AFS in Consultative Partnership with UNESCO

“There is a clear relevance of AFS’ work to the current programs and activities of UNESCO, particularly in the fields of education, youth, and intercultural dialogue. Indeed, cooperation between UNESCO and AFS has a solid foundation based on many areas of common interest, synergies and previous collaborations, as witnessed by the organization at UNESCO Headquarters in November 2014, under UNESCO’s patronage, of the AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium.” — Irina Bokova, Director General, UNESCO

Since this April, AFS world-wide network of organizations is in official partnership with UNESCO (consultative status). This important recognition is a validation of our work and an excellent opportunity to take many budding AFS initiatives to the next level by pursuing project-specific alliances with UNESCO, both internationally and at the national level.

The official partnership is a great privilege for us as providers of intercultural education opportunities globally. It is also a responsibility, inspiring us to continue to act responsibly as a committed member of the global citizenship education movement and contribute to other UNESCO initiatives relevant to our mission. Finally, this partnership is an opportunity to strengthen our positioning as an educational organization and to create more impact as we continue playing our role in educating global citizens through intercultural learning and volunteering.

This partnership deepens the existing collaboration between our two organizations. Last November, the AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium – Learning to Live Together: From Ideas to Action was held in celebration of AFS’s Centennial and under the patronage of UNESCO in Paris. While UNESCO representatives attended the AFS-AAI-SIETAR Regional Conference in Bali, Indonesia this April, the Regional Education Forum: Intercultural Learning in Latin America: Fostering Global Citizenship through Intercultural Dialogue that will take place in Costa Rica in June has been granted UNESCO patronage. On the other hand, representatives of AFS have attended many relevant UNESCO events, most recently the Second Forum on Global Citizenship Education.

We invite you to see the latest issue of the AFS Intercultural Link news magazine to find out more about AFS’s efforts to advance global citizenship education, or to read the interview with Ms Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General who shared her views on this subject.

The First AFS-AAI-SIETAR Intercultural Conference Held

The Learning to Live Together—Intercultural Education: From Ideas to Action international conference took place in Bali, Indonesia between 15 and 17 April 2015 as one of the key regional events marking the occasion of AFS’s 100th anniversary. This was an exciting opportunity to debate the importance of intercultural and global citizenship education—what it is, how it benefits society, and the role of educators, schools and others can take to advance this movement in the Asia Pacific Region. This conference is also a best practice example of leadership in the field of intercultural education and continuation of the discussions which started during the AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium in Paris last November.

AFS Indonesia, Bina Antarbudaya (The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning) hosted this two-day educational event, which was organized by the AFS Asia Pacific Initiative (AAI), AFS International and Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research (SIETAR) Indonesia. Among other values of this conference is the significance of the event being a collaboration with SIETAR, an organization with a similar mission and complimentary areas of work to AFS. This showcases the importance of the AFS network’s increasing efforts to be open, inclusive and collaborate with the others in the field.

The speakers at the conference included Dr. Irid Agoes (Conference chair and representative of the Advisory Council to the Director General of Higher Education – Indonesia), the keynote Michael H. Prosser (Professor Emeritus of the University of Virginia), one of the founders of the field of intercultural learning, and Melissa Liles (Chief Education Officer, AFS International). This event was also supported by UNESCO, whose representative from Bangkok Ramya Vivekanandan (Quality of Education, Programme Specialist) also participated as a speaker.

This first regional conference on global citizenship education brought together key stakeholders in interculturalism, including researchers, policy makers, experts, practitioners, teachers, university students and administrators. There were 17 concurrent sessions, such as Adaptive Process in Intercultural Education and Why Cultural Training is Imperative for Global Employees. These sessions explored regional perspectives on intercultural education, addressed emerging ideas, defined complex challenges and identified viable solutions to expand global citizenship education throughout the Region. Sessions dealt with topics such as the importance of intercultural competence in the workplace, the role of schools in intercultural education, and was an opportunity to share research, case studies and lessons learned from the intercultural field.

This valuable gathering will continue with the next edition planned to take place in Australia in April 2016.

