The 5th Baku Forum on Intercultural Dialogue (May 2-3, Azerbaijan) brought together youth from across the world to discuss inclusive approaches to promote peace and embrace diversity. In accordance with the Forum’s mission of putting “dialogue into action against discrimination, inequality, and violent conflict,” six young peacebuilders shared their initiatives on building bridges and understanding amongst cultures during an interactive panel organized by UNESCO.
“Intercultural dialogue entails the respectful exchange of views between individuals with different ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and heritage on the basis of mutual understanding and respect. Though we are young people coming from different countries and backgrounds, we face similar issues linked to violence, discrimination, and stereotypes. It is therefore important to have honest and courageous conversations to connect with others, and be more empathetic. This process of intercultural dialogue and learning is key towards a culture of peace” – Deepak Ramola, young panelist & #YouthOfUNESCO.
The session was opened by Mr Farhad Hajiyev, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport of Azerbaijan, who shared with the panelists that youth are the key for preventing violent extremism. Representing youth from every corner of the globe, the panel showcased the stories of Deepak Ramola (India), Marva Langevine (Guyana), Monday Collins (Uganda), Hezha Mohammedkhan (Kurdistan region of Iraq), Haneen Thabet (Jordan), and Bushra Ebadi (Canada). The panelists plunged into an insightful dialogue on youth civic engagement, intercultural dialogue, and how digital spaces and social media can address discrimination and hate speech while preventing violent extremism.
“Our organization works on an initiative called Tour in Maan, where we invite influencers from Jordan who visit the city and publish their experience on their accounts on social media platforms with some photos and quotes. This shows how social media can also be used to share positive messages and counter negative narratives. – Haneen Thabet, beneficiary of the UNESCO-UNOCT Project on Youth Peacebuilding
All panelists agreed on the importance of integrating cultural understanding and intercultural dialogue into their local work, as stereotypes continue to affect young people in all parts of the globe. “I am a first generation Afghan-Canadian, and I have never been “Canadian” or “Afghan” enough, so part of my work is to address these forms of discrimination”, said Bushra. Deepak mentioned his initiative Under the Hijab, created to stop discrimination against women who wear the hijab, while Hezha, a 10th UNESCO Youth Forum participant, spoke about methods to prevent cyberviolence and to encourage peacebuilding in the Arab region. Monday told us how he has been able to overcome his background as a former child soldier, “I decided that I would move beyond this stereotype, and that is why I was motivated to work with young people in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, and I use my life experience to be a positive example. “
After discussing the role that young people can play in countering hateful rhetoric online, the panelists encouraged everyone to not only stand up to harmful stereotypes, but to also actively work to ensure they do not use them to define an individual.
The six peacebuilders then met with other young participants in order to discuss follow-up actions and potential joint initiatives on intercultural dialogue and peacebuilding. They proposed to work together towards better social media regulation in order to prevent hate speech and online violence. They will also advocate for safe youth spaces and the role of education, including media and information literacy for youth.
In parallel of UNESCO’s youth panel, UNESCO’s partner UNOCT had a session on preventing violent extremism through youth vocational training. Speaking on behalf of UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector, the Assistant Director General Nada Al-Nashif, participated in the discussion and emphasized on the work being accomplished through the collaborative efforts of UNESCO and UNOCT in their joint project “Preventing Youth Extremism through youth empowerment in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia”. She finally encouraged the participants not to lose sight of the importance of the youth, peace, and security agenda.
Learn more about UNESCO’s panels during the 5th Baku Forum: https://en.unesco.org/news/building-dialogue-action-5th-world-forum-intercultural-dialogue