26 June 2014, 3pm — 6pm
ECOSOC Chamber, Conference Building, UNHQ
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to meet with you today at our UNAOC Ambassadorial meeting, which I convene under the theme “the Role of Young People in Peacebuilding”.
First, I would like to welcome Ms. Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for Peace building Support, and Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. I sincerely appreciate the close collaboration with our two special guests and look forward to hearing their remarks regarding the role of young people in fostering sustainable peace around the world.
Before I give the floor to our special guests, I would like to share with you a few words about the Alliance’s work in the sector of youth and peacebuilding.
Since its inception in 2007, working with young people has been a major focus area and one of the core pillars for UNAOC, along with media, education and migration. I consider it a very pressing priority of our mission in the face of new and emerging challenges.
We see young people as indispensable partners of the UNAOC as we clearly recognize their potential and robust contribution in fostering peace and preventing conflicts.
In addition, we celebrate their knowledge, their capacity, energy and resourcefulness in being agents of positive social change. Through capacity-building trainings, we work for their expertise to be well invested in a vast array of contexts.
At the same time, we seek to advance young peoples’ participation in larger decision-making processes. This includes policy making, political life, multilateral work, etc.
Working with young people is both about highlighting what they do in their own community and advocating for their voices to be mainstreamed into comprehensive processes on the global scale.
Our various youth-focused projects are all based on this two-fold perspective.
For example, we have a Summer School which aims to reinforce the capacity of youth while mobilizing youth as trainers. To date, we have held 5 Summer Schools that together welcomed over 500 youth from over 130 countries. We are just about to hold the 6th Summer School mid-August in Tarrytown, north of New York City. This Summer School is co-sponsored by Education First, one of our private sector partner. Together, we will welcome 75 youth from all corners of the world for 1 week of learning together about each other in a safe context that fosters candid conversations. For this Summer School, over half of the trainers are young people themselves.
Since 2008, the UNAOC offers the Youth Solidarity Fund which supports youth-led projects at the community level in a way that can lead to a policy impact. To date, this initiative funded 40 projects that impacted directly and indirectly over 775,000 people – most of them youth – in over 30 countries. A few members of the Group of Friends have been funding Youth Solidarity Fund and UNAOC is very grateful for this continued financial support. We are proud that many international organizations within the United Nations system consider Youth Solidarity Fund a unique model in terms of youth empowerment for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
In 2013, we launched Entrepreneurs for Social Change. This project aims to address both lack of employment and limited opportunities for participation in social development in the Euro-Med region. This reality, coupled with high levels of migration toward the North of the Mediterranean Sea, often increases tensions between communities and can contribute to incitement, xenophobia, radicalization and violent extremism. Given this, our partner from the private sector – Fondazione CRT Italy, tasked with investing a portion of the profits made by Italy’s largest bank to create Entrepreneurs for Social Change with the Alliance. UNAOC provides training and mentoring to young social entrepreneurs from the Euro-Med region, so that they can create employment while acting as leaders in social inclusion and cross-cultural understanding.
UNAOC’s PLURAL +, a video festival, acts as an empowering tool for young people to speak out about what they think of migration, diversity and social inclusion, using their own views and voices. This project is done in partnership with the International Organization on Migration.
We are also coping with the rapid change in the area of Information and Communication Technology. UNAOC now has AppPeace – a contest that invites app and video game developers to create apps or mobile games designed to generate new opportunities for intercultural dialogue and conflict prevention. Most of participants of this project are young people. We are partnering with UNDP on this project which also benefits from additional support from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
One last example is the Youth Event at the UNAOC Forums, which is an output-oriented and collective reflection on the theme of the Forum for young people. The Youth Event helps youth establish contacts, actively exchange and explore how they can collaborate together, before and after the Forum. At each Forum, we have an average of 100 youth from all continents.
As you can see, the UNAOC offers a great range of initiatives to young people as we understand that most of the time, but especially in situations of tension or post-conflict, they remain on the margins or are excluded from participating in peacebuilding processes. We know that young people are leaders in advancing the mission of the UNAOC both at the local and global levels. Why wouldn’t we partner with them, learn from them, invest in them? That would be such a missed opportunity as they represent over two thirds of the world population.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that young people’s participation in peacebuilding is fundamental to reaching durable peace. Even with this increased visibility, the UNAOC will continue to advocate for young people’s role in peacebuilding to be recognized. Everywhere, policies need to be updated, funding mechanisms need to be adjusted, programming needs to be restructured, and dialogue channels need to be opened.
Based on this conviction, since 2009, the UNAOC is an active member of the United Nations Sub-Working Group of Youth and Peacebuilding which is co-chaired by the UN Peacebuilding Support Office and Search for Common Grounds, a leading NGO in the sector. As Ms. Cheng-Hopkins will certainly explain in a minute, this inter-agency group has recently developed Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding.
These Guiding Principles are designed to inform participative, inclusive and inter-generational peacebuilding strategies and programmes that systematically promote and ensure participation and contributions of young people. They aim at offering guidance to key actors including governments, UN entities, national and international non-governmental organizations, donors and civil society actors.
This sub-working group is now working on the Operational Guidance to support the implementation of the abovementioned Principles. UNAOC recently invited 3 outstanding youth from our network to join the sub-working group’s deliberations and contribute lessons learned and good practices from the field. These youth were from Jos in Nigeria, from Kenema City in Sierra Leone and from Lahore in Pakistan. The sub-working group was quite thankful to the UNAOC for including these youth into the discussions on the Operational Guidance.
After the first meeting with the sub-working group, the young person from Sierra Leone said “You might have no idea how fast our involvement with the Alliance and the sub-working group has lifted us up the ladder. We are now better must equipped to do our work in our community and change many more lives for the better.”
It is interesting to note that a break-out session at the upcoming UNAOC Forum in Bali will contribute to the efforts of the sub-working group regarding the Operational Guidance.
While UNAOC is relatively new entity, I’m proud to see our work to support the principles and objectives of the United Nations system, is advancing the contribution of youth in building peace. Having said this, we are also, constantly, on the lookout for innovative approaches, untapped synergies and unique partnerships.
I will now invite Ms. Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for Peace building Support to share her thoughts about the role of young people in peacebuilding.
I would now like to turn it over to Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, who took his post in early 2013 as a result of the United Nations Secretary General stating in his second Five-Year Action Agenda that ‘Working with and for women and young people was one of his top priorities”. In this context, Mr. Alhendawi is now working to address the needs of the largest generation of youth the world has ever known.