Students have been a force behind many democratic transitions and movements – from Tiananmen Square to the Arab Spring. Despite this, students in low-income nations often lack the sufficient tools and trainings to lead successful social change. In addition to this, student leaders often replicate the patronage politics of their national governments in order to be successful, meaning their university experience actually leaves them with fewer democratic values and with greater ethnic divisions.
UniTED works to resolve these issues through focusing on social action – that is, initiatives working for a positive change for a general (non-discriminatory) community of people. These initiatives can be directly promoting democratic values such as human rights and freedom of expressions, or be more broadly about working to improve lives through projects such as health and environmental campaigns.
But UniTED doesn’t just equip students to lead civil action locally; it also works to strengthen international civil society, primarily though building cohesive international relationships between students. This is made simpler because students are not only the leaders of tomorrow (and today), but, comparatively are better equipped to utilise new communication technologies which are crucial to overcoming the traditional national boundaries.
In a sense, therefore, it can be said that UniTED advances democracy on two levels – locally, by organising students to lead civic action; and globally, by strengthening international civil society.