The university student movement and development cooperation belong together

The author, Tua Videman, is the member of KENKKU from the last term.

Many have heard how the world is shared, but not finished. The responsibility for building a better future is shared, and everyone should do their part. The university student movement has a strong historic connection to development cooperation, and that is a good thing – the students will learn about building a better world while the world is taking tiny steps in the right direction. The university student movement makes Finland a special country because it is not self-evident to have a democratic system for students to have an influence.

The student years are a great time to learn about global education. This is also included in the Universities Act, which states that the aim of the student union is to support the university in its educational mission by helping the students become active, aware and critical citizens. Everyone should at least know the basics of development cooperation, and I believe that it would benefit humankind if the people who end up in powerful decision-making positions in the future have embraced the concept of an equal and shared world during their student years.

SYL’s development cooperation activities began in 1950, and from the start the focus has been on the union’s core competences; (higher) education, strengthening student participation and democracy, supporting students and increasing awareness of development cooperation in Finland. The first contact with development cooperation work took place after the wars. At this time the university student movement’s world view opened up when awareness of the crises in the world reached Finland and created a willingness to help among students, which at first was mostly channelled into humanitarian aid sent to places in urgent need of help.

In the 1970s the Finnish university student movement’s role in development cooperation became even more active and it also began to distinguish itself from the state’s policies. At the same time, attempts were also made to raise the awareness of Finnish students – something that is still being done today. It is also important to raise awareness of development cooperation outside the group of active student organisation members, because in order to change the world we need a lot of people, and it is good for everyone to at least be aware of the opportunities offered by the student unions and SYL if one wants to start making a change.

We need to work for a fairer future on a global scale. Development cooperation is one way of helping those living in developing countries to have at least the same opportunities for a sustainable and good future as we have been able to enjoy for a long time in the Western world. The university student movement offers students an environment where they can promote a better shared future. The university student movement’s history as an advocate for a fairer world on a global scale continues.

Tua Videman, Kenkku

This text is based on Johanna Järvelä’s Master’s thesis Etujoukoista valtavirtaan (2008), https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/18255/etujouko.pdf;sequence=2, accessed 11.3.2018.

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