Global Citizenship Education: Building Peaceful and Sustainable Societies

Between 28 and 30 January 2015, on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of UNESCO, the Second UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education Building peaceful and sustainable societies: preparing for post-2015 will take place, in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative. The main goal of the Second Forum is to contribute to the discussions on global citizenship education in the post-2015 development agenda – focusing on how it can foster not only cognitive skills but also those values, attitudes and skills that are necessary for forging a more peaceful, just, inclusive and sustainable world.

With its mission, educational reputation and agenda in mind, AFS Intercultural Programs will once again be represented at this event, following a successful cooperation at the First Forum organized two years ago in Bangkok, Thailand. This is especially important as AFS gathered more than 1000 people, including luminaries in the world of peace and justice at the AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium – Learning to Live Together, from Ideas to Actionin November 2014 in Paris, France, organized under the patronage of UNESCO. AFSers and participants of this Symposium made a bold statement about the importance of global citizenship education and the role AFS has taken to advance this movement, and we see the Second Forum as yet another part of our on-going collaboration with UNESCO.

We welcome this opportunity to continue the important discussions in this field and to strengthen our active role in championing global citizenship education. In the Second Forum, AFS will be represented by six of our volunteers from AFS France and two more from the European Pool of Trainers of the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL). AFS International’s Education Content and Communications Manager, Hazar Yildirim, will also participate as a panelist during a session on knowledge sharing and networking for global citizenship education where he will share AFS’ continuous commitment to providing structured intercultural learning opportunities and resources for volunteers and staff to help them gain the knowledge and skills to facilitate intercultural learning experiences of others.

Global citizenship education is an objective of UNESCO’s education program, drawing on work in related areas such as peace and human rights education, education for sustainable development and others. The Forum is a unique opportunity to consider current trends and future needs in the area of global citizenship education, as it will identify policy priorities and strategies for the global citizenship education in practice.

Among about 150 participants at the Second Global Forum are permanent delegations to UNESCO, global citizenship education experts, teachers and education practitioners, research institutions and universities, the private sector, media, policy makers, UN agencies, civil society organizations, youth representatives and other development partners. Youth related issues will have a special spot at the Forum, with UNESCO plans to fully involve young participants as speakers and organizers. AFS is glad to be a part of this diverse group whose discussions are shaping the future of global citizenship education.


AFS Celebrates Young Filmmakers as Agents of Social Change

For the second year in a row AFS is proud to support the PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with other many partner organizations from around the world.

PLURAL+ recognizes youth as powerful agents of social change in a world often characterized by intolerance, and cultural and religious divisions.Young people under the age of 25 are asked to submit their short videos (not longer than 5 minutes) describing how their lives and communities are affected by these topics. The best entries in different age groups are awarded prizes by an international jury composed of renowned filmmakers and media personalities. AFS and other project partners also select and present their awards.

This year young people from 63 different countries submitted 175 short videos addressing key challenges related to topics such as migrant integration, inclusiveness, identity, diversity, intercultural dialogue, human rights and social cohesiveness, both at local and global levels. AFS’ network-wide community of Intercultural Learning Responsibles had a tough job selecting the best one.

Of all the great video submissions received, representatives of 40+ AFS organizations found Blue Eyes by Al-Mothanna Al-Ghizzawi and Anas Yahya from Jordan to best meet our educational criteria, demonstrating strong intercultural sensitivity of content and style in a truly original way.

This video is also strongly linked to the AFS mission to raise awareness and promote intercultural understanding to create a more just and peaceful world, and it is also linked to AFS’ core values of being inspiring, supportive, connecting and trustworthy.

We commend Mothanna Al-Ghizzawi, Anas Yahya and their team for creating such a moving and meaningful message.  We will be presenting the PLURAL+ 2014 AFS Intercultural Award to the video Blue Eyes at the 2014 Plural+ Video Award Ceremony scheduled to take place today, Thursday, 4 December 2014, at the Paley Center for Media in New York.

AFS will continue to support PLURAL+ and similar initiatives in the future. We invite you to watch all the video submissions here and to let us know what your main learning point from them is.

