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Peace Day Interview with NUS President Liam Burns

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Following the launch of an historic partnership between Peace One Day and the National Union of Students (NUS), TNS talks to NUS National President Liam Burns on student coalitions, sustainability, and the possibility of world peace.

TNS: How did the NUS become involved in a partnership with Peace One Day and the Global Truce 2012 campaign?

Liam Burns: It all started when Jeremy GLiam Burnsilley came and spoke at our conference last July. Up until that point, we had actually been relentlessly focused for years on encouraging Students’ Unions to focus on ‘student’ issues like ensuring access to quality education; in fact, our stock phrase was ‘we’re not here to solve world peace.’ But then Jeremy comes, speaks, and it’s like a light-bulb moment- suddenly all of our members are demanding world peace. It was clear to us that we needed to adopt a more global outlook in order to better reflect the interests and needs of our students.   

TNS: There are so many campaigns similar to this one that try to tackle famine, poverty, war, these huge global issues. Why do you think that the Global Truce 2012 campaign has been so successful?

LB: I think it is because as a campaign it is able to stay true to this huge ideal, ‘world peace’, but delivers it in a way that is actually quite achievable. It also helps that there is proof behind it. When you can talk about the Taliban agreeing to a ceasefire in order to allow 1.4 million children to be inoculated against polio on a single day, then that is a quantifiable figure that validates the efforts of people across the world.

TNS: Jeremy Gilley is emphasising the importance of forming a global coalition between students. How are the NUS working with similar organisations across the globe to spread the message of the campaign?

LB: We are currently working on developing our Global Leaders Summit. In the week preceding the 21st September we are going to host around 60 student leaders from across the world in London. With them we are going to discuss issues like access to education, questions on sustainability, and look at the concept of world peace and behaviour change. More specifically, we will be looking at the role that students and our organisations can play in making that happen.

TNS: So far we have only heard the activities surrounding the Global Truce 2012 campaign being discussed in broad terms. Can you give any details as to how you will mobilise the UK student body? Is there an action plan?

LB: We already have students and Students’ Unions across the country that have started to take action towards making this happen. Canterbury Christ University has been particularly active thus far. Last year the Students’ Union organised sports fixtures on the day to raise awareness; distributed armbands for students to wear in support of world peace and they even managed to get the curriculum changed for the week, so that students could explore the implications of their subject, and what they are studying, on the concept of a sustainable concept of world peace. As well as this they ran workshops on creative writing, produced special podcasts and held concerts, all with the aim of raising awareness of the Peace One Day project and demonstrating their commitment to achieving world peace. These are just some of the initiatives that I imagine will be adopted by students and their Unions across the country, as we all come together in support of this exciting campaign.

TNS: Does this mean that the NUS will be providing resources or additional support for students or student organisations wishing to take part in the campaign?

LB: Fortunately, as we are in partnership with Peace One Day, we have access to their extensive collection of online and print resources. What we will be doing is ensuring that all Students’ Unions have access to these materials, but then leave it up to the Unions to decide how exactly they would like to get involved. Also, as with all of our campaigns, student media will form an integral part of the process as we seek to both inform students of the work that is being done by Peace One Day and publicise the initiatives that are being launched across the UK.

TNS: Do you have any final comments?

LB: All I have to say is get involved! It’s so easy! I doubt there is a student out there who doesn’t agree with the concept of world peace, so take the opportunity to organise something and show your support of Peace Day and the Global Truce 2012 campaign.

Additional information and resources on Peace One Day and the Global Truce 2012 campaign can be found at www.peacceoneday.org/students




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