Jonathan Callund, President of the ESU’s International Council, shares his Commonwealth Day message
For 103 years now, the ESU of the Commonwealth and its expanding 50+ national groups around the world have promoted international communications in both good times and bad. Last year was difficult, as seen in the responses from our affiliates to our recent survey and outreach. However, many of our more robust organisations have managed to deliver some regular activities and focus their stretched resources. With the rapidly expanding vaccination campaign we can hope that the coming months will see a return to some degree of normality in our community.
Following its cancellation last year, the International Public Speaking Competition is back, but in an understandably virtual mode and the race is now on…! The IPSC has always been our emblematic event, galvanising ESU affiliates around the world to host their local competitions and send their winner to London. Although this physical meet–up will not be possible in 2021 we still look forward to seeing a large turnout and sharing in the excitement of seeing these young people delivering their powerful messages so passionately.
We have had extraordinarily positive experiences here in ESU Chile in carrying out virtual Model United Nations (MUNs), poetry and debating events and I hear from others that, despite the challenges faced by teachers and students alike, the ESU’s extracurricular activities have been highly valued in the local communities.
‘Normality’ may still be a long time coming however so, now more than ever, we will need to work together to support the smaller members in our ESU family. To this end, with Aziz Memon of ESU Pakistan as my VP, and through regional hubs, we will be developing an outreach campaign to understand the local needs for support and sharing success stories across the ICM.
Another initiative is the creation of a new ESU App to facilitate local community interaction and the management of activities. Working with the ESU in London, this is being piloted in Chile, together with support from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
So, ZOOM and the emerging virtual solutions of the last 12 months have fast become the norm and – as we saw with Skype’s swift ascent to the mainstream less than 15 years ago – new technologies and simple but comprehensive communications solutions have enormous power to bring people and communities closer together. The ESU is now riding this wave.