Representatives from the Conservative Party are taking students seriously in global policy initiatives on the less developed world. For the first time, Right Honourable Peter Lilley and other notable honoraries sought advice from a student body.
The U8, which links students in 26 universities in developed and developing countries, came to the agreement with the Conservative Party that youth play a vital role in international development. The Party asked the U8 to contribute to its consultation paper.
"It will be very valuable to have input from U8. Young people are the key to development in most developing countries. They account for a major part of the population, and education will bring them rapidly to the forefront of their societies,” said Lilley.
The meeting took place in the House of Commons with the Globalisation and Global Poverty group, set up by David Cameron, where the student representatives from the U8 conveyed student views based on U8 research.
The U8 has called for a regulation of the gap year industry, arguing that development is usually not part of their agenda.
“Too often the aim is personal development of western youth, and the potential to contribute positively to the development of low-income nations is missed,” said Mark Koller, U8 Co-President of St John’s College, Cambridge University.
The U8 seeks a country-led approach where less developed countries identify needs, and these needs are met by gap year countries rather than by agencies who assign ‘fun projects’.
“Even though youth form the majority in developing countries and many from developed countries are taking gap years, young people are still an untapped resource,” said James Clarke, U8 Co-President at the University of Warwick.
In the UK alone there are between 200,000 and 250,000 people aged between 16 and 25 who take a gap year of some kind each year according to a recent study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills.
“In developed countries too, young people have a lot to contribute - not least in new thinking about making Aid more effective. So we eagerly look forward to hearing from U8 after a very productive initial discussion in Parliament," added Lilley.
A position paper from the U8 will be officially submitted to the Conservative Party before the release of the Party’s consultation paper in Mid-2007.
“Students from developing and developed countries are asking ‘What can we do to help?’” explained Clarke. “We hope that the meetings with government officials of all political views will continue to allow students to inform policy, and allow for changes needed.”
The U8 (u8development.org.uk) is non-partisan student network, connecting students from universities in developing and developed countries that seeks to bridge the gap between research and policy. Unlike the G8, membership is not limited to rich countries, but to all countries in the more and less developed world. Founded in August 2005, the U8 held its first Summit at Cambridge in March 2006, when it also initiated dialogue with development professionals and policy makers. Its next summit is set for 9-11 March 2006 at the University of Warwick.
[MP Peter Lilley meets with U8 Leaders Mark Koller, Sheena Summaria, and James Clarke. See website if unable to view attachment]