After months of anticipation, the conference was finally here! Over 150 attendees and more than 25 speakers had given up their time and money to discuss the post-2015 development agenda. Specifically, the conference focussed on the sustainable development goals due to be implemented by the United Nations in September 2015 (if you didn’t already know). The day started with an influx of enthusiastic guests and expert speakers. David Golding set the tone with a talk about the successes of debt reduction towards developing countries, as well as the continuing challenges this very important area still presents. This was quickly followed by a variety of speeches about sustainable housing as well as education. The high number of speakers attracted to the conference meant that participants were able to choose which talks to attend for much of the conference, allowing them to focus on specific interests, or anything that gauged their curiosity. Lunch was then served for all involved, via The French Oven, who we would like to thank for putting on an ethical, diverse and productive service at an affordable price. Afterwards, a huge variety of topics were discussed between speakers and guests, ranging from discourse, identity, the importance of phonics in education, an argument for child labour, sustainability and women’s activism. There was also a short break in between all this. Following this was a wine reception hosted by the conference, which proved popular with speakers and visitors alike. It allowed the two different groups to coalesce and share ideas, as well as to network with senior people in academia, NGOs, and in development focused industry. It also featured a wonderful band of refugees and newly arrived-migrants called The Crossings Band who did a fantastic job entertaining guests of all ages, ethnicities and genders, and we’d highly recommend you check them out!
The development conference continued on Sunday, starting with a speech by Sophie Verbis on the state of play of education in the 2015 sustainable development goals. The talk explained the goals of the United Nations towards education, and how this could benefit international society. Following up this education theme (a very popular topic at the conference) was Sugata Mitra, winner of the 2013 TED Prize. He debated his now-famous “Hole in the Wall” experiment, which demonstrated that children have at least some capacity to teach themselves and each other without direct adult intervention. Sugata was busy with work in India and could not attend the conference in person, so he instead delivered his speech via a moving robot (with a screen on top). This went down well with the audience and added some novelty and humour to what was a very popular talk. After lunch this was followed by a few talks on healthcare in international development, and this was superseded by a number of workshops from active groups including COCO, IVS and Journey To Justice. It was a nice, relaxing way to end an intense weekend, allowing people to participate in a talk about international volunteering, charity work, or creative protest. This meant attendees also had the chance to find out ways they could directly take action on issues that are important to them as well as engage their minds with the critical issues at hand. The conference was ended by a speech from Newcastle University lecturer Graham Long, who concluded by drawing together the level of participation from civil society, and whether or not 2015 could lead to a transformative agenda in international society, allowing the “if not perfect, then just world” that we all want to see. Finally, the conference was wrapped up by an uplifting song from the Journey To Justice workshop. IDS’ president Olivia was also given thanks, because she did a fantastic job in organizing, motivating and leading the conference, as well as the society in general.
And so the conference came to an end. IDS Newcastle would like to place on record its thanks to all the excellent speakers who participated, as well as all attendees who spent their time engaging in international development, and made life difficult for our expert speakers by asking some fantastic questions. We are also grateful to The Crossings Band and The French Oven for their great contributions to the conference. So all in all, a very successful weekend. However, this does not mean we are done. IDS Newcastle are committed to their members and their society for the entire year. We have more events on throughout the year – we have a talk about volunteering abroad on March 16th, specifically aimed at doctors. And we will be announcing more very shortly.
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