Change Now and Shape the Future

The founding fathers and mothers of the AFS philosophy volunteered to ease the pain of the people who were affected negatively by wars. At times of need for peace, they worked passionately towards establishing dialogue between cultures of the world. AFS Volunteers Association (AFSGD), the volunteer body of AFS in Turkey is indeed very proud to be the successors of such brave people and their great accomplishments and they fully understand the responsibility passed on to them by this valuable legacy. Bearing in mind the recommendations of the 100 Years Young! Youth Workshop and Symposium in Paris in November 2014, the discussions from the Youth Forum in Buenos Aires in April 2015 along with continuing discussions and meetings in Turkey, new board of the volunteer association of AFS Turkey decided to really ‘think outside the box’.

Volunteers have decided to put emphasis on “local level diversity, change making, collaborations with other NGOs and visibility and promotion of AFS mission through civil society projects along with AFS operations”

Marshall R. Singer, a specialist in international political analysis and intercultural communication, believed that every interpersonal communication is intercultural communication and therefore we cannot limit intercultural communication to national borders only. Turkish AFS volunteers also believe that intercultural learning and communication among individuals are beyond national borders. Today as the volunteers of Turkey, we believe that we need more cross cultural exchanges and dialogue establishments within the country to understand, respect and live with inner diversity. Therefore we have recently launched two new projects, one aiming to create an intra-national exchange between İzmir, west coast of Turkey and the Hakkâri province at the very south-east corner of our country, bordering Iraq and Iran. The second one has a more regional tone and as the first step of it, we are sending a busload of volunteers to Armenia this summer to promote friendship and understanding between the youth of the two nations. Our goal is not to recall the past and try to prove political theories but we hope to take first steps together towards a common future through cross cultural exchanges.

The third project is to be launched soon. It focuses on the cultural needs, adaptation and integration of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Turkey currently has around 3 million Syrian refugees and many of the refugees lack basic access to health, shelter, food and education. Unfortunately, there is also exclusion towards the refugees across the nation and we find this extremely dangerous. As supporters of peace, we aim to provide support for those in need.

These ambitious projects are only made possible through professionalism, passion towards peace and thinking outside the box that have been supported with series of rigorous trainings and seminars. What we strive for in our volunteer lives, is what most might see as the principles of work life. And what we achieve in our volunteer lives, later on does indeed reflects on what we do to earn our living. To us, volunteerism is not a hobby; it is how we define our lives.

Volunteers Association of AFS Turkey is keen on continuing to foster the discussions and collaborations on local, national and international level. The world has probably never changed this fast, and it is very likely that it will change even faster. As the global citizens of this fast changing world, we believe that it is very important to have the capability to adapt to everything that is new, to break the clichés and be the ones shaping the world rather than being shaped by it.

This blog post was contributed by our fellow AFSer, Omer Ongun. Omer went on an exchange to USA in 2003 with AFS and since then has been a volunteer, volunteer trainer and project coordinator in AFS Turkey. After finishing college in business administration, with a great inspiration from AFS, he chose the intercultural learning field and intercultural competence as his area of profession. He has completed his graduate studies at Galatasaray University, doing a research in understanding mobility programs in developing a better mutual understanding of diverse groups in Turkey. Omer is also a folk/contemporary dancer of various cultures in Anatolia. He practices body music and dance too, trying to experience body music in different folk cultures throughout the world.

Don’t miss the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC)!

From 13-24 July in Portland, Oregon, hundreds of professionals and educators in the intercultural communication space will gather to attend the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC).

With over 40 workshops to choose from, SIIC offers an inclusive and supportive environment for participants from around the world to learn from each other. “Whether you are leading a global team, designing a new diversity initiative, preparing a course for fall term, or directly a study abroad program, you can anticipate a lively week or two of intense engagement with intercultural issues and resources–networking, listening, asking and indulging in the company of diverse and similarly dedicated professionals,” states ICI, the Intercultural Communication Institute.

SIIC’s renowned faculty will teach workshops such as, Turning Intercultural Theory into Practice, Navigating Intercultural and Intergroup Conflict Communication, Training Design for Intercultural Learning, and Cultural Agility: Countering Bias with Self-Awareness, Curiosity and Empathy, among many others.

