Members of the Georgetown community came together to learn about and engage one another on the topic of global development at the UNICEF conference on Friday night.
This was the eighth year that the conference, which involves a variety of international organizations, was held. The theme of this year’s conference, “Millennium Development Goals,” entailed a series of objectives regarding development and poverty alleviation set by the United Nations to be accomplished by 2015.
“We wanted a topic that focused the discussion a little bit, but at the same time we wanted the topic to be broad enough to invite a wide variety of speakers,” UNICEF-Georgetown Vice President Nate Barker (SFS ’12) said about the theme for the conference.
“A lot of people at Georgetown are socially aware and want to help in some way, and I think that this makes the Millennium Development Goals important because they provide a focus, an educated way to help the world,” Barker said.
The conference consisted of two sessions of workshops and a formal dinner. The workshops covered a variety of subjects related to development: food security and agriculture, governance and anti-corruption, microfinance, business and development, international health, human rights, sustainability, aid effectiveness and field work.
“It’s a way to hear about what’s going on in the field and how students can make a difference,” Barker said.
Each workshop was moderated by a member of UNICEF-Georgetown and contained a panel of experts in the field being discussed. Speakers came from members of the Georgetown faculty, the World Bank, the Peace Corps and various other nongovernmental organizations and government agencies. Georgetown alumni were prominent among the speakers.
“The students do a great job of reaching out to people in the Georgetown network to identify people who can come and tell a range of different stories,” panelist Meg MacWhirter (SFS ’05) said.
acWhirter, one of the alumni invited to speak at the conference, spoke on the Field Work panel about her experience as a Peace Corps community development volunteer in Grenada. She now works with the Office of the President to support global initiatives sponsored by the university.
acWhirter said she believes that she shares her interest in international issues with many Georgetown alumni.
“Whether it’s through the Peace Corps or employment opportunities or study abroad there are already so many Georgetown students who explore international opportunities,” she said.
Conference attendee Amy Guillotte (SFS ’12) said she felt that this interest is characteristic of students as well as alumni. “It’s kind of a testament to Georgetown that there are 50 people in this room on a Friday afternoon who want to discuss a kind of academic issue,” she said.
Following the workshops was a formal dinner in Copley Formal Lounge. At the dinner, students sat at a table with one of the panelists and a member of UNICEF-Georgetown.
“You can go to a lot of events where you can hear someone speak on a topic, but when you have a chance to sit at a table [and] talk more informally with them, it gives you a chance to ask questions more than just what they think you want to hear,” Barker said. “It offers a level of personalization and a chance to really hear some things that you may not get with a larger panel discussion.”
The keynote address of the conference was given at the dinner by Patrick Finevice president of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government foreign aid agency that provides large scale grants to developing countries.
“International development is not the top- paying profession in the world. But it’s the best profession in the world,” Fine said in his address.
“The fact that you’re here on a Friday night shows passion,” he said. “I hope you will all take that same passion and go out into the world [and] make the world a better place.”