What will it take to provide young changemakers with the global skills they need  to make the world a better place? 

The 2019 AFS Global Conference on Active Global Citizenship—and How to Educate for It (9-11 October 2019 in Montreal, Canada) convened 400 influencers and experts from 280+ organizations and 70+ countries to address this critical issue. Representing education, private, public and NGO institutions and industries, conference delegates came together for one important purpose: To build and grow a coalition of stakeholders across sectors to ensure global competence education is available to more young people worldwide.  

The Conference offered more than 70 sessions featuring such speakers as: Veronica Boix-Mansilla of Project Zero at Harvard University, Monika Frohler of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, Suzanne Fortier of McGill University, Melissa Barnes of Twitter and Daniel Mellsop, New Zealand High Commissioner. AFS thanks BP, Qatar Foundation International and all our partners and sponsors for placing their trust in us and helping us shape a successful event.

Mohawk Elder Ka’nahsohon Kevin Deer from Kahnawake, Quebec welcomed conference delegates and set the tone of the event with remarks on the importance of peace and friendship. 

We need more active global citizens who can communicate and collaborate across differences to tackle the world’s greatest challenges—and expand opportunities for a more fair and equitable society,” said Daniel Obst, President and CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs. “These challenges and opportunities are represented in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Education, poverty, health care and climate change require viable and sustainable solutions—innovative ideas that rarely happen when everyone comes to the table with the same point of view.”

Obst’s opening remarks also cited recent events to charge conference delegates. “On September 23, Climate Action Summit delegates declared that the ‘time for talk is over—and that the decade of action for global goals starts now!’ Let’s keep that urgent call to action in mind as we discuss and debate what it will take to empower more Active Global Citizens to make their impact on the world.”

A major highlight of the global competence was the awarding of the AFS Prize for Young Global Citizens to Luisa Fernanda Romero Munoz, co-founder of Get Up And Go Colombia, for advancing peacebuilding in her home country by converting former Colombian armed conflict zones into cultural tourism destinations. Meet Luisa and read about the other annual AFS recognitions and awards here.

Dozens of sessions; A full spectrum of learning resources

In keeping with AFS’ belief that developing global skills to navigate and thrive in a diverse world must be a right, not a privilege, AFS Global Conference participants explored winning strategies to bring global competence education into classrooms and youth programs. More than 60 conference workshops, idea dates and Innovation Stage talks showcased cutting-edge curricula, activities and tools. 

Belouga and Blue Sky School offered fresh insights on why global competence skills are necessary to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Representatives of WAY American School and Live. Love. Teach! LLC made a strong case for how study abroad programs provide global skills that employers across sectors need. And the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change workshop discussed the ways global education builds resilience to extreme ideologies. Explore the full conference program here.

The Innovation Stage sponsored by International Experience Canada featured engaging presentations, interviews and debates by inspiring active global citizens and those who contribute to global citizenship education in various ways. Audiences especially enjoyed the presentation of Dr. Milton J. Bennett, Executive Director of the Intercultural Development Research Institute, on what “Intercultural Citizenship” is and how to build capacity for it in our classrooms, workplaces and communities.

Watch the recordings of four interactive panel discussions, AFS NOW, on global competence education, media and business that were live-streamed from Montreal.

Multimedia platforms provide creative ways to advance active global citizenship

A special highlight of the conference was the premiere of Crash Test World. This educational multimedia project, created by Jenny Buccos (founder of ProjectExplorer) offers exciting new made-for-classrooms-and-beyond TV series that showcases fascinating everyday active global citizens and community heroes who harness global skills, expertise and tech to do social good. Excerpts of the TV series and accompanying educational materials for the classroom are already available on the ProjectExplorer website. The series will air in 120+ countries around the world, and will be shown on the Discovery Channel in the U.S.A. and Canada in January 2020. Segments of Crash Test World were funded by the Qatar Foundation International. 


What’s taking schools so long to implement global competence education? 

Tuesday morning’s plenary session (October 10) facilitated by Melissa Liles, Chief Global Engagement Officer at AFS, focused on the state of the global competence education around the world and featured a distinguished panel of educational experts: Dominic Cardy (Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development for New Brunswick in Canada), Darla Deardorff (AIEA and Duke University), Tamara Gojkovic (Youth for Exchange and Understanding and Lifelong Learning Platform-European Civil Society for Education) and Tarek Mostafa (OECD). The panel discussed obstacles and strategies for advancing global competence and global citizenship education in schools and youth programs. See “Are We There Yet?” in this issue of AFS NOW.

Exploring the challenge of private-public coalitions for good

The final plenary session (Friday October 11) explored the challenge of building a coalition with partnerships from different sectors—the mandate of latest UN Sustainable Development Goal #17: Sustainable Development Through Partnerships that covers the areas of finance, capacity building, systemic issues, technology, and trade. SDG #17 recognizes that the resources and technical expertise to achieve progress in the first 16 SDGs requires building partnerships and coalitions beyond those groups and individuals we are familiar with. This plenary session featured an “inconvenient conversation” that focused on why and when NGOs and private sector businesses need to work together to achieve common goals, including the SDGs

The plenary conversation between Kerry Dryburgh, Group Chief Talent Officer & Upstream Head of HR, BP, the global energy company and Sheryl Tucker, Chief External Affairs Officer, AFS Intercultural Programs, focused on the partnership between the two global organizations. BP Global STEM Academies allow AFS to expand STEM and intercultural learning and opportunities for talented diverse students in 20 countries. This experience provides BP executives with new insights on leveraging global competence to build stronger diverse work teams and connect with the communities they do business in and serve. 

Inspiring stories from young active global citizens

The Conference included a Young Active Global Citizens Day program to empower the next generation of young changemakers through skill-building workshops, discussions with experts and networking opportunities. Participants also visited New Cities, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to improving life in cities, and participated in the AFS Global Conference, including presenting at Plenary sessions. 

The AFS Global Conference highlighted the works of young global citizens from around the world. These determined changemakers provided real-world insights and stories about how global competence and global skills support their social impact activities and the challenges of tackling the Sustainable Development Goals in their local communities. At the final Plenary Session, five young speakers discussed the importance of building coalitions and identified stakeholder groups they would like to partner with to achieve their organizations’ impact goals.  

  • Regina Honu – Founder, Soronko Solutions & Tech Needs Girl, AFS Global Citizen 2018
  • Lisa Sophia Marti – Social entrepreneur, AFS Switzerland volunteer, AFS Galatti Award Winner 2018
  • Sahara Lake – Campaign Manager, DoSomething.org
  • Fjola Sigurdardottir – Student, University of Iceland
  • Monika Frohler – CEO, Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens
  • Bushra Ebadi – Research Associate, The Centre for International Governance Innovation
    Andres FinziCanada Research Chair in Retroviral Entry, University of Montreal
  • Rigoberto D. Banta – Office of External Affairs, UNESCO Asia Pacific Institute for International Understanding (APCEIU) 
  • Erika Nobels – Pedagogical Support Responsible, Belgian Governmental Programme on Global Citizenship Education 
  • Gina Thésée – Professor Université du Québec à Montréal Co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair in Democracy, Global Citizenship and Transformative Education
  • Chantelle Kohn – Director, Curriculum & Impact North America  
  • Eusebio Castro Salcedo – Student, Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM)

AFS will continue growing the coalition of global competence advocates at the 2020 AFS Global Conference in Singapore.