The Digital: An oblivion or awakening?

Blogpost Writer: Laura Sabrina Al Bast 

Have you noticed how social media explodes with hashtags uniting people together in times of crisis? #YesAllWomen and #BlackLivesMatter are one example. Unity and solidarity on a digital platform has become a new norm for seeking justice.

In George Friedman’s book on geopolitics, The next 100 years, he mentions how the past, civilisations were oblivious to each other, it was almost impossible for people from across the globe to connect. It wasn’t until the 15th century onward with Europe becoming the centre of the world building colonies, spreading imperialism and inducing trade that humanity stopped living a self-enclosed life.

icon-digital-mediaIndia, having been a British colony itself, suffered terrible famine in both 1770 and 1873. Yet reporting on famine was forbidden at the time as any information on food supply could have been of aid to the enemy at the time. It wasn’t until an English journalist, Ian Stephens, reported on the famine through English newspapers as opposed to the restrictions he and his colleagues found in local Indian newspapers that the world  had become aware of the famine and in turn sent aid, though extremely late. Following that example as many, scholars came to various conclusions about the media:

  • The media has a role in preventing disasters such as famine
  • The media serves as an early warning system
  • The media, as a watchdog, can pressure governments to act

And so based on the Famine of Bengal in 1943, two economists discovered that governmental action was faster and stronger in areas where there were more newspapers in comparison to areas with fewer newspapers.


17 years into the 21st century, we have a different kind of media; digital. Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of think-tank ‘New America’ says that the essential fault line of the digital age is between open and closed. In elaboration, it’s the idea of openness that includes transparency of information, access to information, and constant connection. In particular, it is received through networks of social media; Facebook, instagram, youtube or twitter. Because of that, news today travels in a blink of an eye in comparison to decades ago when news often never left the country in which they occurred.

Last week, Famine was declared in South Sudan. The story was picked up by various news agencies across the world with the World Food Program and UNICEF almost instantly planning ahead to provide food, nutrition and treat children with severe malnutrition. And though there might be a long way ahead for the problem to be resolved, yet the digital media did its deed.

In AIESEC, we aim to develop world citizens of the young leaders in our network; interested in world issues and seeking to always be informed. In an era where we are criticised for spending so much time using technology and sharing stories on social media, maybe we should consider the benefit of the ongoing digital storm; Access, transparency, and connection.


Language: A diversity of thought

Blogpost Writer: Frans Astala

Do you remember what it was like to not speak or understand English? At some point, when you’ve become fluent enough in a language, you start taking it for granted. If you are reading this, it’s more likely that you speak English as a second, or even a third language, than your first language since there are more non-native speakers of English than native ones. 

A language is a lens through which we see and understand the world. We think by using a language, and without having the word for something, thinking about it becomes rather difficult. Furthermore,  as we know, reality is a messy thing and things aren’t always black and white. Actually even the way we perceive colors can depend on the language we use to describe them. Many languages, like the African Himba tribe’s language, don’t make a distinction between the colors blue and green, a difference that is rather obvious to English speakers. On the other hand the Himba language makes a more elaborate distinction between different hues of green.  Physically speaking we all see colors in the same way, excluding people with color blindness, it’s just the language that makes us think of them in a different way, and thus end up seeing things differently. Considering how radically differently language can make us see things, even literally, maybe we sometimes take it a little bit too much for granted.


No matter what language you speak in addition to English, you can probably come up with some words or expressions that if not untranslatable, requires quite a bit of explaining. The Scots word “Tartle”, means the panicky hesitation when you’re supposed to introduce someone who’s name you’re not quite sure if you remember correctly. The Finnish word “Myötähäpeä” describes the feeling of being embarrassed or ashamed on someone else’s behalf, often in a situation when the said person doesn’t understand to be embarrassed or ashamed themselves. Even if these words don’t exist in english, they’re understandable. Perhaps you hadn’t even thought of these things as “a thing” before. (

Languages are a framework for understanding the world. From this point of view, the diversity of languages, and knowing several of them, has intrinsic value. Learning a language doesn’t only allow you to communicate with people you couldn’t communicate with before, it gives you a whole different perspective to things.

