Our Reason for Being

Brace yourselves. This one’s going to be a doozy.

The last day of August Meeting 2015 has finally come (August 8; again, internet issues have prevented me from posting this until today). Time flew by so quickly over here. It’s cliché to say this, but I feel like the Opening Ceremony was just yesterday and I’m already packing my bags. Only the last plenary session and the Closing Ceremony are left on the agenda.

I think the most noteworthy thing I’ve learned these last couple of days is how good IFMSA is at bringing people with different interests together to work towards a common goal. Honestly, it’s inspiring. While this has been a recurrent theme during this General Assembly, there was one particular instances that was particularly marking for me.

Namely, I’m talking about the case of Kosovo. I’ll give you guys a little background on the situation. What used to be the country of Yugoslavia up until the mid-1990s broke up into several independent states after a series of armed conflicts between the different ethnic groups that lived in Yugoslavia. One of these is Serbia, within which there is a small autonomous region called Kosovo, mostly inhabited by Albanians. Now, you have to understand there is massive tension between the ethnic Albanians and the Serbs, to the point that Kosovo’s borders are basically closed. While Serbia’s medical students are represented by IFMSA-Serbia, the students within Kosovo refuse to be represented by this association and have been trying to get independent representation since 2010. Evidently, IFMSA-Serbia vehemently opposes this. This discussion has been repeatedly shelved to a later date since its start. This past March Meeting, a new bylaw was passed which stated that in order to become a member of IFMSA, the state represented by the National Member Organisation (NMO) has to be recognized by the UN. Kosovo, for better or for worse, isn’t, which means it can’t apply to be a member. However, there is a clause stating that an NMO may apply for membership if it is given a standing invitation by IFMSA, even if it does not represent a UN-recognized state. So, at this August Meeting, one of the issues addressed in plenary was whether or not to extend Kosovo a standing invitation.

This created some of the most heated debates IFMSA has ever seen, from what I hear. Discussions apparently broke down in presidential sessions. Relationships between different NMOs started to sour a little. Things weren’t looking very bright. Thankfully though, when the issue was finally addressed in plenary, all this sort of faded away. In particular, prior to voting on the issue, NMSA-Norway gave a beautifully worded speech about IFMSA’s mission and the implications of the different outcomes of the vote. IFMSA is here to give medical students around the world the chance to have a voice. We’re not here to decide who’s right or wrong in a territorial or sovereignty dispute. But if certain medical students don’t have a voice due to political tension between themselves and the NMO that is supposed to represent them, then it is unfair not to, at the very least, give them a chance to let the world hear what they have to say. We weren’t voting on whether or not Kosovo should become a member of IFMSA. We were voting to allow medical students who have been silenced on the international stage for far too long to present their case to the rest of the IFMSA members. It was a vote that came down to whether or not our organization actually stood by its most fundamental principles. And I think, or at least I’d like to think, all NMOs, whether for or against Kosovo’s inclusion into IFMSA, realized that at that moment. I’m very pleased to say that an overwhelming majority of NMOs voted for extending the standing invitation to Kosovo. Definitely, for me, this has to be one of the highlights of August Meeting 2015.

That’s it for this blog post. Time to catch some Zs and to finish packing before the last plenary session.

Cheers from Ohrid,

Mike

P.S.: While I make it sound like it’s been all serious business here, we do know how not to take ourselves too seriously. As an example, yesterday, during a discussion about emus in the plenary session, Medsin-UK said this gem in response to a motion proposed by AMSA-USA: “If you look at the emu anatomy, you will find they have quite small brains, and large asses, just like people from the US.”