AFS Convenes World Leaders to Discuss Global Citizenship Education

On November 8, 2014, AFS Intercultural Programs, under the patronage of UNESCO, hosted an international high-level symposium Learning to Live Together—from Ideas to Action: AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium for more than 1,000 attendees.

It was an amazing milestone in AFS history when representatives of the AFS global community convened with global luminaries in the world of peace and justice at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France to make a bold statement about the importance of global citizenship education and the role AFS has taken to advance this movement.

“Our mission for the Symposium and going forward is to drive the global citizenship education movement to reach and cultivate partners, advocates, influencers, thought leaders and potential global citizens—young and old—especially those living or working in areas of great turmoil,” explains Melissa Liles, Chief Education Officer of AFS Intercultural Programs.

Building on the powerful recommendations presented at the 100 Years Young! AFS Youth Symposium earlier in the day, both the audience and the speakers were charged with anticipation and excitement. The theme of the conference was inspired by Jacques Delors’ challenge that we “learn to live together by developing an understanding of others.” Mr. Delors is the former three-time President of the European Commission and Chairperson of the UNESCO Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century.

The distinguished roster of speakers then facilitated a thought-provoking conversation exploring the dimensions and challenges of developing global citizens who can work across cultural differences to create a more just and peaceful world.

“We must recognize that our students are not ready for the world if they have no grasp of the 21st century’s challenges, stated Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President of Costa Rica (1986-1990, 2006-2010) in his keynote address. “We must make intercultural understanding, not a footnote in our educational systems, but rather a mandatory course of study.”

The panel included Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland, Chernor Bah, the youth representative on the High-Level Steering committee for the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative,  Andreas Schleicher, head of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development,  Éric Falt, Assistant Director-General at UNESCO, and J. Brian Atwood, Chair of Global Policy Studies at the University of Minnesota and former Administrator of the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID). They all sent a powerful message pushing for global education.

Facilitator Vishakha Desai, Special Advisor for Global Affairs at Columbia University and President Emerita of the Asia Society, encouraged everyone in the audience to think differently about their own efforts.

“Be the change you want to see in the world. That is, my friends, what we are all about,” advised Dr. Desai. “If you think you’re too small to make an impact, try to fall asleep with a mosquito in your room.”

We thank Sheryl Tucker of AFS International for contributing to the blog. To find out more, please see an extended version of this article in the upcoming issue of our AFS Intercultural Link news magazine.

Nordic Countries Committed to Intercultural Learning

The last National Qualified Trainer (NQT) workshop of 2014 took place from 22-26 October in Norway. 12 AFS staff and volunteers from Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden gathered for a 4.5-day NQT Workshop, thus beginning the certification process to become National Qualified Trainers of the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program for their respective AFS organizations.

Like other National Qualified Trainer workshops in BrazilCosta Rica and India, these 12 candidates underwent a rigorous few days of Learning Program Curriculum and training techniques.

Trainers Jenny Eriksson (AFS Sweden), Hanne Liv Østtveit-Moe (AFS Norway), Ida Vasstrand (AFS Norway) and Hazar Yildirim (AFS International) worked well together as they lead the group, demonstrating their wide range of unique training styles.

We wish these 12 NQT candidates luck as they finish the next steps of the certification process! We look forward to you working with the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program in your countries as you implement the Program nationally.

Fourth Annual AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program Regional Events

For a fourth year in a row, from 25-28 September, the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program held events in the Asia-Pacific and Caribe regions for AFS staff and volunteers. 22 participants from Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand participated in Levels 1 and 2 in Jakarta, Indonesia. 22 participants from Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Panama participated in all three Levels of the Program in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

“All three groups had a same goal,” stated Qualified Trainer Mónica Wittman from AFS Costa Rica. “Increasing their own intercultural competences, gaining knowledge and developing skills toward sensitizing others about intercultural differences and how best to approach them.”

Both events were led by experienced Learning Program Qualified Trainers who dedicated weeks of planning to make the events unforgettable for the participants, finding unique and fun ways to deliver Intercultural Learning content. “The participants particularly commented positively on the several activities that allowed them to easily understand complex concepts and theories, as opposed to the usual delivery of lectures,” said Mae Ayob, Qualified Trainer from AFS Philippines. “They are all excited for the next Level!”

