water

The upcoming Community Movements Conference on February 1-3, is set to be one of the most important and relevant events of the year. Conference registration will begin on Friday, February 1, 2013, at 3:30 pm until 5pm. Locations can be found at Traill College, Sadleir House, and the Peterborough Public Library.

Organized by the Students’ Association in International Development (SAID), the conference has a reputation as the largest longest-running undergraduate organized conference in International Development in North America. SAID is described on its website as a group “investigating the connection between learning about global issues and using that knowledge to affect change; through action and education we endeavour to raise awareness of development issues and the existence of alternatives to economic globalization.” It is indeed an organization striving to address some of the main issues and challenges facing humanity.

This year’s topic, “Water: A Thirst for Justice,” is especially relevant within the Canadian context since Canada has one of the world’s biggest reserves of fresh water, a resource that is set to become more scarce in the near future. The conference will be addressing issues surrounding water from social, cultural, political, and environmental perspectives. It is quite an opportunity not only to acquire valuable knowledge, but also for networking. Meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives not only enriches the content of the conference itself, but also has the potential for human capital building.

The conference will hear from keynote speakers, such as Dorothy Taylor from Sacred Water Circle and Keith Stewart from Environmental Justice and the Tar Sands. It will also feature small workshops in which participants are able to earn a more interactive experience and share their own knowledge.

It is encouraged that students and community members from all academic backgrounds attend and share their perspectives. SAID believes that “this conference will provide an important opportunity for networking, skill sharing, and fostering linkages between international, national, and local movements. This is an inclusive space where participants can actively engage with one another on matters of common concern for water and the impacts of development.”

Constance Dupuis, a fourth year International Development and Political Economy major, played a key part in the organizing of the conference. She has also participated in the organization of previous conferences. Constance argues that the conference is a platform for students, academics, local organizations, and community activists to share knowledge and ideas. At first, curiosity drew her into getting involved, but it was the ability to meet people and the acquisition of valuable skills that kept her engaged. Constance believes that the conference is a chance to realize that Canada is part of the many development challenges that affect the rest of the world, and not just an outsider. The conference itself enjoys of a balance between international and Canadian perspectives.

On a personal level, Dupuis thinks that organizing the conference has given her invaluable experience. Creating workshop proposals and coordinating efforts provide skills that are much needed in team working environments outside university. Constance highlights the opportunity of face-to-face interaction that the conference provides, especially in an era in which mediated knowledge is predominant. She adds, “I encourage student and community members to attend, the conference is open to everybody and not just international development students, the more the merrier!”

Adam Bala-Gaye, a third year student majoring in International Development and Politics, encourages people to get involved with the conference and the SAID organization. She believes that it provides valuable skills and it also reflects very well on individuals. Skills such as planning a large-scale event, team coordination, and proposal writing are vital in our society.

Dr. Paul Shaffer, associate professor in the Department of International Development Studies and director of the Trent in Ghana program, is a supervisor of the conference. He highlights the role of SAID in organizing the conference year after year and how this is proof of how exceptional and committed IDS students at Trent University are. SAID is the only undergraduate association for International Development in Canada.

Shaffer also considers the topic of the conference to be a highly relevant one. He explains that in the next 10 to 20 years, water issues are going to multiply, especially in the context of climate change and problems of access and privatization in certain parts of the world. Shaffer asserts that the conference is unique and considers the fact that water issues not only bridges disciplines but also regions, as water problems are not only present abroad but also at home. The conference will bring natural soil scientists together with social scientists and the potential output is extremely promising. Shaffer also highlights the importance of the conference in terms of the problems that First Nations face in water accessibility and the contamination of the sources.

From February 1-3, take part in the unique opportunity to develop ideas and share perspectives on issues relevant to us all. For more information on Water: A Thirst for Justice, visit www.trentu.ca/ids/students_said.php.