With the purpose of motivating students to explore issues of global scale, the Global Issues Network Conference was recently hosted by Abu Dhabi's American Community School (ACS). During the three-day event, students from around the world met to discuss, explore, and debate resolutions to worldwide challenges such as climate change, human rights, world poverty, and urbanization. Although the Global Issues Network has been organizing conferences throughout the world since 2007, last year's conference at ACS was the first of its kind in the Middle East. And this year's event aimed to not only build on the momentum of last year's conference, but also encourage greater participation from and impact on the Abu Dhabi community.
Benjamin Jance (NYUAD '15) — who participated in the Global Issues Network at his high school in the Philippines — was one of 13 conference facilitators (11 of whom represented NYUAD) to partner with ACS students to lead and monitor discussions between small groups of conference delegates. They spoke about a variety of issues, including nuclear power in Iran, building awareness and, said Jance, "inspiring people to take action."
This year's conference also featured several notable keynote presenters, including Elvis Morris Donkoh, founder and executive director of the Alliance for Youth Development in Asebu, Ghana; Rebecca Kantar, founder and CEO of Minga, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to combating the global child sex trade by harnessing the power of teens; and Pippa Biddle, the 2010-11 Youth Leadership Fellow at Roots & Shoots, the Jane Goodall Institute's international environmental and humanitarian youth program. Building on their presentations, the NYUAD and ACS facilitators led open forums to aid and encourage students to create their own awareness and action campaigns for their schools and wider communities.
Despite being an informed political science major responsible for leading group discussions, Jance felt that the exchanges taking place at the conference were two-way. "I learned something new every day," he said. "In the process of inspiring them, they inspire you."