AFS Intercultural Programs is committed to providing scholarship opportunities to AFS volunteers and staff so that they can attend SIIC. AFS-SIIC Scholar Gudrun Eythorsdottir from AFS Iceland had this to say about her 2014 SIIC experience:

“SIIC was certainly an intercultural inspiration and the learning process and experience at SIIC was the beginning of a life long journey. What is important for me is to forward the knowledge gained at SIIC to my AFS organization as well as to my society, my nation. The experience was on a personal level, but it is my duty to give back to my society the knowledge, the perspective and encouragement for empathy that is lacking within a nation that does not have borders to other countries and has a recent history of immigration. Therefore I write and talk about things I have learned at SIIC whenever I get chance to do soLast fall, shortly after SIIC, I was appointed to be a vice Chairman for the Equal and Human Rights committee in my hometown. My first task was to deliver a new equal and human rights strategy plan for the town council from 2014-2018. My SIIC learning and experience deeply influenced the strategic planning, the content and wording in this official strategy that will be officially launched at a forum on May 6th. I could so easily apply my knowledge to the plan, in relation to cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity issues, gender issues and layers of diversity that is growing in my society.”

Whether you are an AFSer or not, we encourage all of our blog readers to see for themselves what SIIC is about. Register today by visiting the SIIC website:

For the sixth consecutive year, we are pleased to be able to offer special scholarship opportunities just for AFS volunteers and staff. If you are interested in this possibility, hurry up – the application deadline for scholarships is 30 April! Contact for more information.




Call for submissions: Plural+ 2015 – Youth voices on migration, diversity and social inclusion

PLURAL+ Youth Video Contest is organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and it invites the world’s youth to submit original and creative videos focusing on PLURAL+ themes: migration, diversity and social inclusion.

Now is the time to get involved!
AFS volunteers, alumni, participants around the world and all youth are invited to submit their videos reflecting their views on the PLURAL+ topics.

>Authors need to be young people aged 25 or less
>The videos should last up to 5 minutes
>Topics covered are in the areas of migration, diversity and social inclusion
>Submission deadline is 15 June 2015
>Send all videos directly to UNAOC (AFSers: don’t forget to let us know of your submission by e-mailing us!)
>More details about the rules and regulations of the contest can be found here.

And there are awards!
The main prize for the best three videos is USD 1,000 and a trip to New York to the Plural+ 2015 Awards Ceremony. AFS will also be awarding a cash prize of USD 500! Many other partners will present similar awards as well. You can learn more about all awards here.

Sounds familiar?
This is the third year in a row that AFS is supporting the PLURAL+ Youth Video Contest by presenting an award. Last year, the a group of AFSers from around the world had a tough job selecting the best submission that satisfies all our criteria, including educative content, intercultural sensitivity, link to the AFS mission and values, and originality.

Find out more about the contest by visiting the PLURAL+ website and share your video vision!

Global Citizenship Education Matters

“At times of uncertainty, in this period of turbulence, education is our best bet, for human rights and dignity, for more sustainable development, for more lasting peace

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General


In preparation for the upcoming World Education Form scheduled to take place in May in Incheon, Republic of Korea, UNESCO organized an information meeting and seminar on Global Citizenship  Education. These events were attended by many prominent figures in the field, such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and many representatives of Permanent Missions to the UN. AFS is proud to have been represented at the meeting and seminar too, by our Chief Education Officer, Melissa Liles.

This information meeting was organized in view of the World Education Form in order to prepare the global community to take stock of achievements and shortfalls and agree on a joint position for the post-2015 agenda and how to realize it. “It will be the moment to renew our vision and chart a new course, to put education first, to make sure no one is left behind,” Ms Bokova said. “This is the moment for all of us to shape a new education agenda for the 21st century. A vision of education as a stand-alone goal in the future agenda, essential for the success of all other goals.”

The progress made across the world to improve access o education, advance gender equality and to strengthen education systems was commended, and a new focus on quality, fostering learning throughout life and helping girls all the way through secondary education and beyond were called for. Ms Bokova applauded Ban Ki-moon for being the first UN Secretary-General to officially put education – “the most transformative driver for sustainable development” – on the political agenda of the UN’s member states. The emphasis for the post-2015 will be put on quality of education and Global Citizenship Education specifically. This is crucial to the post-2015 agenda, specifically learning to live together and combating growing violent extremism in all its forms.

