Critical and Ethical Global Engagement

The notion of ‘how’ universities go about collaboration is an important focus in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  In the Millenial Development Goals, goal 8 -- “Global Partnerships for Development,” lagged behind and there was a need to focus on both adequate and effective aid and prioritizing local perspectives and participation (Tharoor, 2010).  Research has also shown that the ‘how’ or process of development activities is as important as ‘what’ or outcomes – especially since power dynamics are inextricably connected to the success of any relationship and critical to developing and sustaining reciprocal and engaged relationships (Sandmann, Moore and Quinn, 2012).  Therefore, Western’s global development approach is based on clear principles to guide collaborations with the Global South and explicitly ties local goals and initiatives with assets and activities related to teaching, research and service which are mutually beneficial.  Consistent with the UN Development priorities, Western seeks to apply expertise and resources, together with our local partners, to balance the three elements of sustainable development: providing economic transformation and opportunity to lift people out of poverty, advancing social justice and protecting the environment (United Nations Press Release, 2013).

At Western, critical and ethical global engagement means that we acknowledge the reality of global inequality and that working towards ideals of justice requires that individuals take responsibility to learn about the social and historical forces that connect us to each other (Andreotti, 2012).  Within this context, we engage in reflexive practice to critically examine our initiatives and partnerships so that we do not intentionally or inadvertently reproduce global inequalities or neglect the complex social justice, equity and power relations in global issues. The approach is based on principles of reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationships which honour local knowledge and leadership to learn together while advancing local solutions.