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Building the Global Student Forum

The creation of the Global Student Forum (GSF) marks a significant milestone in the evolution of international student cooperation.

Building the Global Student Forum

This contemporary effort seeks to unify student voices across the world, addressing global challenges through a coordinated and collective approach. The journey toward establishing the GSF began with various efforts to reconnect and rejuvenate the spirit of international student solidarity that had been fragmented by Cold War politics and the collapse of earlier international organizations.

Initial Steps Toward Global Unity

The initial push toward a modern global student movement can be traced back to 2012, when the National Union of Students in the United Kingdom (NUS UK) celebrated its 90th anniversary by hosting a global student conference. This conference aimed to reconnect with the international mission of student movements, focusing on issues of student social justice, education, climate action, and peace. However, the event faced several challenges, including visa issues that prevented many African student leaders from attending and funding controversies, particularly related to sponsorship from Santander Bank, which was problematic for some South American participants.

Despite these setbacks, the conference planted the seeds for future cooperation and highlighted the need for a more inclusive and representative global student organization. This led to further discussions and meetings among student leaders from various regions, paving the way for more structured efforts.

The Bergen Declaration

In 2016, a significant step toward global student cooperation was made with the Bergen Declaration. This initiative was driven by the European Students' Union (ESU) and The National Union of Students in Norway (NSO), which set up the International Cooperation Student Working Group. The working group included representatives from ESU, Spain, France, and the UK—countries with historical ties and extensive networks in student movements across the world.

The Bergen Declaration outlined the terms of reference for a new international student platform, emphasizing the importance of education as a public good, access to education, particularly for women, sustainability, mobility, and student safety. The declaration marked a commitment to creating a more formalized and coordinated student voice on the global stage, moving beyond regional confines to address global issues collectively.

Formation of the Global Student Forum

The efforts to establish a global student body culminated in the creation of the Global Student Forum (GSF) between 2018 and 2020. Leaders from regional organizations such as the European Students' Union (ESU), the Commonwealth Students Association (CSA), and the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU) played crucial roles in these negotiations. These discussions took place at various international conferences and special meetings dedicated to student cooperation.

The GSF was formally supported through letters of intent adopted by these regional federations, which committed to working together under the new global umbrella. Fundraising efforts, primarily supported by the Open Society Foundation, provided the necessary financial backing to establish the GSF's secretariat in Brussels.

This article is part of our History of the Student Movement series. It was made possible with the help of Mike Day, who explored the history of the student movement in his lecture for the GSF Academy.
Communication team profile image Communication team
The Communication team curates Global Student Forums' digital content and prepares publications. It is a small, dedicated team from around the world.