But funny words aside, as language is a tool for communication, it can also be used to influence people. Words have a huge power. Consider how, in a political argument, giving a label to someone, immediately relates their arguments to whatever that label entails. Making associations can be used as a tool to gain influence.


So what’s the point in knowing different languages? While the dominance of English language makes communicating with people across the globe easier, it also leads to people consuming English language media more than others, which usually reflects the world view, but also the  political views that are prevalent in English speaking countries. Thus, in order to gain a holistic understanding on multifaceted issues, being able to understand sources with a different linguistic, and thus cultural and even maybe most importantly, political perspective, might be useful.

To AIESEC as an organization, living diversity is one of our most important values. To us diversity is about learning from the different ways of life and opinions. Knowing a language can help you in that because it can help you put yourself in another person’s shoes. Diversity has intrinsic value in itself, but in addition to that, learning from other people with a different outlook on things gives depth to your thought, and thus it can also make you smarter.

March, Roar: On Women’s Rights

Blogpost writer: Frans Astala

Over half a million people participated in the Women’s March in Washington D.C. last Saturday. In addition to this, through hundreds of cities around the world, dubbed sister marches were organised, from Australia to Argentina; serving a powerful call for women’s rights. 

Last Monday we discussed the Civil Rights movement in honor of Martin Luther King day, “The bigger a movement grows, the more diverse it will become in thought, and the more opinions you have on what actions should be taken. “

Just as with the Civil Rights movement, it’s good to stop and think for a minute about how we’ve gotten to where we are right now and what has actually changed. The history of the women’s rights movement goes back to the 19th century and in the beginning it’s main goal was to achieve universal suffrage, the right for women to vote in election. The first country that would implement this was New Zealand in 1893.

Looking at the world today, over a hundred years later, we can see that we’ve come far, but unfortunately rather unequally. What the most progressive countries achieved already in the late 19th century, some countries are still struggling with today. 

Moreover, most of the marches were organized in western countries, half of them in the United States. The fact that women are voicing their opinions more in developed countries only highlights the disparities between the rights of women in different parts of the world.

Canada Womens March   Australians Take Part In Women's Marches To Protest Trump Inauguration TBC

But we also know from the countries that have made the most progress that women’s rights are not simply a matter of passing laws. If it was, these marches wouldn’t be happening. Laws are always interpreted by people and what is needed on top of that is the application of law equally and the equal treatment of both genders. African Americans were technically allowed to vote in the United States prior to the civil rights movement, but the rules were applied in a way that made voting practically impossible. 

Equality is also about the attitudes of individual people who make up a society. This is why we also need to raise awareness, and why we need role models. We can ask if it is equality if individuals of both genders technically have the same opportunities, but because of attitudes embedded in a culture they are still treated differently. For this reason it’s important not only to strive to change the institutions and laws, but also to influence the attitudes of individuals.


AIESEC is an organization that seeks to activate leadership in young people, which is about essentially empowering people. Our vision is to strive for peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential, and humankind encompasses both genders. Though we won’t be able to change the legal system, we are able through cross-cultural exchange to show people that different realities are possible, and thus influencing individuals on a grass-root level through volunteering projects around the world.

And it’s easy, projects managed on raising awareness on issues of gender-equality are a click away. Volunteer here.

The most important thing – Volunteer Story


Blog-post by an AIESEC Volunteer to Bosnia: : Ganti Vijay Bhargav

There comes a time in life when you realize that you have fallen into a routine, you are doing the same things over and over again. When you feel as such, do whatever is in your power to change it. You feel like leaving everything and going someplace else and just spend time with yourself. You just want to spend time alone, you are tired of seeing the same people, you are tired of the people that surround you. It is when you realize that you need to meet new people, it is when you realize that you need a change in your lifestyle.


