AidEx talks to the Founder and CEO of the youth network Shout Out UK, Matteo Bergamini all about why healthy democracies require political literacy, and his thoughts on how Brexit will impact overseas aid.
What impact has Brexit had on international aid and development so far?
For the moment I think it is the mindset of the British people. The Leave camp ran a very anti-globalist campaign that pushed people to think of Britain first and immigrants as being lesser. This rhetoric has only grown to frustrate people’s view on international aid. Even though Brexit was around leaving the EU, its Leave campaign was mired in racist rhetoric. The Leave campaign’s fake immigrant posters, for instance, are telling signs of Britain’s view of the world and its wish to help it.
If Brexit goes ahead, how do you think the UK’s international development response will change?
It depends on the kind of Brexit, but considering Boris Johnson just got put in power I think we can safely assume that no-deal Brexit is very much on the cards. If that happens, the UK will align itself almost entirely with the US. This coupled with a growing dislike of migrants and people that ‘look different’, the UK Government will move towards a more isolationist stance, solidifying our decline.
What could the consequences be for developing countries that we support?
Depends on which country. We still support India, who arguably no longer needs the support. However, countries with less development would lose much-needed financial aid. It would also leave developing countries who we support open to manipulation from other foreign powers that don’t have the same free speech, democracy and human rights views that we do.
How do you feel about the UK Government’s internal efforts to tighten the relationship of DfID with the Foreign Office and Defence?
There is a natural relationship between the three, but creating a tighter relationship would be removing any semblance that we care about supporting other countries — for anything other than our own foreign policy and defence goals …
At a time when the UK appears to incur increasing inequality and rising poverty, whilst developing countries are advancing very quickly, do you think there is an argument for ‘charity starts at home’?
No, because our increasing inequality and rising poverty is a political decision out of choice. Whilst developing countries are advancing very quickly, they still have issues to overcome, partly due to their colonial past, which creates an automatic duty of support on our behalf.
What is your experience of young people’s opinions in international aid and development — are they engaged? If so, why do you think that is? If not, how can we improve their understanding?
They are not engaged at all as our government refuses to teach young people about our politics, which naturally includes international aid and development. Many young people, and people in general are politically illiterate, so don’t know or understand our support across the wider international community. This is not to say people are stupid, but simply that if your education is completely devoid of a subject, naturally you will know nothing about it.
We improve their understanding by introducing Political Literacy as a standalone subject during secondary school and introducing it slowly through primary school. Simple.
Do you think international affairs should be integrated into the national curriculum, perhaps within politics?
YES. As part of a standalone Political Literacy subject during secondary school. In fact, our Political Literacy course, which we run in schools across the UK, teaches young people about international relations and politics, as well as media literacy. These are core topics that need to be taught as we all have a right and duty to engage in civic society. To have a healthy democracy, we must have a politically literate population.
Matteo Bergamini is the Founder and CEO of the youth network Shout Out UK, a company he set up at 22. The network has grown rapidly, securing a variety of projects, from the high-profile Channel 4 Youth Leaders’ Debate to the creation of a Political and Media Literacy Course for schools across the UK. A dedicated promoter of Political Literacy amongst young people, Matteo has won a number of awards for his entrepreneurship and work in political education. He has a BA in Politics & History, as well as a Graduate Diploma in Law.
This article was originally published in AidEx