Youth Perspectives Conference 1997

Article excerpt

The opportunities for a student of politics to bridge the gap between academic theories and the mechanics of government are rare but some 180 students had the chance to do just that at the 1997 Youth Perspectives Conference on 2-6 January 1997 at Herstmonceux Castle in England.

Sponsored jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the CIIA, the conference provides a forum for students to interact with those who shape and implement government policy.

The European flavour of this year's conference, `Canada and Europe,' was accentuated by its setting in Sussex's Herstmonceux Castle, the first time in its five-year history the conference had been held outside Canada. Also for the first time, participants included not just students from across Canada, but also Canadians studying in Europe, and Europeans involved in Canadian studies programmes.

Academics, students, ambassadors, and journalists shared accommodation, dined together, and, perhaps most importantly, socialized in the same pub after conference hours. The Executive Director of the Castle, Brigadier General Donald Macnamara (ret'd), made both guests and students feel instantly at home. The Castle's secluded atmosphere provided students with easy access to speakers and allowed the guests to relax and share their ideas and experience outside the formality of the lecture hall.

The core of the conference, the student seminars, met regularly throughout the weekend. Students were organized into seminar groups, led by a student chair, which reflected the general theme but were sub-divided. Each student chair prepared a background paper on a seminar topic - circulated prior to the conference - which subsequently formed the basis for seminar discussion.

The Graduate Students' seminar, designed to deter graduates from dominating the discussion in other groups, provided an intimate atmosphere which encouraged the guests to debate to a degree not possible in the larger undergraduate seminars.

The seminars were complemented by a number of keynote speakers and panel discussions. The overall tone was set in an opening panel with four of Canada's ambassadors to Europe, Patricia Marsden-Dole (Portugal), Marie Bernard-Meunier (Netherlands), Jean-Pierre Juneau (European Union), and Gilles Dugay (Romania). …