Jakub Jirsa, is a Lecturer at Charles University, Czech. Republic. He has been involved in preparing one of the working groups in the lead up to the World Assembly. Although he has enjoyed being involved in the process, he is concerned that the Assembly will become stuck on making vague statements rather than building concrete action plans.
12 / 2001
Jakub Jirsa is a lecturer at Charles University, Czech. Republic. He has been involved in preparing one of the working groups in the lead up to the World Assembly.
For the last three and a half years, Jakub has worked for the Czech government’s Committee of Development, focusing on the many challenges facing the Republic in the post communist world. He has also been studying philosophy and political science, focusing on the writings of Plato.
He was faced with a difficult decision when finishing his studies, either focus on a career in politics (where he had already started to establish himself), or stay at the university. This was one of having a comfortable life and career path, against one with limited opportunities.
When he entered university life as a lecturer, he discovered that the many problems he faced within politics were reflected at the university. Inside any established institution, there are always vested interests that limit support for independent, critical thinking, despite the best intentions.
For Jakub, international events and institutions will always face difficulties when attempting to stage events such as the World Assembly. Jakub expressed some concerns of the future direction of the Assembly and Alliance.
For example, although he supports the concept of a Charter, he believes that in all such meetings there is a need for more concrete modes of action. On the second day of the Assembly, Jakub expressed concerns that many of the delegates were stating their frustrations at the vagueness of the topics.
One key issue that international organizations of all types must focus on is that documents should not be Euro-centric (that is, focused on Western Europe or the United States). Unless different groups are asked to draft the document in the early phases, he believes that documents like the Charter will be interpreted as a document written by elites with little application to the real world.
He has enjoyed working with the Alliance, but believes that there is a need to improve the process of communication at meetings such as the World Assembly. Organizations need to move beyond vague statements and come up with some more concrete actions plans. The key for Jakub is an improved process of dialogue during the meetings.
At the Assembly, the methodology for dialogue was both equal and democratic, but did not promote open dialogue for the delegates. By allowing a process of more open dialogue, there is always a risk that the organizers do not get the exact results that they were hoping for, but this allows for a more honest space for ideas.
For example, there was quite some focus at the assembly about a ’global ethic’, but this was so vague that the participant discussion was limited. All agreed that there is a need to understand what we mean by the global ethic, but this could not be the entire focus of the debate. Jakub hoped that the next few days would allow for a process of building concrete action plans.
With respect to the future direction of the Alliance, Jakub believed that there is a need to narrow down the focus to specific areas, thus allowing specific plans to be made. In his experience, such plans can be outlined, and representatives in their own nations should sort out cultural complications. For example, there needs to be a policy and strategic direction undertaken on the issue of fair trade. But the different delegates must address the specific details of pushing this into parliamentary circles at the national level. If such concrete steps are not taken, Jakub was concerned that everyone’s hard work would simply be lost in rhetoric.
To achieve this, there needs to be more room for open dialogues. Dialogue must be personal - it is a fight but not a war. Dialogue should be about action and outcome, even if this is just to undertake the process of dialogue. It is by allowing each person to tell their stories, express their experiences and the lessons that they have learnt, that we can build both knowledge and understanding. This is key to the process. For Jakub, dialogue is about diversity not equality.
For dialogue to be successful, there must be room for this to be undertaken. This would allow people to open themselves up for potential change because they get both a chance to talk and listen. This was key to building an international movement. If people do not have a chance to do this, then the risk is always that we will get vague statements with little action.
This file was made in an interview at the World Assembly, Lille, France, dec.2001. Interview with Jakub Jirsa, Lecturer, Czech. Republic, Charles University, Faculty of Humanities, Philosophical Department, Charles University, Faculty of Humanities, Philosophical Department, Prague, Czech. Republic. Email: jakub_jirsa@hotmail. Com
Interview with Jakub Jirsa