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Commonwealth Futures: Inspiring Global Citizens

Published on 19 February 2020

Exploring the theme Inspiring Global Citizens, the second Commonwealth Futures workshop brought 28 student leaders from 14 Commonwealth countries to ACU member O P Jindal Global University (JGU) in India.

Over the course of four days (9-12 February 2020), students immersed themselves in learning from Gandhian principles, including participatory democracy, non-violence and truth – and how they apply to the modern day.

Interactive workshops delivered by experts from JGU’s Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Peace and International Institution for High Education Research & Capacity Building, UNESCO-MGIEP, Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Unit built on this, providing a safe space for students to challenge perceptions, change narratives, share knowledge and ideas, and develop tools to build social cohesion in their own contexts.

The Commonwealth Futures series launched in December 2019, in the year of the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. Gandhi was an early Commonwealth scholar who lived, worked and studied in India, South Africa and the UK, and debates during the workshop drew on Gandhi’s position as a lawyer and activist and his role in non-violent resistance and the peace movement, as well as reflecting on his contested role in current social and campus debates across the Commonwealth.

A core element of the Commonwealth Futures programme sees students working in groups to address a shared global challenge and devise tangible solutions to take forward to the Commonwealth Youth Forum and the British Council’s Going Global conference – two unique forums, which influence youth and higher education policy at local, national, regional, global and sector levels.

On the final day, our groups addressed issues ranging from hate crime to climate change, showcasing how their thinking, knowledge and understanding of these issues developed as a result of the Commonwealth Futures process. Unique solutions include the creation of a Commonwealth-wide Youth Engagement Accord to drive civic engagement and create two-way dialogue with policymakers; mainstreaming a more holistic approach to education that includes indigenous knowledge; and placing empathy at the heart of global policy to account for the growing number of climate refugees.

Dr Faye Taylor, Head of Strategic Partnerships at the ACU, said ’Seeing students from such diverse contexts come together and learn how to find common ground, while sharing their individual experiences, knowledge and ideas, was truly inspiring. The ideas and solutions presented by the students demonstrate the critical need for youth voices to be placed at the heart of global decision-making on issues, such as climate change, peace building, gender equity, and access to education, which are already immeasurably impacting the lives of young people across the Commonwealth.

‘We look forward to taking the learnings from this series forward to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda later this year. I would like to thank everyone at JGU, the British Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat who played a part in making this second Commonwealth Futures workshop so successful!’

The Commonwealth Futures programme – run by the ACU in partnership with the British Council – gives young student leaders from across the globe a platform to reflect on global challenges in different cultural contexts and build social cohesion within their own communities and beyond.

Students were nominated by universities from across the ACU’s membership network, with each student demonstrating leadership potential in many different ways–through their studies, community engagement, volunteering, student activism, or political engagement.

More information

Commonwealth Futures: Inspiring Global Citizens is the second workshop in the Commonwealth Futures series, hosted by O P Jindal Global University in India. The next workshop will take place at Durban University of Technology in South Africa, focusing on the theme Commonwealth Futures: Reimagining Peace. Both hosts are ACU member institutions, selected for their expertise and experience in running and hosting youth-led dialogues and events.

The first three workshops in the series take place in India, South Africa and the UK, to mark 150 years since the birth of Gandhi, whose teachings on non-violence, tolerance and democracy inform the programme. Each workshop focuses on the role of student leaders in creating cohesive societies, and addresses the question ‘What future do young people want for our Commonwealth?’.

Find out more about Commonwealth Futures