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I was going through the same thing before coming to Bosnia. I had so much going on in my life that I felt like running away from my responsibilities, from my problems, from everyone. Once I got accepted into this project in such an exotic country, for people from India, where more than half of us don’t even know where the country is, I knew that this was the time which I had to utilise the most.

Before coming here I was skeptical of my decision, I had thoughts going on in my mind such as, whether is this a safe country? Will I be able to live there? Will I be able to get the most of it? I am writing this blog sitting on my bed, with 2 more days to spend with the people whom I never meet again, with people whom I have spent the last 5 weeks, with people from different cultures.




It is all hitting me right now.

I feel sad that I won’t be able to meet these people again in my life. Even though it was only 5 weeks, it feels as if I’ve known them for quite a long time.

I always believe that it is not what you learn from the internship or project or the work, the most important thing is what you have become in the process.

Results, can be achieved any way, but if you really want to get the most of something, you need to tell yourself that what I become in the process is far more important that what the end result is. This is what I’ve kept in my mind all during the time of my internship.


According to Wikipedia – Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity where an individual or group provides services for no financial gain “to benefit another person, group or organization”

How much of this definition resonates to young people? Youth nowadays is defined by the qualities that represent their place and role in social relationships. This part of society is common power, that can innovate because it doesn’t take rules as something given and is ready change and challenge them to be extraordinary. As a quote says:

“Bulb was not an evolution of a candle”

Volunteering is a way of building social relationships, developing it and finding new usage of our skills and moral foundations. By those activities we gain new knowledge, skills as well as we learn how to be support system of other individuals.


There are 7.4 billion people on this planet and one of them is YOU! A person right now reading those words from your mobile device.

Have you ever asked yourself a question: “What if?”

I bet you have, because I have too.

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. If you study hard you will play in the end. You have school, you have University while others don’t have a place to study. Try taking your chance and study to be a very important person in this world and DON’T SAY I can’t.

Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world, but what kind of education are we talking about? Let’s find that out.

The world is not just a planet. It is collection of all the stories that exist on it. We are certainly made out of stories and it is our decision whether we live with just one or embrace/create others.

What does it have to do with exchange?

EVERYTHING! Once in a lifetime we get a chance to share this story, to exchange it with people surrounding you to educate each other and impact the society.

We live in a world where knowing only one story is so bad, that people become dangerous parts of society. So why don’t you tell your story, educate those who don’t have privilege to attend schools by exchanging what you have for what they can teach you in return?

We are all the time talking about importance of first step, but you already did it by reading those words, so why don’t you take the second one?

You see, with your first step, you still have one foot anchored and supported by something solid. But with the second step, you have to shift your center of gravity so that your entire body is no longer supported by anything solid.

This holds true for those of us who are considering to go on exchange. The mistake we make is to think that we will fall if we take the second step. As a human you will only fall if you never take the second step.

What will you do today to take it?

Make it a tiny step.

But make the step.

Because the step after that will become clear in that very moment.


This week in ‘Reduced Inequalities': A beacon of Tolerance.

There is a minister for Tolerance in the United Arab Emirate. There is also a minister for happiness, and one for youth.

Interesting, right? And it makes you wonder why.

Well, according to UAE’s prime minister, there’s a message to spread; that governments must empower not hold power, that their role is to create an environment in which people can achieve their dreams and ambitions. Sounds relevant and needed in light of what happening a continent away with racism and intolerance of others have increased.

This past Wednesday marked the International Day for Tolerance, UAE’s Minister of State for Tolerance took this as an opportunity to announce a National Programme initiative for Tolerance that tackles issues of strengthening the government’s role in incubating tolerance, consolidating the role of family in the nation, promoting tolerance and preventing extremism, investing in cultural and scientific content for tolerance and contributing to the matter on an international level.

