The Bergen Declaration, led by the European Students’ Union and the Norwegian students’ union, Norsk studentorganisasjon, lays out a set of joint principles for what education and student rights should look like.
“The Bergen Declaration sets the foundations from which a global student movement can be shaped”
“We believe that quality education should be free and inclusive for all, and our education systems should be democratic, built on the principles of academic freedom, and where all students have the right to representation and to self organise,” it reads.
It sets out a vision of tertiary education as a “public and universal good”, available to “every citizen of the world, regardless of their socioeconomic background”.
It also outlines the need to uphold academic freedom and encourages initiatives that promote environmental sustainability.
It was prepared by a small group of student activists from South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, before being endorsed by ESU’s 70th General Assembly.
“The European Students’ Union have always operated in partnership with those student movements and we are coordinating but we decided we wanted to [formally] bring together the student movements from all over the world to discuss shared issues, with the long-term goal being the creation and development of a global student movement,” Beth Button, a member of ESU’s executive committee, told The PIE News.
ESU will work in the coming months to add more signatories to the declaration, which has been translated into a number of different languages.
“A global student voice will not be built all at once, but the Bergen Declaration sets the foundations from which a global student movement can be shaped,” commented Fernando Galan, ESU chairperson. “Now more than ever before, students need to stand together in solidarity and demand our rights to self-organise, to enjoy freedom of speech and accessible education.”
The alliance is also planning a worldwide month of action in November, during which student organisations will campaign against rising fees and funding cuts.
“Education funding was the one unifying factor amongst all of our student movements,” Button said. “Everybody’s facing cuts to education and everybody’s facing cuts to grants and the rise in privatisation and tuition fees.”
“We thought, we already know that a couple of student movements are planning demonstrations in November, why don’t we make November a month of action around the world?” she added.
ESU will help to facilitate the umbrella campaign by providing student unions that need it with resources and support with best practice on how to run a campaign.
Bergen Declaration signatories
So far, CFS/FCEE in Canada, ASFSU in Burma, SASU in South Africa, DSF in Denmark, the Student Ombudsman in Russia and NUS UK have all signed and ratified the declaration, along with ESU and NSO.
The UNE in Brazil, ASK in Kazakhstan, USI in Ireland, CREUP in Spain and PSU in the Pacific Ocean have all signed the treaty but have not yet formally ratified it with their members.