most recently, he joined experienced former UN civilian and military staff members to train officers at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training (BIPSOT) near of Dhaka, and he participated in the training of senior UN staff in Tokyo, Japan.
George has an MA in Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development from the University of York (UK). He serves as a co-President on the local board of the UN Association in Canada.
Deirdre Moore is a veteran educator and volunteer committed to promoting global awareness. She is the lead for Global Learning Programs in Burnaby School District, a secondary school social studies teacher, and currently the Co-President for the Vancouver Branch of the UN Association.