Learning to live together entails developing an understanding of others and their history, traditions and spiritual values and, on this basis, recognizing our growing interdependence and preparing to deal with the challenges of the future in an intelligent and peaceful way. Learning to live together was also the topic of the recent AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium held last November in cooperation with UNESCO. The cooperation between AFS and UNESCO, and our commitment to Global Citizenship Education continued through our active participation at the Second Forum on Global Citizenship Education in January.

Putting Ideas to Action: the First Asia Pacific Regional Intercultural Conference

The first Asia Pacific Regional Intercultural Conference, Learning to Live Together – Intercultural Education: From Ideas to Action will take place on 15-17 April 2015 in Bali, Indonesia. Register now by clicking here.

This event has been inspired by two milestones for the organizations behind it. Last November, AFS held its Centennial Celebrations in Paris, France, and one of the highly appreciated events organized on that occasion was our Learning to Live Together—from Ideas to Action: AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium. It was organized under the patronage of UNESCO and it  addressed the critical challenges, concerns, opportunities and debates surrounding global citizenship education. The Symposium made a bold statement about the importance of global citizenship education and the role AFS and other like-minded organizations can do to promote this issue. On the other hand, in November 1997, SIETAR Indonesia gathered Asia Pacific interculturalists in Bali for a preparatory meeting to support the last Global Network Congress in Tokyo.

With this in mind, the April 2015 conference will bring together key stakeholders working on interculturalism: researchers, policy makers, experts, practitioners, teachers, university students and administrators from the Asia Pacific region to address regional perspectives on intercultural education.

Up to 100 participants are expected to take part in this event organized by AFS Itercultural Programs, the AFS Asia Pacific Initiative (AAI) and Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research (SIETAR) Indonesia and hosted by Bina Antarbudaya, The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning (AFS Indonesia).

For more information, visit the AFS Indonesia website or send an e-mail to

Global Citizenship Education in Focus

The great question of global citizenship education is how to build solidarity with people you don’t know, not those you do.



Can (global) citizenship be taught? How can we best promote its ‘soft skills’ such as collaborative learning and teamwork to facilitate change? What is the role of all the various stakeholders involved in non-formal and in-formal global citizenship education?

These and more questions were raised during the Second UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education (GCED) – Building peaceful and sustainable societies: preparing for post-2015. 9 representatives of AFS including staff, board members and young volunteers attended the Forum, joining 250 participants from 61 countries, including teachers, educators, policy-makers, academics, learners and civil society representatives.

The conclusions participants of the Forum reached include the fact that it is important to learn from the past and various initiatives that were already undertaken to promote global citizenship education. They agreed that there is a need for a universal education policy reflecting a multi-sectoral approach that could be translated into national agendas. Considering the roles of teachers and learners of all ages is crucial for global citizenship education, as it embodies both lifelong learning and intergenerational learning.

At the Forum, global citizenship education was seen as a tool for forging peace, which is of particular value for AFS and our century long mission to provide intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.

Representatives of AFS at the Second UNESCO Forum

As we continue working towards improving AFS’s profile as a thought leader and successful practitioner of intercultural learning and global citizenship education, we welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the key discussions at this event. Its main goal was to help sharpen the vision of global citizenship education within the emerging Framework for Action that will be adopted at the World Education Forum  (WEF) in May 2015, Korea, and in view of the post-2015 development agenda to be adopted in September 2015 at the United Nations General Assembly.

Thanks to our ongoing collaboration with UNESCO, AFS’ best practices in supporting facilitators of intercultural learning and global citizenship education were featured during a panel discussion at the event and received very positive feedback. As a result, we are glad to see a very clear overlap between the AFS Educational Goals that guide all our programs and the GCED goals developed by UNESCO to which our representatives also contributed and and which will be finalized and announced at the WEF in May.

The continued implementation of projects such as the UNESCO Clearinghouse on global citizenship education in order to help build a ‘silent revolution’ of learners, educators, states and UNESCO to drive the idea forward is central to ensuring that GCED is mainstreamed. AFS is committed to contributing its resources and knowledge to this Clearinghouse, through our Intercultural Link initiative and other efforts.