The targets of sustainable development goal #10, reduced inequalities, mention the promotion and empowerment of political and economic inclusion of everyone in the world, regardless of age, disability, race, sex, religion, economic, ethnicity, or origin or any other status.


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On that note, hundreds of UAE residence of diverse backgrounds, religions, and nationalities participated in the nation’s first Tolerance March parade in celebration of the International Day of Tolerance and held white flags in representation.

The country’s Prime Minister speaks for the people of his nation when he says that they believe that they have learned from hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees that sectarian, ideological, cultural and religious bigotry only fuel the fires of rage. 

Last year we talked about solidarity and diversity amongst nations, and the stance remains that today, we suffer from a disconnect between continents, between nations, within countries, within communities. One of AIESEC’s core values is the value of Living Diversity, we believe that everyone has something valuable to offer. The UAE is one example, what’s yours?


Embracing Diversity

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An estimated 100 billion people have been born since the dawn of time. These people

have had different appearances, come from different countries and territories, have

been brought up with different mindsets and have spoken different languages. They

have eaten different food, have had different lifestyles and have belonged to

different generations.

The only sure trait that every single person has had in common is that they were all

unequivocally unique and different.

This is what we call diversity.


Embracing Diversity

More and more, we see an emphasis on “accepting and embracing diversity” in both

our professional and personal lives. Socially and politically, there is a huge focus on

eliminating discrimination of any kind and equalizing the treatment of every


To some, embracing diversity exists only on a surface level. Tolerating and accepting a

different culture, different lifestyle or a different way of thinking is just that –

tolerance. This is by no means negative, but embracing takes much more effort and

much more understanding, and the benefits are much greater as well.


Let’s take a deep dive

Every person you have ever walked past, spoken to, befriended or ignored – they have

had a lifetime of experiences that shaped them into who they are today.

Instead of generalising, accepting and tolerating a group of people, assess a person

and interact with them on an individual basis. Ignore the labels that are placed on an

individual (nationality, religion, age, gender) and purely look at the experiences that

have shaped him/her. Understand and appreciate how these different experiences

and upbringings add on to their character.

Put yourself in their shoes and make a connection to their experiences. You don’t

have to love every single difference – just understand and appreciate them.

That is embracing diversity.


The Benefits

When we acknowledge these differences, embrace them, and respect them, we can

accomplish what we never thought was possible. We can join ideas together, birthing

from different environments, mindsets and perspectives. We can forge more efficient

teams combining a variety of strengths and experiences. We can be surprised with the

connections we make to a person who is different than us.

Most of all, we appreciate a person so much more after embracing their diversity and

what makes them different – their trials and tribulations. Everyone is different – no

two lives are the same. Sympathize, emphasize and appreciate differences.


Putting it into Action

All it takes to be understanding is to start a conversation.

In the next 2 weeks, more than 800 delegates from over 118 countries and territories

will gather in India at AIESEC’s International Congress 2015. We invite you to join us

virtually through our live stream and enjoy conversing with young people from all

over the world.

Rediscovering Humanity in Myanmar


Yangon, 12 o’ clock. A 7-9 year-old girl wanders on the street selling some sort of dried vegetables. She carries them, together with several other bags of all sizes containing more products and the small amounts of money she already collected, on a long metal bar that she holds on her right shoulder. The bar seems heavy, even if well balanced on her tiny shoulders, but her eyes are the chilled and happy eyes that all children with no big worries have – even if to our eyes she would have the right worry for so many things.

As she walks, she passes by an old woman, made heavier by her age, by her blindness, by an injured ankle. The woman sits on the floor, in the dirt, with a whole different energy coming out of her pale eyes. She is begging.

Then, Magic.

The young girl gets closer to the woman, tells her something, drops her metal bar on the floor and starts helping her to stand up. Two more women and a kid join her in the effort. The old woman suffers, but manages to stand. The girl gets back the bar on her shoulder and stands in front of the lady, grabs her hand, puts it on her left shoulder, and gets back to sell her veggies. The heavy bar on her right shoulder, the heavy hand on her left shoulder.

