How Dutch and Chinese youth are building peace

“The world has never been so young and it is getting younger every day. The development of any society depends on how well it nurtures its young women and men, how well they are supported.” These are the opening words of ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO message on the occasion of the International Youth Day.

According to UNESCO, in 2015, there were 1.2 billion young people in the world, and more than 600 million lived in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. International Youth Day 2017 is dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace. In the Netherlands and in China, there are many initiatives and projects surrounding these topics.

The Council of Europe has a Youth Peace Ambassadors project which promotes and supports the role of young people in peace-building activities. Through these projects the role of young people in identifying and speaking up against human rights violations such as discrimination or hate speech can be strengthened.

One of these Youth Peace Ambassadors is the Dutch Joanna van der Hoek who studied Political History and International Relations at Utrecht University. Her project promoted peace and dialogue during various community activities. One of these activities was a workshop on creative writing for young people with different backgrounds, with the aim of empowering the participants to exercise and defend their citizen’s rights.

Another Dutch project is the Youth Peace Initiative, originally founded by six students in The Hague. The founding interest of all the YPI members has been to include younger generations in the decisions of the present which affect their future. "We, youth of the world’s regions in conflict, have come to The Hague to put our differences behind us and pursue a better future. We remember the past, but choose not to remain captive to it. Instead, we seek to move past the mistakes of previous generations and to achieve peace together."

On the other side of the world, in September 2016 the Asia Pacific Youth Dialogue took place in Chengdu. The consultation was organised by UNFPA, UNV, UN Women and UNDP in partnership with the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and several other UN agencies. The Asia and Pacific region is home to 717 million youth, or 60% of the world’s young people between the ages of 15 and 24. This consultation was all about ensuring these young people have a voice and a real chance to shape how the UN works with young people in its efforts to foster peace around the world for years to come.

During the consultation, several speakers all emphasized the need of working together to reach a solution. Prof. Liu Cheng, Professor of Peace Studies, Nanjing University reminded participants of the need “To understand, to tolerate, to accept, to value, and to join.” Ms. Claudia Maresia, Program Specialist of Youth Section UNESCO Paris urged participants to “dream big and act big, because all big things start from small individuals.”