Investing in Youth and Protecting Culture -- Keys to Peacebuilding

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© UNESCO

On 21 August, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, participated in the opening session of the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security, hosted by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, under the Patronage of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, moderated by Mr Ahmad Alhendawi, Secretary General Envoy on Youth.

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II opened the Forum, speaking about peace not just as a quality and a value but a "pillar to hold up our homes."

In this, the Crown Prince highlighted the importance of young people as a "strategic wealth and real asset" especially for Arab States.

He spoke of the roles played by young people as peacebuilders, humanitarian workers, teachers -- "these are the peacemakers."

Noting the debate in the Security Council in April, the Crown Prince pledged to return the issue through the Amman Declaration back to the highest level of the UN for action.

Quoting the ground-breaking speech given by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince at the United Nations Security Council on 23 April, where he said “we are in a race to invest in the hearts and minds as well as the capabilities of the youth,” the Director-General stated: “I agree fully -- This is a race to educate, to engage, to nurture, to include all young women and men.”

The Director-General highlighted the heavy burden that young men and women bear in conflict affected countries.

“1.5 billion people live in fragile or conflict affected countries – 40% are young people. This is a human rights crisis, a development disaster, and a security imperative,” she declared.

“This is turning point year, when the international community will define a new global development agenda,” continued Irina Bokova. “This must be an agenda for peace, an agenda for young women and men, renewing with the spirit of UNESCO, whose 70 anniversary we celebrate.”

The opening included an intervention by Dr Babatunde Osotimehim, UNFPA, sharing a message of the UN Secretary General on action to counter violent extremism, as well as a video message by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who quoted the poet, Robert Frost: "Now that I am old, my teachers are the young."

The Minister of Maghreb Affairs of Algeria, HE Abdelkader Messahel also spoke at the opening, which saw also speeches by three young people on the front lines of peacebuilding in Syria, Uganda and Colombia. (Global Forum Website)

In this context, the Director-General drew attention to UNESCO’s work with young people to advance initiatives for peace – including through UNESCO’s action through its Operational Strategy on Youth (2014-2021), as well as UNESCO’s Networks of Mediterranean Youth Project, with the support of the European Union, led across 10 countries of the Mediterranean.

Irina Bokova also highlighted the global social media campaign that she launched in Baghdad in March --#unite4heritage -- to counter the propaganda of hatred, engaging young people across the world to protect humanity’s heritage.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Affairs, His Excellency Mr Nasser Judeh spoke of the urgency of supporting young people to counter those who distort and hijack the "essential and noble message of Islam" through an "ideology of darkness and extremism."

The Global Forum brought together 350 young people from all over the world, with Foreign Ministers, youth-led organizations, non-governmental organizations, governments and UN entities, to agree on a roadmap to partner with young people in preventing conflict, countering violent extremism and building lasting peace.

It was co-organized by the United Nations represented, on behalf of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD), by Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Peacebuilding Support Office, UNFPA and UNDP, in partnership with Search for Common Ground and the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.