Summary of the Discussion
Breakfast Meeting on “Social Inclusion for Sustaining Peace”
On Friday 6 October 2017, the Swiss UN Youth Delegate Sabine Fankhauser, the Swedish UN Youth Delegate Hanna Bergman and the Belgian UN Youth Delegate Matthias Rombouts with the help of the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations hosted a Breakfast Meeting on Social Inclusion For Sustaining Peace.
Welcome – In her welcoming remarks, Sabine Fankhauser shared some insights about the topic of “Social Inclusion for Sustaining Peace”. She first of all mentioned that social inclusion and shared prosperity are core aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Main pledges of this Agenda include the assurance that no one is left behind and the achievement of these goals for all countries, people and parts of society. Sabine highlighted the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security (December 2015) which stresses the importance of youth engagement in peacebuilding. It also shows that young people can and should act as leaders in peacebuilding and thus need to be fully included in society. Therefore, Sabine told that governments as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations should provide opportunities for youth involvement at community level and provide the framework needed for young people to develop their capacities as young peacebuilders and agents of change. The twin resolutions on “Sustaining Peace” emphasize the important role that youth can play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and indicate that their inclusion can contribute to the success of sustaining peace. Sabine thus highlighted the goals of the breakfast meeting which included the exploration of efforts governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations could take in order to promote more inclusive societies and the highlight the importance of engaging youth as partners and actors in sustaining peace.
Opening – In his welcoming remarks, Permanent Representative of the Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations, Mr. Jürg Lauber, shared with us his delight in having so many young people present. He mentioned the importance of young people in decision-making processes and their capacity to act as partners in peacebuilding. Mr. Lauber also reminded that peace was and still is at the core of the work of the United Nations.
Key note speech – Next we had the honor to welcome Ms. Saba Ismail, young leader from Pakistan and co-founder of the NGO Aware Girls. First, Ms. Ismail told us about the NGO which she founded together with her sister at the age of 15. Aware Girls is a young women-led organization working towards building peace and gender equality in the North West of Pakistan. They work to strengthen the leadership skills of young women enabling them to act as agents of change, peace and equality in their communities and work towards a conducive environment for peace and equality through advocating for social, economical, legal and policy transformations. Saba Ismail then shared with us her inspiration to work on peacebuilding through non-violence: “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” (Baacha Khan, Frontier Gandhi)
Secondly, Ms. Ismail shared best practices on the work of her NGO. In order to strengthen peace leadership, inter-faith harmony, and to build the capacity of young people in advocating for UNSCR 2250, they organized a four days training program on this issue. The training program’s feedback showed that young people could act as change makers and peacebuilders when given the tools. After the four day intensive, several young people implemented a wide range of initiatives including peace education sessions, study circles, inter faith dialogues and exchanges, organized art competitions on international peace day, engaged school children and wrote letters to the local media to promote peace. Through these initiatives they were able to reach out to diverse religious and ethnic communities as it addressed the most sensitive issues of sectarian issues and human rights violations against religious minorities.
Ms. Saba Ismail together with different political parties organized another provincial level multi-stakeholder advocacy seminar. The young people put forward their demands and proposals to the policy makers. They demanded to have strict legal procedures against hate speech, banning of militant groups and their activities, psychological counseling services for young people who might be at the risk of being getting recruited and policies with consultations of young people. Different stakeholders in Pakistan have showed their strong commitment towards the implementation of the Resolution 2250. Through the engagement of multi stakeholders they can actively advocate for a gender mainstreamed policy, which recognizes young people as partners in peacebuilding processes rather than just seeing them as trouble makers, terrorists or victims.
To conclude, young people in Pakistan have shown their potential for building peace, inter-faith harmony and a culture of non-violence in the militancy struck areas through their initiatives. Aware Girls is providing mentorship and a platform for all the initiatives that have been taken by young people in Pakistan.
Key note speech – Our second speaker was Mr. Carl Skau, Ambassador Alternate Representative of Sweden to the Security Council. He first of all expressed his joy in having so many young people at this breakfast meeting and offered to organize another meeting on the work of the Security Council at the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN. He then shared with us a short personal story about his experiences at the World Bank and the rising difficulties for young people in entering the job market. Mr. Skau believes that we first of all invest in ourselves rather than in others and therefore one of the biggest drivers of conflict are exclusion and inequality. One should not forget the contexts especially since different issues will rise in developing countries, he acknowledged. However, Mr. Skau believes that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve as a global framework and opportunity in terms of conflict management.
