On Sunday 14 December, students from across the UK gathered at the Weiner Library in Central London to attend the Aegis Students National Conference. Over 30 students from seven different universities spent the day discussing and debating ideas and strategies for the 2015 student-led campaign ‘Action for C.A.R.’
Despite over 5000 people being killed in CAR since November 2013 and over 80% of the country’s Muslim population being displaced as a result of the violence, there has been limited coverage in the national and international media. Resulting lack of awareness among the wider public about the severity of the situation means there is little pressure on decision-makers in the UK and elsewhere to respond comprehensively to the crisis.
‘Action for C.A.R.’ is an international youth-led campaign coordinated by the Aegis Trust and STAND (a US-based anti-genocide coalition), which aims to prevent further mass atrocities and support peacebuilding in the Central African Republic. Students in the UK will work in collaboration with young people in the United States and in Rwanda to create a truly international movement on this issue of global concern. The National Conference presented an opportunity for UK students on the Aegis Campaigner Training Programme to contribute to the planning and development of the UK side of this exciting new campaign.
Over the course of the day, student delegates heard from a number of inspirational speakers including Olivia Warham MBE, the Director of Waging Peace; Anthony Neal from CAFOD, who coordinates the Joint NGO Advocacy Group on CAR, and Dr James Smith, co-founder and CEO of the Aegis Trust. The students took the opportunity to engage in an insightful question and answer session with the guest speakers, who shared invaluable advice on how best to develop campaign strategies and mobilise decision-makers.
Following lively working group discussions on possible strategies for ‘Action for C.A.R.’, the student delegates came together for a conference-wide debate aimed at deciding a final action plan for the UK side of the campaign. The students developed an exciting and innovative strategy for engaging both decision-makers and the wider public. They agreed to focus their efforts on three key areas; political advocacy, social media and university society events.
“The enthusiasm and creativity of the students led to an incredibly productive day and the feedback from the delegates was that the conference was an enjoyable and rewarding experience,” says Rebecca Usden, Aegis’ UK National Youth Coordinator. “We look forward to watching ‘Action for C.A.R.’ unfold!”