International Union of Students marks its comeback with call for worldwide day of protest

August 8, 2003

The International Union of Students, largely moribund since the fall of communism, is seeking to re-establish itself with a call for a global day of student action in support of public education to take place next month.

Founded in 1946 as a continuation of wartime student struggle against the Nazis, the IUS became the world's biggest international student organisation. It had consultative status with Unesco but also closely identified with eastern Europe's communist states.

It fell on hard times during the late 1980s and most of the 1990s, when it lost contact with almost three-quarters of its national student union groups. Council meetings were cancelled as many members lost their funding.

But global opposition to the World Trade Organisation and the arrival of low-cost electronic communication have revitalised the organisation, and it has now regained contact with every one of its 150 student organisations from 115 countries. Liz Carlyle, a Canadian member of the IUS executive, said the organisation had received hundreds of emails from formerly estranged groups.

The IUS announced the day of protest at a seminar on globalisation in Montreal earlier this week with the aim of focusing affiliates' efforts on counteracting the "commodification" of education.

The September 13 "Global Student Day of Action for Public Education" coincides with the WTO meeting in Mexico and is a follow-up to student action earlier this year against the war in Iraq.

The UK's National Union of Students, which is not affiliated to the IUS, is pursuing an independent campaign against the inclusion of higher education within the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

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