She has to walk a bit more slowly now, but that seems fine to her. A woman gets close to them and gives her an umbrella as a gift – it is about to rain, as always. A boy buys the veggies. Another boy gives her a bag with some food. Another woman gives her some money. The old lady gets it, and I get it as well: the young lady will share her daily harvest with her. Gratitude is tangible on her foggy face, and the entire neighborhood is joining this scene of humanity, two generations in one body, together in front of the challenges of life.

Humanity: the same humanity that spreads, in these days, thousands of young people collecting offers and aid for the victims of the floods hitting the country in the past week. The same humanity that stopped the loud music in the middle of a club party yesterday night, to have the whole club’s staff collecting offers as well. A humanity that fills this country where people have no surnames: some say because life is too hard and ephemeral to be attached to any sorts of legacy or heritage, I like to think it’s because in Myanmar it does not matter “whom you belong to”, you will always be a man and a brother, and we will share the good and the bad of this life in the best possible way.

We Are One: Reflections Of Being An Immigrant

Last week, I was surprised by the news in South Africa that morning. Some of my friends wrote to me saying that some people were attacking immigrants and foreigners — there was an anti-immigrant movement going on. I was very shocked and was reminded about my past.

Back when I was living in Lisbon in 2005, I remember going to the Brazilian embassy to justify my vote in the national elections when I saw some protests in the street close to the embassy. To my surprise, the signs I could read said things like “Go back to your country Brazilians” or “Europe is for Europeans”! — I noticed that people were very angry because I was living there. By the simple fact that I wasn’t born there, I was not welcome in the country.

How did I feel in that situation? Hard to tell that this protest was the only event that put me down. I had experienced other daily situations in Portugal, such as people surprised by the fact that I could speak proper english or that I attended university in Brazill. In other occasions, I would hear some comments like: “Brazilians don’t know how to speak proper Portuguese” or “Why don’t you have dark skin?

But I think that out of the many stories from my two years as an immigrant in Portugal that I could share with you, the most impactful one was when I worked as a waiter in a restaurant and I was talking the owner about leaving because I got a new job. When I went to the owner to explain that I was leaving the restaurant in one month, he told me these exact words:

“You can leave, but I will not pay your past month salary”.

“Why?” I said.

“You’re nobody in this country. Here, you don’t have any rights”.

I am reminded of these hurtful words. Now I know that Yes, I am someone, and Yes, I have rights! However back then, I just went home crying. I had no idea of the magnitude of that situation that it would have on me and who I am today.

I soon understood that that situation was a huge violation of human rights. I could not stand for a situation like that anymore. When I came back to Brazil, I quit both bachelors that I was currently enrolled in at the University and decided that I wanted to study International Relations. I could not not even imagine how those situations that made me so sad in the past could be so fundamental to build my personality and the man I am today.

Now, with a degree in International Relations, I ended up working in AIESEC, that aims for peace and fulfilment of the humankind’s potential though raising cultural awareness for young people across the world.

While I was in Egypt in 2011 for an organization that aimed to raise awareness and understanding among Christians and Muslims in Egypt, the Egyptian Revolution was happening. When I was in a conference, talking about Peace and Youth leadership, a shooting that killed hundreds of students in an Kenyan University occurred and last week, I had friends writing to me that they were worried about their security because they are foreigners and people were attacking foreigners in the street. It’s easy to be traumatized by such turbulent events while you are doing the very work and trying to do your best to create a better world.

However, all those situations and reflections once again reinforced that I cannot stand for a world like that. I’m not satisfied with people living their lives ruled by fear, prejudice and judgment based on a such superficial label like “nationality”. When you start labelling the cultures, classifying people by their culture, assuming behaviours simply by the fact that someone is different is one of the causes of all these conflicts. I cannot stand for that and I will not! While writing this article, my purpose of being an agent of positive change empowering and connecting people becomes even stronger and gives me even more will to spend my life engaged in this cause and working for a bigger purpose.

