The Commonwealth People’s Forum was not on my radar. My impressions of the Commonwealth were that it’s something related to the Queen of the United Kingdom and to our colonial past, and both would not terribly excite me.
Life has a way of confronting our ideas, and last year the Chair of the People’s Forum Subcommittee, Jacqueline Micallef Grimaud, invited me to contribute to the People’s Forum Subcommittee and share my views and experience. Along the way, I met the people behind the Commonwealth Foundation and, I must admit, my views were very seriously challenged.
I am grateful to be able to participate within a process that is empowering for all civil society and where NGOs are not used as token. As activists who have been in the field for a while, we tend to get conference and meetings fatigue. The immediate reaction would be something on the lines of, ‘Another conference?’ and ‘Why should we participate?’ Having the opportunity to look at the way work is being carried out, by both the Commonwealth Foundation and the People’s Forum Subcommittee, I can say that all efforts are channeled towards organising a People’s Forum that is both meaningful and effective.
NGDOs and CSOs from Malta, Gozo and across the Commonwealth are being engaged and invited to participate within a process that leads up to the conference. Civil Society has the opportunity to participate within the discussions that will decide the agenda discussed during the November meetings. Moreover, the Commonwealth Foundation is facilitating a space for a Content Design Committee, which is NGDO led, to prepare the items on the agenda which reflect the issues that matter to civil society across the Commonwealth. A Facebook group was recently launched for anyone who has an interest to have their say and can be accessed at https://www.facebook.com/groups/cpf2015/
What a sigh of relief! I am grateful to be able to participate within a process that is empowering for all civil society and where NGOs are not used as token. I am inspired to watch the Commonwealth Foundation, together with the People’s Forum Subcommittee, strive to reach as many NGDOs and NGOs as possible, for anyone who has an interest in development issues to participate.
The Foundation has found an elegant way how to facilitate bottom-up processes which are often complex, yet results are far more meaningful. The way the Commonwealth Foundation operates is truly inspiring. The Foundation has found an elegant way how to facilitate bottom-up processes which are often complex, yet results are far more meaningful. We also learn as we go along, but the process is open, transparent and anyone interested is welcome to participate. NGDOs and NGOs are genuinely invited to set the agenda and engage with the discourse on: What makes resilient societies?
I am looking forward to November’s conference; for the discussions and networking which will surely take place. For a number of CSOs in Malta, this will be a novelty and a wonderful opportunity, for others it will possibly be an opportunity to meet friends once again. The possibility of sharing experiences, lessons learnt, and achievements, failures and possibilities for joining forces is exciting.
We hope that through the People’s Forum 2015, links established last beyond the November conference. Hopefully, civil society from Malta and Gozo can become more familiar with civil society processes across the Commonwealth and these networks will become aware of Maltese civil society organisations and their work. Engaging with CSOs across the Commonwealth will surely bring fresh perspectives and opportunities for further dialogue on pressing Development issues. I look forward to NGOs across the Commonwealth to engage with the Content Design Committee through our Facebook group and engage in the discussion. Finally, register and be in Malta for the People’s Forum 2015 and have your say!
Mario Gerada is a freelance worker and qualified social worker who worked in the fields of child protection and drug addiction. For a number of years he worked in the fields of development and migration focusing on policy analysis, campaigning and project coordination in a range of areas including Aidwatch, Development Education and Migration. He has also worked as a researcher on a number of research projects which looked at discrimination and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and other minority or marginalized groups. More recently Mario has done work for the Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity specifically focusing and coordinating work in relation to separated and unaccompanied children. Mario has also carried out work for the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society in relation to international affairs and environmental issues. He presently Chairs the National Hub for Ethnobotanical Research.
Mario has a Master in Christian Spirituality from the University of Malta. He is a published poet and penned a number of articles for web-based magazines. He is the co-founder of Integra Foundation, and one of the founding members of the Maltese Catholic/Christian groups Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents’ group. Mario is invited regularly to lecture and discuss gay and Christian themes in academic and other settings.