The International Forum was a resounding success bringing together over 450 practitioners, researchers, students, volunteers, public officials and private sector actors for international development to the conference in Montreal, co-hosted by WUSC and CECI. The theme of the WUSC CECI International Forum was Great Development Debates. Three plenary sessions and more than 20 workshops were the platform of for vivid debates on current and central issues in international development today:
• youth entrepreneurship
• investing for social impact and profits
• new ways women and men are advancing women’s equality and defending women’s rights
• partnering between non-profits and for-profits
• media interest or lack-thereof in international development news
• family farming and cooperatives‘ role in achieving food security
• greening developing economies
• and dozens of other key topics in development
As with most complex challenges, the solutions and answers are not immediate and rarely obvious. What was obvious, however, in the varied range of participants from academia, civil society, business and government was a strong interest for Canada and Canadians to play an active role to reduce poverty and work to bring about greater justice and equality around the world.
Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, delivered an opening speech and spoke on behalf of his federal colleague, the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Christian Paradis. Minister Alexander applauded the increasing involvement of non-traditional partners in development work and the drive for innovation and new models to keep development moving in a sustainable direction. The Minister emphasized the impressive contribution Canadian volunteer cooperation has made, through programs such as Uniterra, and how volunteers working in development initiatives overseas are compassionate, committed ambassadors for Canada working to improve access to justice, health, gender equality, education and protect human rights.
More than half of the conference participants were youth, many of them students, some of them sponsored students and former refugees who have come to Canada through WUSC’s remarkable Student Refugee Program. Creativity and innovation were on display from all sides, sectors and age groups. Overall, the Forum underlined a significant convergence of interests and efforts to find sustainable development solutions - and showed a real openness to new collaborations and new models for development programs that will improve incomes, lives and communities.
WUSC held its 68th Annual Assembly, the final one for Dr. Amit Chakma who has presided over the organization during an exciting 4 years period of change and growth. WUSC welcomed its new Chair, David Turpin, who has been Vice-President of WUSC for 4 years and was recently named President of the University of Alberta.
In recognition of their remarkable commitment to WUSC and its mission of international development , WUSC presented several awards during the International Forum:
WUSC Alumni Award – Brandy Robertson, Masters Student, University of New Brunswick
Lewis Perinbam Award – Fiona Sampson, Founder, The Equality Effect
Local Committee of the Year Award – Carleton University