WeAreOne_OrionJossWe are all similar in our differences. We are all different in our similarities. That’s what unite us as human beings. No matter the colour of the skin, what you believe or where do you came from.

We are one. We must remember to strive for a world that enables anyone to fulfill their potential and respect basic human rights.

Orion Joss, Global Business Development Manager of AIESEC International

All opinions expressed are those of the author. AIESEC is a non-political and neutral platform dedicated to generating conversations around world issues and young people. 



Living Diversity for World Peace

The World’s Very Real Need for Cultural Understanding

AIESEC emerged from a period in time when cultural understanding was at an all-time low. In the years following the Second World War, the whole of the European continent was ravaged to the ground. Each nation was coping with its own grave losses, and between all countries there was tremendous disconnect. Not only was there pressure to educate and create individuals capable of rebuilding their countries, there was also the very real need to repair damaged European relations.

Looking at the world today, one can’t help but notice striking similarities. Devastation, turmoil, anger, despair—none of these are strangers to us, even though it has been seventy years since the end of what is dubbed the deadliest conflict in human history.

Furthermore, what the world suffers from today is not the disconnection within a continent, but rather, the tensions within an entire planet. We suffer today from disconnect between continents, between nations, within countries, within communities. We are suffering from differences in ideology, in religion, and in culture. And it is becoming abundantly clear that such differences can have fatal consequences.

“Solidarity” (Source: ABC News)

In the first week of January, the world was deeply shaken by the Charlie Hebdo shooting that occurred in Paris—an event that has resulted in global repercussions for numerous other nations. It has also drawn attention to a number of ongoing conflicts throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

In the days that followed, the world saw two categories of reactions: outbreaks of conflict and marches of solidarity.

In the week that followed the shootings, fifty-four anti-Muslim attacks were reported in France. Conflicts escalated in reaction to Charlie Hebdo’s resumed publication with the controversial cover—in Niger, violent protests resulted in the deaths of ten people, with dozens injured, and a number of churches burned. Similar protests also occurred in Pakistan and Algeria.

Stop Charlie Niger


Meanwhile, over 100,000 people in France took to the streets for candlelit vigils in demonstrations of solidarity. The slogan, “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie in French), became simultaneously an endorsement from freedom of speech and a way to honour the victims of the shooting. Similar vigils took place all over the globe in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, to name a few. In what officials called the largest public rally in France since World War II, up to two million people marched in a ‘unity rally’, joined by more than 40 world leaders.

Two weeks ago, a youth was stabbed to death in Dresden, Germany—a city that has been the hotbed for anti-immigrant and ‘anti-Islamisation’ movements by the organization PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, in German). This, in turn, has resulted in numerous counter-demonstrations across the country against racism, calling for cultural acceptance and tolerance.

Dresden Germany Marches


Looking at these stories, a ripple effect becomes clear—the current issues now are either recurring or ongoing reactions to other issues. The stories become convoluted into an overarching narrative of conflict. We must understand, however, that intolerance is equivalent to blindness. With cultural tensions on the rise, how are we to reconcile our differences?

What would the world be like if instead of differences, we choose to see similarities? Like the unity rally, which brought masses of people and a multitude of nations together—for the first time since the Second World War!—what would the world be like if we reveled in diversity, instead of seeking to destroy it?

We return again to the original mission of AIESEC: “to expand the understanding of a nation by expanding the understanding of the individuals, changing the world one person at a time”. As stated in our “Why We Do What We Do” video, “When you see the world, you can begin to understand it. And when we understand it, we can begin to change it.”

It’s a big world out there, made up of many, many individuals—7 billion of them, to be exact. Here in AIESEC, one of our six core values is Living Diversity. We believe that everyone, because of their own culture and place in life, has something valuable to offer, and we seek to encourage the contribution of each individual.

Each and every one of us has a choice every day—will you choose peace?