My week in Busan:

Reflecting on the UN Youth Leadership Workshop on Global Citizenship Education.

In July, I spent a week in Busan, South Korea attending the 2nd Youth Leadership Workshop on Global Citizenship Education (GCED). It was my first time outside North America, and my first time meeting people from so many different countries: 45 delegates from 39 countries, to be exact. I made memories for a lifetime, some of which I will try to share here!

The campus (Busan University of Foreign Studies) was so beautiful.

Day 1

I flew out around 8am. Having never travelled further than San Francisco, the journey to Korea was quite an experience in itself.

  • Toronto to Vancouver: 6 hours
  • Vancouver to Osaka: 11 hours
  • Osaka to Busan: 1.5 hours

Factor in time spent waiting at airports and it was about a 24 hour journey. I had trouble sleeping on the plane as well, so by the time I arrived in Korea, I was ready to pass out.

The passenger next to me had no such sleeping troubles.

The connecting flights did allow me to stop over in Japan, although I don’t know how representative the Osaka airport is.

Is sumo wrestling still big in Japan?

I then flew Korean Airlines from Japan to Korea — my first time not flying with Air Canada or WestJet.

Individually packaged pineapple chunks? That can’t be very sustainable…

When I did touch down in Korea, I was greeted by some friendly volunteers. Soon after, we were joined by the other late arrivals. I spoke to Thao, from Vietnam, in Vietnamese, and bonded with Showki, from Sudan, about our shared love of hip-hop and drumming. The conversations quickly re-energized me after my long journey.

Night 1: July 11th? 12th?

My body was confused as to which day it was. When I went to sleep, it was 12:30 am (July 12th) in Korea, but 11:30pm (July 11th) in Toronto. Weird.

I had the most peaceful sleep of my life and actually woke up in a panic because I thought I missed my alarm. Then I looked at my clock and realized that only an hour had passed. Jet lag is the worst.

Day 2

Following my ambiguously restful sleep, I was excited for the workshop to begin. The programme started with opening remarks from an all-star cast of dignitaries. In the afternoon, we learned about the role of youth leaders in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, sometimes referred to as the Global Goals. Ms. Min Jeong Kim, Head of the Global Education First Initiative Secretariat, shared some startling figures to put the goals in context.

For example, we learned that there are:

  • 59 million children who are not currently in school;
  • 64 million adolescents who should be attending secondary school or vocational training but are not able to; and
  • 784 million people without clean drinking water.

These staggering statistics suggest a need for the world to be on the same page when it comes to priorities such as Good Health and Well-Being (Goal 3), Quality Education (Goal 4), and Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6). The basic principle behind the Global Goals is universality: leave no one and no country behind.

In total, there are 17 Global Goals with 169 targets. GCED falls under the umbrella of Quality Education, target 4.7:

By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

Min’s talk clearly outlined where GCED fits in the overall scheme of the Global Goals, but what exactly is GCED?

Ms. Yangsook Lee, from the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU), later gave a talk on “GCED for Shaping the Future.” In it, she explained that GCED is a transformative learning process that empowers all learners to think, share, and act to build more peaceful and tolerant societies*.

Considering the interdependence, interconnectedness, and global tensions taking place in our world today, Ms. Lee made a strong argument that GCED has never been more important.

*The meaning of GCED is widely contested, and this is only one of many possible definitions.

Day 3

With all of us slowly adapting to the time difference, the energy began to pick up. In the morning, Dr. Frances D. Lee facilitated an excellent workshop to demonstrate how the principles of global citizenship (understanding, tolerance, justice, peace) apply to our daily lives.

One exercise that we did was to find the “centre of the room”. Naturally, everyone had a different interpretation of what this meant, and by the end, we were all standing in different places. Some of us chose the centre based on the room itself; others chose the centre based on the distribution of the people in the space, or where they felt energy was concentrated. Dr. Lee then went around and asked every participant to explain why they chose the spot that they did. From this exercise, we learned that active listening is integral to peace-building, because otherwise you will never be able to appreciate someone else’s perspective.

Another activity that we did was to watch the short film “Neighbours” by Norman McLaren, who happens to be Canadian. The film addressed a lot of the concepts that we were discussing, especially peace and war. I’ll leave the interpretation up to you, but one question that Dr. Lee posed to us was: What escalates the violence in “Neighbours”?

As the day wound to a close, we held Cultural Night — an amazing celebration of the diversity in our group. Everyone dressed up in cultural attire and shared items reflecting their culture, including food, drinks, and photos. The best part of the night was the performances. We danced to music from the Caribbean to Morocco to Kenya and everywhere in between. I also vividly remember Ntui, our resident poet, performing a wonderful piece called My Cameroon that produced goosebumps on my arm.

