Another successful International Forum has come to a close. This year co-organizers WUSC and CECI (the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation) welcomed the most participants ever with over 450 people from across Canada and around the world gathering in Ottawa to engage with expert speakers and academics under the theme of Great Development Debates.
Our student-led Local Committees made a strong showing with over half the participants coming from Canadian university and college campuses and the other half being members WUSC and CECI, academics, volunteers and representatives from government and NGOs.
The Gala & Awards ceremony kicked off the 3-day event with awards celebrating outstanding Canadians in International Development. For the first time, CECI presented their recognition award which went to long-time partner AlphaDev, an organization that advances literacy and socioeconomic status for underprivileged women and youth in Sénégal. WUSC presented new Partners Awards presented to the University of Guelph and the Dentons law firm. The prestigious Lewis Perinbam Award in International Development was given this year to Janice Eisenhauer, co-founder and Executive Director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.
Day two of the Forum was packed with two plenary "Great Debates", the National Research Seminar and breakout workshops. The first plenary debate dived deeply into crucial issues with senior researcher Aniket Bhushan from the North-South Institute, International Development Research Centre economist Susanne Szabo, President of Canadian Council for International Cooperation Julia Sanchez and Quebec-based expert on the social economy Nancy Neamtam sharing thoughtful arguments on the question Can Market Solutions Work for the Poor?
the second Great Debate: Can Mining Contribute to Sustainable Development – an important issue that has been at the forefront of development discussions especially in the last couple of years. This was a particularly lively and informative discussion from panelists Ben Peachey, Director of Communications, International Council on Mining and Metals, and Ian Thomson, Rights & Resources Partnerships Coordinator, Kairos Canada. Moderator Ian Smillie, Founder-Member, McLeod Group, even got in on the debates offering his opinions on this controversial topic.
Participants had difficult choices about which breakout sessions to attend. The session, “Portraying Poverty: Do the Ends Justify the Means,” welcomed a packed hous with Speakers and the audience sharing passionate and critical arguments about the portrayal of poverty in fundraising campaigns and in the media, where the line should be drawn and what were the short and long-term consequences.
WUSC partners, Match International, Farm Radio International the CECI attracted many keen participants to their workshops as speakers discussed the underfunding of women’s organizations, food security and small scale farming vs. GMOs. Haiti’s specific challenges in building a competitive but fair tourism industry in Haiti was the topic of another well-attended session
The weekend finale was the third plenary debate: Youth Voices on the Future of International Development. Three young panelists whose submission was chosen for the session presented and debated their views on what they think is the most important international development issue of our time. Topics ranged from education to water to migration. This was a standout debate with much interaction from the audience and online through Twitter. The debate clearly showed that youth voices continue to offer some of the keenest insights and new ideas for global change.
While it is difficult to say whether participants left the Forum coming down on one side or the other of the debated topics it is fair to say that all participants left with a greater understanding of the development issues presented and an openness to different views, ideas and solutions for changing the world.
A statement from the recently named minister of international development was read aloud at the Forum’s opening session that underlines the importance of ideas and innovation to development:
“Development is a field of work whose constant evolution demands that we remain open to ideas and approaches that exceed the traditional boundaries that we are accustomed to. Progress comes when we dare to innovate. To seek new solutions. And when we acknowledge that what we think is impossible today might actually be possible tomorrow.”
- Christian Paradis, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophoinie in a welcome letter for WUSC and CECI’s 2013 International Forum
For further information on the Forum please consult forum.wusc.ca