Over 300 participants from 34 schools came together for the 13th Gin Conference in Luxembourg
ISL students report on the school's most important event for tackling problems around the world, the Global Issues Network Conference (Gin), an empowering event helping young people to be part of the solutions.
The 13th Gin Conference took place from the 8-10 March in the Chambre de Commerce of Luxembourg in Kirchberg, where over 300 participants from 34 schools came together from all over the world to discuss global issues and generate realistic solutions. This annual conference invited student Gin members from global issues groups from all over the world to meet, share what they have accomplished in the past year and discuss new action plans. Students drew inspiration from a distinguished lineup of keynote speakers to create impactful goals for the coming year. The Gin initiative is student-centred and it is aimed at empowering young people to take action as leaders, team members, community advocates and problem solvers.
The conference was organised by the International School of Luxembourg (ISL), coordinated by Valerie Isbecque (Gin and Cas coordinator) and compered by a steering committee consisting of a few ISL Gin students. The committee arranged logistics during the event, introduced guest speakers and gave opening and closing speeches.
This year’s theme was ‘facilitating sustainable change with environmental and social initiatives’; a fitting title given the serious threats of climate and social issues the world currently faces. A range of young movers and shakers from diverse fields of expertise spoke over the three days, including Susanna Worth from United World School charity, Zoe Tabary from Thomson Reuters Foundation, Zak Kaufman from Vera Solutions and Zach Ingrasci from Living on One.
We also heard from many local organisations, NGOs and social enterprises currently working on facilitating change nationally and globally. Amongst the many actors for change in Luxembourg, we had the pleasure to host representatives from IMS, Innpact, PwC, OUNI, Open Home, TechnoGreen and Time for Equality. But the conference also allowed for many workshops led by students and other speakers.
Photo: ISL. Secretary of State for sustainable development Camille Gira
One of the steering committee students, Alexandra Dahlberg, said: “During last year’s conference Marie Christine Nibagwire--survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide--came to speak. I’m not alone when I say that her speech brought me to tears. This year I was lucky enough to attend her workshop where we got to have intimate discussions with her. The conference is a platform for exchanging a vast range of perspectives and opinions. Getting the opportunity to listen to and have discussions with guest speakers as well as students from all over the world, combined with the fact that everyone is deeply engaged and passionate about specific issues, is why I love the Gin conference.”
Catalysts for change
It was a particular honour to invite Armelle Duvieusart to the conference, a former ISL student who now works for Inspiring More Sustainability (IMS). As we become increasingly interconnected through globalisation, companies gain more power and become more influential, meaning that organisations such as IMS have a growing role in acting as catalysts for sustainable change. We were very proud to have an ISL alumni back with us for that event, with such as powerful message--she definitely inspired our Gin community.
The Gin conference can also help students making decisions regarding their future. “Although all the speakers this year were inspiring and captivating in their own way Zak Kaufman struck a chord with me. Zak, a co-founder of Vera Solutions, shared with us how he is using technology to help those in disenfranchised areas. For example his social enterprise has helped 35,000 farmers save seeds and equipment using SMS in Senegal and Mali. Not only did Zak have effective strategies to aid development and combat issues, he also illustrated the importance of doing what makes you happy and that our path is not predetermined. Since it is my final year at ISL, his presentation was particularly useful for me personally and resulted in me embracing the future rather than fearing it since I do not have a set specific goal after university yet.” Ella Carroll said.
Power of small actions
Sarika Hayes said: “Our last keynote speaker of the conference was another Zach! Zach Ingrasci. His presentation outlined how, despite what we choose to study in University, all you need is the passion and motivation to make a difference in the lives of others. He outlined the incredible stories of the people he has met and helped along his journey, which made his speech particularly powerful. He illustrated how small actions at the start of his adventures had the power to help an extended number of people overcome the adversities in their lives. The main take away from his address was the power and reach each individual can have. Zach showcased what he calls "Wait, What?" moments; when you hear a fact or statistic that surprises you so much, it empowers you to be an active agent in change.”
Photo: ISL. A small market selling African prints was hosted during the conference
The conference also gives students the opportunity to hold workshops in their own areas of interest and passion to share what actions they already take in their schools and their communities. Under the umbrella of this year’s theme, students branched out presenting a plethora of different subjects, including the injustice in today’s world, the development of fascism, the importance of recycling, and many more. As Zach Ingrasci said: “We are not the generation of tomorrow--we are the generation of today.”
Some of the Gin schools have or will host “mini Gin conferences” (Gin Forum) , such as the Southbank International of London or the International School of Bremen, but the International School of Luxembourg remains the main host for the annual conference--being able to use the facilities of the Chambre de Commerce is paramount for an event including so many participants and such a diverse format (plenaries and workshops), and the financial support of Banque de Luxembourg is key to its success.
The Gin vision sees “a world where global citizenry is championed by today's youth”. We were certainly inspired by the people we met, and what we have learned and discussed over the past few days, will help us take the right decisions to make a positive impact in the life of others and the wellbeing of the planet the decades to come. Nelson Mandela said: “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you can be that generation” We strongly believe we can be that generation!