Cultural Night was an experience that I wish everyone could have at least once in their life. It encapsulated what global citizenship is all about: open-mindedness, cultural appreciation, and peaceful co-existence.

You already know I had to represent for Canada!

Day 4

The morning consisted of “study visits” to explore local initiatives for GCED. When presented with the options previously, I felt an inexplicable pull towards Indigo Sowon, and upon arriving at the bookstore, I knew that I had made the right choice.

Halfway around the world, I met a kindred spirit in Aram Hur, a South Korean educator and social entrepreneur. Aram and her partner run Indigo Sowon, a humanities bookstore for youth. One of Indigo Sowon’s projects is INDIGO+ing, a youth-led magazine publication that features young writers speaking on philosophy, ethics, activism, and global issues. Aram and I exchanged books and talked about our similar visions. She was the inspiration that I never knew I had. While I hadn’t heard of Indigo Sowon until this trip to Korea, the similarities to Ink Movement are striking. On this tiny planet, we’re all more similar to each other than we are different.

How cool is it to find someone who shares the same vision as you, 10,000 kilometres away from home?

In the afternoon, we recapped our experiences of the study visits, and then started work on developing an advocacy plan for GCED. My roommate, David Crone (UK), introduced a valuable resource: the Plan International Advocacy Toolkit (https://plan-international.org/publications/advocacy-toolkit). It’s produced by youth for youth who want to advocate for the universal right to an education.

We split up the large umbrella of GCED into more manageable issues, such as the lack of a clear definition for GCED, the low priority of GCED and education on political agendas, and the lack of resources to implement GCED.

My group focused on the lack of resources to implement GCED. We learned how to:

  • brainstorm problem trees;
  • conduct stakeholder analyses;
  • develop action plans, with respect to actions, resources, risks, and monitoring; and
  • craft tailored advocacy messages.

I’m excited to share my group’s work in the future, but in the meantime, I found it very useful to learn and apply a framework for advocacy. While the Plan toolkit was created in the context of education, it can also easily be adapted to advocate for other causes, and I encourage you to have a look at it!

Day 5

Each small group finished their advocacy plan and then presented it to the group at large. It was incredible to see how much we could accomplish in less than 2 days. Having seen all of the presentations, I feel hope for the future of GCED worldwide, especially with our group of advocates.

Presenting our advocacy plan!

Afterwards, we learned about new GCED initiatives that will be unveiled in the near future, including a Youth GCED Network and an online course on GCED. Exciting times are ahead!

We finished off our workshop with a quick tour of Busan. We toured the Busan Cinema Centre, home to the Busan International Film Festival, and we walked along Haeundae Beach. Amidst the constant activity of the workshop, it was nice to have some “down” time, too.

Day 6

Slept for pretty much the entire 24 hour journey home.
Max: 1
Jet lag: 0

Post-workshop thoughts

When someone asks me how the workshop was, or how Korea was, I always struggle with how to capture everything that I saw, felt, and did.

I learned so much about other cultures, global citizenship, global citizenship education, and life in general. I am by no means a GCED expert — I feel like this was only the starting point of my own GCED education (how meta) — but I’m eager to learn and do more, particularly with Ink Movement. Together, I know that we can push towards a world where GCED is more commonplace, and most importantly, where tolerance, peace, and justice conquer fear and hate.

Most of my learning happened outside of the lectures we had. For that, I have the other delegates to thank. Hearing the GCED activities you were leading in your communities and countries was unbelievable. I miss you all, and am so happy that technology will allow us to keep in touch. Special shout-out to the Korean delegates for welcoming us with open arms (and translating everything, seriously).

My brothers in leadership: Showki (Sudan), me (Canada), Imrana (Nigeria), GV aka the karaoke master (Cambodia)

And thank you to the following people and institutions:

  • Kathy Lim, Yangsook Lee, Min Jeong Kim, and all of the organizers;
  • UNESCO APCEIU;
  • UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative;
  • Busan University of Foreign Studies;
  • Busan’s Geumjeong District; and
  • Song Kwang-Bin and Yacine Sichaib for taking the photos featured in this blog.

Resources

If you’re interested in learning more about GCED, here are some great resource to start with. Thanks to Braulio Guemez for compiling these!

GCED Clearinghouse (global database on GCED): https://www.gcedclearinghouse.org/

OXFAM Global Citizenship Guides (includes activities for teachers): http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/global-citizenship/global-citizenship-guides

British Council Active Citizens toolkit: https://www.britishcouncil.org/active-citizens/how-active-citizens-works/toolkit

Global Citizen (social action platform): https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/