Ellen O’Rourke, ISSU International Officer
(So, what’s OBESSU?)
The Organising Bureau for European School Student Unions (OBESSU) is an organisation which connects and supports student voice on a European level. It was set up 40 years ago in Dublin and today has over 22 member organisations (MO’s). OBESSU works to advocate for student rights and bring student unions together from all over Europe.
The OBESSU General Assembly took place in Amsterdam on the 10th & 11th of of August 2016. The General Assembly is where the MO’s meet to discuss the work of OBESSU and propose changes to important documents. There were over 40 people there from Member, Candidate & Affiliate organisations coming from all over Europe. Joanna and I were there representing ISSU. This was my first OBESSU event, and I can certainly say it was a great experience. I learned so much: about the structures of OBESSU, student’s rights and problems in second level education across the continent.
We got right down to business on Day 1: the Board & Monitoring Committee presented their comprehensive reports for the year, we were introduced to the new Secretariat (who look after the day-to-day running of the OBESSU office in Brussels) and we did a lot of voting! It was great to see democracy in action on a micro level: every MO gets one vote and it really is true that each vote counts. Together, we voted to adopt three policy papers (on Student Welfare, the Paris Declaration, and ICT Education, in case you’re interested). There was also lots of amending documents, namely the political platform. The political platform (PP) is a document which outlines the core aims and beliefs of OBESSU, kind of like a constitution – and let me tell you, they take it very seriously. The debates on changing the PP lasted hours, and it was very interesting to hear all the different values of and difficulties facing the MO’s. I submitted 3 amendments to the amendments – and they all passed! For me, it was a great relief after spending hours discussing and analysing the document line by line.
Another highlight was the election of the Board members on the second day. The Board is kind of like the NSE of OBESSU: they’re a group of 5 students who plan and carry out the work of OBESSU for the year. The competition was very tough this year as there were seven very strong candidates to choose from, including our very own, very talented Joanna from ISSU. Unfortunately, Joanna did not get elected to the Board this time, but I have no doubt that those who did get elected will do a brilliant job. On behalf of the ISSU, I’d like to wish Larissa, Lasse and Ferre the best of luck in their new roles and I can’t want to see what lies ahead!
The joy of electing new ‘Boardies’ was also tinged with a bit of sadness as we said goodbye to the old Boardies who have done so much for OBESSU over the past two years.
Congratulations are in order for Bren dan from ISSU who will be continuing his work with OBESSU for one more year on the Monitoring Committee. Brendan, Nicholas and Maria will make up the new Monitoring Committee who will oversee and evaluate the work of the board this year. No pressure there so!
On day 2 we were also introduced to a new project run in conjunction with Open Society Foundations.The name of the project is #RefugeesWelcome to school and it aims at the integration of migrant and refugee students in second level institutions across Europe. It all sounds very exciting and we hope to bring you more news on this soon!
It was great to finally get our hands on a physical copy of OBESSU’s new manual for school students; this will no doubt be a valuable tool for us -and you lot- in the future. We brought home a few copies but there is also a pdf version online) and we can order more (if you’re interested hit us up- firstname.lastname@example.org)
All in all, I was very impressed with OBESSU and the work they do to defend second-level students’ rights across Europe, I can’t wait to see what they get up to next