By Jenny Stodola and Basil Crozier, Royal Commonwealth Society Ottawa Branch
Each May, over one hundred Canadian youth travel to Ottawa, the nation’s capital, to attend the National Student Commonwealth Forum (NSCF), a week-long leadership program created by the Royal Commonwealth Society Ottawa Branch over 40 years ago.
Over the years, thousands of Canadian students aged 15 to 18 have participated in the National Student Commonwealth Forum. They come from all corners of Canada, and include traditional and diverse cultural backgrounds (indigenous and immigrant) from urban centres and rural or remote communities, yet they all find they share similar Commonwealth values. The students come together to learn about Canadian governmental institutions, the Commonwealth and international development. They leave with new skills, a network of lifelong friends, and a confidence in themselves as leaders and advocates within their community.
Evan Beaulieu, 18, of Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, reminisces about his participation at the Forum last year: “My week at NSCF was utterly fantastic! I had the opportunity to not only meet other youth from across the country but also to learn about nations from around the world. Throughout the week I received many once in a lifetime opportunities, such as debating in Senate and acting as a head of government, that I’ll remember for the rest of my life! I would definitely recommend NSCF to any students Canada-wide that have any sort of interest in learning more about their World!”
The Forum is focussed on building the young leaders of tomorrow by enhancing their leadership skills, negotiating acumen, and practical knowledge through challenging discussions and high-level briefings.
The program for the week is designed to have student delegates appreciate diversity, resolve conflict and create a common understanding. Each year a different Commonwealth challenge is selected as the theme. In 2016, it was “Immigration, Migration and Refugees”. During the week, delegates analyse the theme in terms of the environmental, social, workforce and political drivers and opportunities. They debate current Canadian issues in the Senate Chamber, receive briefings from subject matter experts and learn about the mandates of Commonwealth institutions. The delegates also have the opportunity for one-on-one meetings with Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators, and discuss the Forum theme with Commonwealth High Commissioners to Canada.
The capstone event is a day-long model Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held at the Ministry of Global Affairs Canada. Here, delegate teams of two represent their various Commonwealth country positions in discussing the key Commonwealth challenge and creating a shared vision for the future. Using the Commonwealth consensus-based model, students discuss resolutions that they themselves created from what they learned during the week. Commonwealth Youth Summits based upon model CHOGMs have recently been revived by local Royal Commonwealth Society branches in Bath and London, England.
To empower organisational leadership in Canadian youth, a Steering Committee of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Ottawa Branch, underwrites and mentors the youth-led NSCF Planning Team made up of NSCF alumni. Every year, applications to participate as a volunteer youth organiser for NSCF regularly surpass capacity, which shows the impact the Forum has on participants. It is also worth noting that the NSCF program would not be able to convene such a national forum without a financial support and contribution from the Government of Canada, Exchanges Canada Program.
For further information on the NSCF program or to be put in contact with the Planning Team please contact VP-Ed-Comms@nscf-fnec.ca
Learn more about the NSCF program on their website: www.nscf-fnec.ca
Photos courtesy of National Student Commonwealth Forum
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