Qualified Trainer Fran Baxter from AFS Australia agreed, “The experiential nature of the learning we were engaged in – both learning about the topics, and each other’s culture – therefore actually experiencing Intercultural Learning while learning was very valuable.”

The in-person event is just the beginning for these 44 Learning Program participants. All will be supported with various distance learning activities that build upon the foundations that were laid during the workshops.

A big thanks goes out to AFS Indonesia, Bina Antarbudaya, and AFS Dominican Republic for hosting these very successful regional events! We look forward to the participants finishing the distance portions of their respective levels and to the next regional events in 2015!

The AFS Effect: Daring to Create Change

Since its beginning, AFS has been a vehicle for committed individuals who dare to make a difference. Courage, volunteerism and learning have been constants throughout our history. A century ago they resulted in thousands of lives saved. Then, in inventing the intercultural exchange programs that still transform lives today.

Creating change is what AFSers do, and we call it the AFS Effect.

AFS has impacted many lives throughout our history and with the #AFSeffect campaign we hope to learn about the impact AFS has had on individuals—what the #AFSeffect means to them and what intercultural learning in action looks like to them. Everyone who would like to contribute can share a post about their own experience on their social media platforms using the hashtag #AFSeffect.

Until the AFS Centennial celebrations in Paris, we will post several questions online with and ask everyone to react and contribute to the campaign using #AFSeffect to tag their posts. The first question was already shared as a part of the 100 days, 100 stories campaign on the official AFS Intercultural Programs Facebook page and others will follow soon.

Many AFSers are already participating in the campaign and you can easily follow contributions on the campaign microsite

Are you ready for intercultural dialogue?

Multicultural education, intercultural education, nonracial education, antiracist education, culturally responsive pedagogy, ethnic studies, peace studies, global education, social justice education, bilingual education, mother tongue education, integration – these and more are the terms used to describe different aspects of diversity education around the world. Although it may go by different names and speak to stunningly different conditions in a variety of sociopolitical contexts, diversity education attempts to address such issues as racial and social class segregation, the disproportionate achievement of students of various backgrounds, and the structural inequality in both schools and society.
(Quote from Diversity Education: Lessons For A Just World by Sonia Nieto)

Diversity education is the topic of this year’s Intercultural Dialogue Day (IDD), a grassroots initiative organized by volunteers in AFS local chapters all over Europe since 2008. On 25 September 2014 these AFS volunteers will be exploring new ideas and perspectives for the events organized at a local level related to diversity education.

In preparation for this special date, you can check out the Intercultural Dialogue Day Facebook page and its 100 days challenge. During the countdown to IDD, IDDA (the project’s mascot) asks you different questions, offers resources and food for thought related to diversity education every day. For example, IDDA has already helped us discover a database of intercultural films, educational resources on cultural diversity and made us reflect on gender roles. Even outside of Europe, you can also download the promotional materials developed for this year’s IDD or the IDD Toolkits where different formats of local events from previous years are described.

The Intercultural Dialogue Day project was initiated in 2008, the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, by the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL), the AFS European umbrella organization. Today, IDD takes place each year on the last Thursday of September. The main IDD idea is to raise awareness and visibility of intercultural dialogue in local communities. IDD events are originated by AFS volunteers and supported by AFS offices. Some AFSers outside of Europe are already marking IDD with their own events initiatives this year and AFS is exploring pursuing IDD globally.

AFS believes in dialogue and cooperation across languages, cultures and organizations. This is also one of the focus points of Intercultural Dialogue Day. Collaboration with different audiences in the local community does not only raise the visibility of the message we try to promote through IDD, but it also strengthens the AFS volunteer networks, giving volunteers a sense of ownership and responsibility while encouraging innovation.

Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Diversity for Common and Shared Values

We would like to thank Guillermo Bril of AFS Argentina & Uruguay for contributing the following text to our blog:

Bali – Indonesia, 28-30 August 2014

Under the overarching theme “Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Diversity for Common and Shared Values”, the Sixth Global Forum of the UNAOC brought together over 1,500 participants, including political leaders, representatives of international and regional organizations, the private sector, civil society, academia, youth, arts and the media, as well as donor agencies and foundations, to explore new ways of promoting cross-cultural dialogue and understanding and to spark new partnerships and commitments.

