ISFiT is short for the “International Student Festival in Trondheim”. What the name does not say, is that ISFiT is also the world’s largest international student festival.
ISFiT is a non-profit organization and is brought to life with the efforts of more than 400 student volunteers. The vision of ISFiT is to create a better future for young people in the world. ISFiT is arranged every other year, and each festival has a theme related to social and political topics with international relevance. The festival is held in the city of Trondheim, Norway. Here, over 450 students from all over the world gather to attend 18 different workshops and take part in the cultural program of the festival.
Workshops of “Trade Your Ideas”
The workshops are the very essence of ISFiT. Throughout the 11 days of the festival, the 450 participants from all over the world will, during the day, each follow one of the workshops. Each workshop is divided into subthemes related to the festival’s main theme: corruption. Examples of workshops are “education”, “shades of gray” and “media”. As part of the workshops, the participants are asked to present what they have worked on at the end of the festival. You can read more about ISFiT 2015’s workshops here.
ISFiT’s concept is “Trade Your Ideas” because we believe that an exchange of ideas and dialogue is the solution to the present challenges at hand. We wish to create a constructive debate on the theme across ideological and national borders.
Culture Programme with Debates
In contrast to the workshops, ISFiT’s cultural scene is open for all of Trondheim’s population; it is not merely limited to the participants of ISFiT. The culture programme consists of performing arts, ceremonies and concerts, as well as debates led by acknowledged speakers.
Performing arts can be anything from dancing, stand-up comedy, and theatre to contemporary circus and improvisational theatre. The Other Theatre, Åsleik Engmark, Aron Kader, Nils Aadne and Frikar Dance Company have all been part of ISFiT’s former performing arts. The opening-, closing- and peace prize ceremonies serve as focal points to both participants and volunteers, and contain a characteristic and varied programme of performing arts, music and speeches. Examples of former contributors include: Gro Harlem Brundtland , Arve Tellefsen (Norwegian violinist), Morten Harket (lead singer of the band a-ha), Betty Williams, Desmond Tutu and Team Me. Former ISFiT-concerts cover a wide range of music: from bigger names such as Jarle Berhnhoft, Jonas Alaska, Kråkesølv, Susanne Sundfør and The Trondheim Soloists, to smaller up-and-coming Norwegian bands and artists. A large part of the culture programme takes place on the different stages at Studentersamfundet (Storsalen, Klubben and Knaus) though Nidarosdomen and Olavshallen are also used for the bigger events.
As for the debates, they illuminate the festival’s theme from different angles. For instance: When trade was the theme of 2013, trade ethics and “a greener economy” served as individual debates. Moreover, six former Nobel Peace Prize winners have acted as speakers at ISFiT including José Ramos Horta, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. When offered to participate in ISFiT 1994, the latter resolutely answered “Cancel my other appointments. This is more important”. Furthermore, the following visitors of ISFiT are worth mentioning: Wangari Maathai, Munib Younan, Vandana Shiva, Erik Solheim, Gudmund Hernes, Chai Ling, Hans Rosling, Sima Samar, John Hope Bryant, Jonas Gahr Støre, Crown Prince of Norway Haakon Magnus and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. In 2009, former president of the US Bill Clinton sent a video greeting to the festival.
The Dialogue Groups – Peacebuilding in Practice
10 days ahead of the festival, five students from either side of three different conflicts meet at a cabin in Røros. The idea is for the participants to meet on neutral ground to share their experiences and discuss possible solutions to the conflicts. This happens through, for instance, different discussions, social activities and role-play. During the festival, the participants from the dialogue groups meet up in their own workshop. You can read more about the dialogue groups of ISFiT 2015 here.
The dialogue groups were introduced in 1997, and Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Russia/Chechnya, Columbia and the US/Iran are all examples of areas of conflict which have participated in such groups. When Israel/Palestine was one of the conflict areas in 1997, several of the participants did not want to sleep in the same room as people from the opposite side of the conflict on their arrival in Røros. One of them was an Israeli participant who at the end of the dialogue groups concluded that “If Arafat and Netanyahu had participated in the Dialogue Groups, it would not have been a conflict in the Middle East anymore”.
The Dialogue Leaders and facilitators are Norwegian students who have theoretical and practical training in using dialogue as a tool for constructive communication and conflict resolution. External experts and professional mediators will also be used in parts of the seminar. The Dialogue Groups emphasize and encourage participants to continue to work together and start up projects in their home communities. It is our experience that friendships and organizational partnerships will be formed. The Dialogue Groups strongly promote and support projects and seminars initiated by former participants.
The Students’ Peace Prize
On ISFiT’s initiative, the Students’ Peace Prize (SPP) was established in 1999. On behalf of all Norwegian students, the award is bestowed every two years to students or student organizations that work to promote peace, human rights and democracy. Despite their great engagement, students seldom receive any recognition in their work for peace, and thus the purpose of the SPP is to recognize this exertion. The election happens through the independent committee for the Students’ Peace Prize, while the bestowment takes place during ISFiT’s own award ceremony. Kjell Magne Bondevik (former Prime Minister of Norway), Bjørn Hansen (Norwegian journalist and reporter of foreign affairs) and Thorvald Stoltenberg (Norwegian diplomat and politician) have all been on the committee. Furthermore, ISFiT follows up former winners of the SPP in order to assist them with potential challenges and future development. In 2015, the Zimbabwe National Union (ZINASU) and Duško Kostić and the Association of Roma Friendship (LUNA) have been chosen as follow-up areas.
- 2015: Korrupsjon/Corruption
- 2013: Global handel/Global Trade
- 2011: Globalize this: Health
- 2009: Peacebuilding
- 2007: Global Boundaries
- 2005: Education. Why?
- 2003: Challenging Attitudes
- 2001: Global Responsibility
- 1999: Solving Conflicts
- 1997: Quality of life
- 1994: Human Rights
- 1992: Breaking Communication Barriers
- 1990: A Changing Europe – What are the roles and Responsibilities of the Students at their Univiersities?