Due to his great interest in hearing the ideas, questions and best practices of the young people present in the room, Mr. Skau then finished off his rather short discourse with reminding us that the world needs real participation by young people and women. According to him, UN Security Council Resolution 2250 just proved this again.
Speech – We were delighted to also welcome Mr. Modest J. Mero, Ambassador Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United Nations. He shared with us his views on the Security Council Resolution 2250 and highlighted the fact that decision-makers should find ways to make use of the immense force of young people. Mr. Mero further put emphasis on the intercultural and
interreligious dialogues that need to take place in order to live in a more harmonious world.
Interactive Discussion – In the second part of the Breakfast Meeting, Youth Delegate Sabine opened the floor for inputs and questions. An interactive discussion evolved which will be outlined below.
Q1 – First, the question was raised whether or not the United Nations itself, and especially the Security Council needed a reformation. Should we even add an SDG regarding transformation? Mr. Mero’s answer to this question was that the SDGs include every single one of us. He underlined that, in his opinion, they were adequate and did not need a change. Ambassadaor Carl Skau replied that we are living in a time of reform and he firmly believes that the SDGs serve as a universal framework during this time. He further added that – living in a different world today – we should be maybe a bit more focused on operational outcomes; Sweden for instance always wants to agree on one thing at least in the Security Council sessions and therewith prevents member states from just sharing experiences and not deciding on anything. Mr. Skau reminded the audience that solutions should not only be searched in New York or in politics in general but everywhere. This is also when youth comes into play and when young people can act as change makers.
Q2 – One of the Youth Delegates tried to turn the question of youth participation around and asked what leaders can do to include young people in the decision-making process. Mr. Mero replied that, in his opinion, youth should be involved in all activities; decision makers should make this possible. He however then called upon young people to be the change they want to see in the world and that youth should not only rely on older ambassadors but also rather help them in trying to change something.
Q3 – One comment was that it is not only the highest political levels that can facilitate peace but that it is important to also appreciate movements and initiatives at community level which can lead to peace. Another comment was that it would be nice to share best practices of governmental, intergovernmental, non-governmental and societal movements and initiatives in order to inspire and learn from each other. If you have best practices that you would like to share with all of us, you are invited to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org who will then forward it to all the participants of the side event.
Q4 – Someone else asked what could be done to get local movements up to government levels. Ms. Ismail talked about the challenges young people have to overcome and explained ways to do so. Grass-root-level movements could be mentioned in the progress study on the Security Council Resolution 2250 that is currently undertaking consultations and will be published around March 2018 (more information on http://www.youth4peace.info). Ms. Ismail broadened the term of sustaining peace and highlighted the importance of mental health and psychological issues as challenges that should especially be regarded and worked on. She is willing to share her research on the topic of trauma healing.
Q5 – The last question which was raised tackled the issue of youth participation and whether there should be new spaces for young people or whether they should rather be pushed into old parts. Mr. Mero replied that a paradigm shift is highly needed and more young people need to be engaged. In order to better involve youth, certain vehicles should be used. Mr. Skau then concluded with sharing his appreciation of the structures that already exist and his belief that young people should be better integrated in the already existing parts.
Closing – At the end of the discussion, Ms. Karen Van Vlierberge, Ambassador Deputy Permanent Representative of Belgium to the UN, highlighted the great importance of social inclusion and sustaining peace. She mentioned that this topic is very current and should be discussed more broadly. Ms. Van Vlierberge then shared her belief that there is a framework for our difficult world – namely the SDGs. Only by looking ahead we will be able to make social inclusion a reality, she said and ended with a quote which Ms. Saba Ismail had previously used in her speech: “Every cloud has a silver lining, every youth has something unique to contribute towards society and youth deserve a change.” (Syed Aftab Hussain Shah).
It was a very interesting breakfast discussion and I would like to thank all the speakers of the event Ms. Saba Ismail, Mr. Carl Skau, Ms. Karen Van Vlierberge and Mr. Modest J. Mero and all participants for joining our conversation on this crucial topic. I further want to thank the Youth Delegates from Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, Austria and Morocco for their kind help with the hosting of this Breakfast Meeting. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Permanent Mission of Switzerland and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Berne for their support in organizing this event. I believe that the topic of social inclusion for sustaining peace is highly relevant in the world of today. Therefore, I am very open to further discussions, inputs and best practices regarding this topic and would be happy to then share the information with the other participants.
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More information about the event and the topic of social inclusion for sustaining peace with regard to the Security Council Resolution 2250: