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Youth build peace network across region

UNAOC programme conducts peacebuilding workshop with Generations for Peace for 20 youth from 12 Arab countries

By Camille Dupire - Mar 19,2018 - Last updated at Mar 19,2018

Young peacebuilders from 12 countries across the region take part in a week-long workshop in Amman recently (Photo courtesy of UNAOC)

AMMAN — Youth from across the region have gathered to share their personal experiences and visions in the field of peacebuilding during a week-long workshop held in Amman as part of the Young Peacebuilders programme.

Implemented by the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), the programme aims to support young people in acquiring the skills and tools necessary to have a positive impact on issues of peace and security in their local communities, while addressing stereotypes, prejudice, and polarisation in order to build more inclusive and peaceful societies in their local communities and on a global scale, according to UNAOC.

"I have always believed in the power of youth to realise sustainable, peaceful and resilient communities. Unfortunately, peacebuilding programmes are often designed for emerging leaders and/or the ones coming from war zones," said 22-year-old Marwa Azelmat, a Moroccan IT engineer who took part in the workshop, adding "I have seen in the YP programme a sort of common ground that bridges us all together — as young people coming from the MENA region. After all, we are all in this together and peace should be our sole concern in the midst of all this violence we are going through."

The week started off with a sports centred workshop, a bit startling at first for the participants who were used to more conventional approaches to peacebuilding.

"I was a bit confused, asking myself: How can we really do that?" Azelmat told The Jordan Times, adding: "But then, we played some creative thought-provoking games where we experienced leadership, diplomacy and dialogue. I was truly impressed and amazed by the outcomes." 

Held in collaboration with Generations For Peace (GFP), the recent workshop sought to foster a global network of young peacebuilders, bringing together 20 youth from 12 countries across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), all aged between 18 and 25 years old.

Coming from Iran, Shadi Rouhshahbaz reflected on the outcome of the workshops: “This empowerment is going to impact many people because we are working in a situation where networks keep expanding and awareness is being raised among people.”

The programme also aimed at bringing visibility to the initiatives and actions initiated by the participating youth in their communities in the field of peacebuilding, diversity and human rights promotion, a statement by UNAOC said. 

“It was a privilege to watch as the young peacebuilders came together, learned from one another, and ultimately grew in their capacity to implement peacebuilding in their own communities," Bram Van Haver, UNAOC project management specialist told The Jordan Times, adding "to accomplish all of this over the course of a single week was a testament to the passion and dedication of the youth leaders, a direct result of the valuable insight and guidance by experienced facilitators from organisations like GFP, and a beacon of hope for the promotion of sustained peace and inclusivity in the future”. 

For her part, Lama Hattab, GFP programmes director, recalled: “As a facilitator for the programme, I was impressed by the participants and very pleased to support them to convert their passion into concrete, measurable, lasting impact in their own communities."

She remembered the youth's visit to a school where they observed GFP's approach in having school students lead activities so as to engage fellow classmates. "This was a real highlight that showed them ways to foster youth leadership, responsible citizenship, and greater social cohesion and resilience,” Hattab said.

This visit was also one of the most striking memories recalled by the participants. "Our visit to the school really marked me. The teen girls were inspiring and aware of their role as active citizens. I could discuss with them personally violence against women, sexual harassment and the role of women in the society. They left me speechless and proud," Azelmat recalled.

The young woman stressed the importance of youth in moving forward, saying: "If we are to build peace, we should invest in the youth. They should be at the forefront of the decision-making process and be given more leadership spaces to occupy, and most importantly should be able to express themselves fearlessly."

Implemented with the support of the Agencia Extremeña de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo, the Young Peacebuilders Programme is in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, which recognises that “young people play an important and positive role in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security”.

The fourth-part of the programme, which started in 2016 with the West African edition, kicked off with a two-month online preparation by field experts, who assisted the young peacebuilders in analysing conflicts, practising peace-building tools, and design peace projects to be implemented in each participant's community as they return home. 

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