UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation Forest Whitaker led an assessment mission in Myanmar in late May to create a new branch of the Youth Peacemaker Network, a joint peace building initiative of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), UNESCO and Ericsson.
During Forest Whitaker’s needs assessment mission, he met the Minister of Education and the Minister of the President's Office, as well as Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, representatives from international NGOs, and the private sector, including Ericsson, as well as representatives of youth organizations.
Forest Whitaker also visited a joint UNESCO PepsiCo project, the Centre of Excellence for Business Skills Development, where he exchanged views with students and faculty about how best to promote the common good and meet the aspirations of youth through business and entrepreneurship.
A community dialogue with representatives of diverse ethnic groups at the Center for Diversity and National Harmony in Yangon offered another high point in the mission, along with the visit to a UNESCO-Ericsson an ICT and life skills school project in Mandalay, and a debate at the Jefferson Centre with young leaders on intercultural dialogue and tolerance.
The mission allowed Forest Whitaker to identify issues and challenges facing young people in Myanmar and opportunities to mobilize them as agents of peace and development, helping tailor the youth peacemaker programme to specific local needs and aspirations.
The new branch is an extension the groundbreaking youth peace network already established in South Sudan, Uganda and Mexico. The network offers a combination of training courses in peace education, intercultural dialogue, conflict resolution, life skills, entrepreneurship and ICTs, which could benefit Myanmar’s recovery from years of conflict.