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Switzerland hosts world's largest student conference

Unesco's director general, Koichiro Matsuura, will be one of the dignitaries participating in the Congress

(Keystone)

The largest student conference in the world has got under way in Bern with dignitaries and speakers scheduled throughout the eight-day event including Koichiro Matsuura, director general of Unesco and Mario Corti, Swissair's general director.

The official opening ceremony of AIESEC's 53rd Congress took place on Friday evening. The guest list included Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum and Juan Somavia of the International Labour Organisation.

Members of the public attended the opening party, which featured music, dancing and food from around the world.

After the opening celebration, the conference then moved on to Lenk, where it was due to offer training sessions, discussion groups and entertainment designed to inspire and teach participants under the theme "Youth Leadership: Shaping the Global Village".

AIESEC is the world's largest, non-governmental student-run organisation, and at least 600 of its 30,000 student members will represent 83 countries. In addition, 150 business and government delegates will participate.

A Developing Leaders Day is scheduled on August 21, when top executives such as John Sunderland, chief executive officer of Cadbury Schweppes, and Corti will speak to the young delegates.

Corporate presence

Major companies from around the world, such as Hewlett Packard, will join the conference and have arranged workshops and training sessions. Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, is the main partner of the event and has invited participants to its 50th Anniversary Dinner in Bern, a closing event.

AIESEC was created in 1948, and provides, among other things, international internship exchanges to teach young people about business development and education.

AIESEC was formerly a French acronym for "Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales", but today, the group's membership encompasses a wider range of disciplines than only economics and commerce.

Presidential support

In advance of the congress, the Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, welcomed the initiative to "bring together young people of all continents, determined to shape our world."

The president said the risks of globalisation lay in the deepening divides between "a uniform world culture on the one side and a new fundamentalism on the other."

Leuenberger said he hoped the congress would inspire young people, as "the opportunities lie in our being able to overcome" the divides.

swissinfo with agencies


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