Diving into high-level politics
Bettina Benzinger - UNIS Intern
How does it feel to throw yourself into large scale politics, discussing with high-level representatives, meeting with award winners and experts in their field? The best way to find out is to give it a go and dive into a world that seems to be so far away from your everyday life as a student. So I applied to become a student journalist at the 64 th UN DPI/NGO conference, which took place at the beginning of September in Bonn, Germany. Some time later I found myself changing from jeans and t-shirt into serious business clothes, taking a bath in UN-related issues and entering the international world - literally: as part of a family of student journalists from around the world including Australia, the United States, Kenya, South Africa, Mauritius and China - can your life become more international?
If journalism is a business in a hurry, conference coverage seems to be the pinnacle of deadlines, with press conferences to attend, workshops to cover as well as chasing after speakers and people to interview, hunting for the best pictures and most interesting stories to tell. Volunteering and Sustainability were the focus of this year's NGO conference - preparing the way to the much bigger conference on sustainability issues in June 2012: Rio+20.
My first workshop, which I had to cover was "Sustainable Farming in El Salvador" and told the story of local farmers who grow cashew nuts ecologically, and who had joined together to export them to Europe and managed to successfully place their products in the European market - despite the fact that El Salvador is not a major cashew nut producer. The next workshop interestingly connected sustainable livestock keeping with climate change - you really have to think twice about this connection. Another one dealt with the green economy, another invited you to leave your mark on world leadership, joining a game about nothing less than the world's future. Others dealt with the effects of volunteering, the role of civil society and how volunteering differs internationally. Hearing about all these successful projects and experiences, you feel the powerful spirit of enthusiasm and motivation that seemed to have infiltrated the air around you. In between there were other press conferences, other roundtables, other events with high level speakers such as UN department directors, professors and experts in their field. Nevertheless, the speakers were totally approachable and open to talk to you - the student. But the conference was in no way a closed UN event. On the evening preceding the conference a public forum was held to open the discussions to local people, who also discussed their views with the speakers. Young volunteers were a fixed part of the conference - making everything worked smoothly in different ways.
Those days just were an incredible experience in which I got to know amazing people from around the world, made new friends, developed my journalistic portfolio and learned a lot about sustainability and volunteering. The best thing for me? Well, probably the party on the last night - because you could see some of those high-level people casually dressed, having a chat with friends and dancing. Those are the people who shape global politics - people like you and me! So, what is stopping us from joining these processes, politics, decisions? Get involved. Start thinking. Ask questions. Engage.