Out of more than 3,000 applicants worldwide, only 100 participants from 43 countries qualified to convene for the Youth Event in August 2014 with the objective of supporting the mainstreaming of young people’s voices into the Forum’s main themes.

The AFS network was represented in Bali by Guille Bril, of AFS Argentina & Uruguay, who met with another 99 youth representatives from diverse cultural and religions backgrounds, with outstanding track record in intercultural dialogue and youth work.

In line with the mission of AFS, the UNAOC aspires to the ideal of a culture of peace and dialogue among all civilizations on the assumption that “differences within and between societies should be neither feared nor repressed, but cherished as a precious asset of humanity”.

The Youth Event looked at the main topic through four themes: education, media, migration, and entrepreneurship/employment, which resulted in the creation of Youth Recommendations. They represent what we, young people, need from world leaders in order to fully leverage their unique contribution to fostering Unity in Diversity. Youth Recommendations for education push for more inclusive national education and foster meaningful and diverse youth participation in education policy-making. They also insist on integrating global citizenship into the curriculum at all levels of education with a specific focus on cross cultural understanding, problem solving, conflict resolution and peace building. All of these are a part of the AFS Educational Goals and will be addressed at our upcoming Centennial Celebrations, and the Learning to Live Together – AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium.

This event was a great opportunity for AFS to share its expertise in the field of youth work and global education, and we were happy to collaborate with other youth representatives from around the world. We are glad to continue our relationship with the UNAOC, which started with our representatives attending the UNAOC Global Forums since 2008, as well as the establishment of the AFS Intercultural Prize at the Plural+ Youth Video Contest.

AFS India and AFS Philippines Strengthen Foundations of Intercultural Learning

From 24-27 August, three key volunteers from AFS India and two key volunteers from AFS Philippines took part in a National Qualified Trainers (NQT) workshop for the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program in Gurgaon, Haryana, India.

This marks the fourth NQT workshop done this year throughout the AFS network. Previous workshops were done in Egypt, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Like the other workshops, the candidates dove deep into training techniques and the Learning Program Curriculum. Once they complete all three steps of certification, they can implement the program locally according to the National Strategies of their AFS organizations.

“My favorite part of the training was when the candidates realized that they had to change their approach and start thinking as trainers instead of volunteers,” said Sujatha Shyamsundar, International Qualified Trainer of the Learning Program and one the workshop trainers. She continued, “I also enjoyed connecting activities and theory to practical knowledge that participants will carry back with them.”

One candidate said, “It [the workshop] went beyond my expectations. I just thought it will just be a simple training but it wasn’t. It demanded full attention and time (…) everything was very essential and I learned a lot.”

We congratulate the five NQT candidates and wish them luck with the rest of their certification!


100 Years Young! AFS Youth Workshop & Symposium

In November 2014, AFS Intercultural Programs will celebrate its 100th anniversary and prepare to ring in the next hundred years of education for peace and intercultural cooperation. We want to ensure that this important event incorporates the direct voice of youth: the generation that will carry AFS into the next century and that must learn to live together in order to resolve our shared challenges in an interdependent world.

The 100 Years Young! AFS Youth Workshop & Symposium, taking place from 5 to 8 November 2014 in Paris, France, will be an important set of events bringing a critical intergenerational element. Between 100 and 150 youth representatives of AFS and other organizations from around the world will come together to discuss and share their perspectives about how to tangibly go about the work of developing global citizens. As the application deadline – 17 August – is fast approaching, we would like to encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible!

As we welcome diverse perspectives at the table, this event is open to all young people ages 30 and under who are interested in Intercultural Learning and Global Citizenship  from different youth organizations. Participating in this event is an opportunity to:

  • take part in a vital conversation of young people from around the world
  • contribute to shaping the future of Global Citizenship Education
  • connect and network with volunteers from other youth/intercultural organizations
  • take part in the 100th anniversary of a leading intercultural education organization

You can sign up for virtual and in-person participation: visit the event website for more details. This event is held under the patronage of UNESCO.