New Intercultural Link News Magazine Published!

The latest edition of the Intercultural Link News Magazine has just been launched. Read on-line or download the volume 5 issue 3 here. Enjoy!

AFS Intercultural Programs is pleased to announce the new issue of AFS Intercultural Link News magazine, third in 2014 and volume 5. Feel free to share it with everyone interested in learning more about intercultural education!

This issue of the news magazine is specially dedicated to the highlights of AFS Centennial Celebrations that took place in November 2014 in Paris and has a special focus on AFS’ role in the Global Citizenship Education movement, featuring:

  • the challenges put forth to AFS by Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias at the AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium;
  • an interview with Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO;
  • a learning session outline on proverbs and core values across generations;

and much more!

Stay tuned for our upcoming issues in a redesigned format to further inspire and inform you.

The AFS Intercultural Link News Magazine is the quarterly magazine on intercultural learning in the AFS network. The magazine features content shared by AFS organizations around the world and guest writers, including information on trends in intercultural education, interviews with experts in the field and overviews of upcoming and previous conferences.

Educational Conferences in 2015 (Part 1)

Every year, the education world convenes multiple times to share best practices, plan new programs and establish links. These events take shape in different conferences, seminars and workshops around the globe, and AFS tries to fulfill its educational mission by by being an organizer and active participant in them. This blog post brings you an overview of conferences scheduled for the beginning of 2015.

A highlight for AFS in 2015 are our continued Centennial celebrations which started in November 2014 with many events organized in Paris, France, including the two educational symposiums. You can read more detailed blog posts about the Learning to Live Together—from Ideas to Action: AFS Global Intercultural Education Symposium and the 100 Years Young! Youth Workshop and Symposium, which both addressed the critical challenges, concerns, opportunities and debates surrounding global citizenship education. These topics will be discussed some more during the first Asia Pacific Regional Intercultural Conference, Learning to Live Together – Intercultural Education: From Ideas to Action taking place on 15-17 April 2015 in Bali, Indonesia. The conference that aims to bring together key stakeholders working on interculturalism (researchers, policy makers, experts, practitioners, teachers, university students and administrators) is organized by AFS International, the AFS Asia Pacific Initiative (AAI) and Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research (SIETAR) Indonesia and hosted by Bina Antarbudaya, The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning (AFS Indonesia). You can submit your proposal by 15 February using this form.

Partners in the AFS Network will also continue marking the Centennial. AFS Italy is one of the organizations planning for many events on the local level, but also preparing a big international conference. The event will take place in Trento on 1-3 May and will represent a large reunion of AFS volunteers from Italy and other countries involved in WW1. The theme of the conference is Learning to Live Together: Humanitarianism, Reconciliation and Education for Plural Societies. Almost 20 high profile presenters from countries involved in efforts of reconciliation will illustrate different experiences in education to peace and co-existence. Learn more here.

We are also excited for conferences organized by other like-minded institutes, organizations and educational bodies. Coming up is the 16th Annual Conference on Intercultural Relations organized by the Intercultural Management Institute (IMI), scheduled for 12-13 March 2015 in Washington DC, USA where AFS will be one of the presenters. For those based in USA or willing to travel there, there are two other events that are well worth the visit. From 9 until 12 March you can take part in the The Winter Institute for Intercultural Communication by Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI) in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also, for those in the field of higher education, the Institute of International Education (IIE) brings a best practice conference entitled “Lead your Campus to the Top: Best Practices in Internationalizing the Campus”.

April will be the time to move to Asia and explore its exciting events such as the Korean Association for Multicultural Education (KAME)’s For the Welfare of Humankind: Multicultural Citizenship Education in a Global Context from 30 April to 2 May 2015 in Seoul, Korea. Also of interest is the International Conference on Intercultural Competence in Communication and Education (ICCEd-2015) organized by the University Putra from 8 to 9 April 2015 in Serdang, Malaysia.

You can find a full list of 2015 conferences on our blog here. If you know of some more events that could be added to our list – please let us know! Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.