This post is part of a series by guest writer Paul Edinger comparing the fields intercultural relations and international relations.
There are many educational programs for young people in the fields of intercultural learning and international relations. While their approaches may differ due to the unique subject matter of the two fields, these programs have an overall goal of increasing understanding and knowledge across societies.
One of the most well known youth driven international programs with a basis in international relations is Model United Nations. These programs allow young adults to represent a different member state of the United Nations in a setting that mimics the actual deliberations and functions of the real United Nations. Through these events, students can argue their own nation’s position or a completely different nation’s position. Together, the students debate international issues, draft resolutions and form diplomatic alliances.
While these programs take the form of fun, friendly competitions, they allow students to learn about the various cultural and political issues that are on the forefront of global affairs. They learn about why states have their particular positions on issues and use this knowledge to collaborate on common interests and bridge differences.
There are also many youth organizations that provide education about differences from an intercultural learning standpoint. For example Youth Peace Camp is one such organization that uses ICL to educate youth from conflict ridden regions. At the initiative of the Council of Europe in 2004, this organization has had a presence in areas of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. A more culture specific organization is the UK-German Youth Ambassadors Programme. This initiative engages youth interested in German and British culture to participate in seminars and other activities in order to advance the understanding of people from both countries.
In each organization, culture is studied on its own term on a very personal level. This is in contrast to an international relations (IR) centered youth program, such as the model UN, because IR focuses on formal policies among different governments. However, there are other youth centered international organizations that combine the government policy centered approach of IR and the culture learning strategies of ICL. YC Social Diplomacy is a non-profit that seeks to enhance the tolerance and understanding of young people of the Black Sea region through a combination of youth-driven government policy research and essay writing and cultural exchanges, seminars and other personal educational activities. This organization combines concepts of IR and ICL into one comprehensive program designed to advance awareness and understanding throughout the region.
AFS is a youth organization that is centered in the principles of ICL. Its programs offer culture learning in an educational context. While different, IR based programs and ICL based programs enrich each other. They offer different perspectives on many overlapping topics, all of which are firmly based on the principle that education is the key to understanding differences.
Paul Edinger is a contributing writer for the ICL Blog. He was an intern at AFS International in 2011 in the Development and Branding department, and continued in 2012 in the Intercultural Learning department. He holds a B.A. in International Studies.