Nepal to New York for Peace

In April 2017, I saw an application announcement for a consultation program on Youth, Peace and Security. When I came to read the word ‘Peace’, my childhood memories came to mind. I remember the day when I was afraid of being kidnapped by a local insurgent group, just because I was the daughter of a retired army officer. We hardly ever got any sleep, as the sound of bomb blasts kept us awake. I missed school on many days because of regular strikes. Growing up in rural Nepal, I faced conflict up close during my childhood. Later on, the civil war stopped, but there was no ‘positive peace’. As Nepal is a multiethnic country, some of the marginalized communities are still protesting for their rights. This is a cause I care about, leading me to organize a media campaign to keep harmony and brotherhood among different castes and ethnic groups. I always had the dream to contribute to peace building also at the global level. These were my thoughts when reading the application announcement site, bringing a smile to my face.

In December of 2015, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2250, on Youth, Peace and Security, the first resolution fully dedicated to the positive role young people can and do play in conflict prevention, the prevention of violent extremism and peacebuilding. UN SCR 2250 mandates the UN Secretary-General “to carry out a progress study on the youth’s positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution, in order to recommend effective responses at local, national, regional and international levels”, and to present the results of the Study to Member States of the United Nations. The application announcement was for the regional consultation in Asia-Pacific, part of a series of consultations organized for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security.

I applied for the event on behalf of 2030 Youth Force, the Asia-Pacific youth network working on the Sustainable Development Goals as I am one of the co-founders of the organization. I received the confirmation email with great happiness. It was my privilege and an honor to be a part of the Asia-Pacific Regional Consultation on Youth, Peace and Security conducted in Bangkok on 16-17 May 2017. During the regional consultation, I met 42 young peacebuilders from across the Asia-Pacific region. We discussed recommendations with regard to the strategic support young peace builders need. The final recommendations were shaped in five different categories: Support for Youth Organizations/initiatives, Mechanisms for the Implementation of UN SCR 2250, Political Inclusion, Education and Social Media.

Six month after the regional consultation, I received another invitation to attend the Validation Program on the Progress Study of Youth, Peace and Security 2250, which was going to take place in New York on 18-19 November. The event was jointly organized by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the UN Populations Fund (UNFPA)/PBSO Secretariat for the Progress Study, with support from the Government of Canada. Again, I was extremely happy to receive the invitation, but also aware of my responsibility: This time, I was not only representing Nepal, I was representing young peacebuilders from the entire Asia-Pacific region. I had the huge responsibility to speak and amplify the voice of all the young peacebuilders.

I started to read all the reports from the different regional consultations, which were conducted in seven different regions: Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, East and Southern Africa, Europe, Latin America-Caribbean, and West Africa between December 2016 and September 2017. The recommendations from the other regions were similar to the ones from the Asia-Pacific, which made me feel like all the young peacebuilders around the world have the same challenges as us. They also want to feel secure for working in the peace sector. Though we represent our respective regions, which are very different from each other not only geographically but also culturally, all of us shared the same enthusiasm and similar challenges working on building peace.

Finally, the day came and 18 peacebuilders from all the seven regions gathered in front of the United Nations headquarters on 18 November at 9:45 am. We greeted each other with smiles and handshakes. As the program started, I was fascinated by the amazing discussions. Over the two-day program, we not only discussed the recommendations from the regional consultations; we also prioritized the most important recommendations, refined them, and tried to make them more specific and practical. We focused on some of the most important recommendations, such as ensuring political inclusion for young people, creating online and offline platforms for young peacebuilders to learn and share their experiences, resolving the violence of exclusion, ensuring economic inclusion for women and minorities, and collaborating with national and local government bodies to create an action plan for the implementation of UN SCR 2250.

We want our voice to be heard. Young people are not only sources of information to be consulted briefly. We are equal partners who can take the lead on strategic action. We look forward to raising awareness of and implementing the Youth, Peace and Security movement globally.

We are 2030!

For the first time the world agreed that youth empowerment is a way to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This presents enormous opportunities and expectations on young people.

Emiliya Asadova is the UNV Regional (Asia-Pacific) Youth Programme Specialist in Bangkok, Thailand.(UNV, 2016)

For the first time the world agreed that youth empowerment is a way to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This presents enormous opportunities and expectations on young people. How can the UN support, empower and prepare youth to be the driving force for the SDGs? In Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are developing a regional partnership with and for youth to deliver on the SDGs by 2030.

In March 2016 we asked young change makers in the Asia and the Pacific region to send us video stories that articulate their vision of the future, along with examples of volunteer actions they are taking to make societies more inclusive and peaceful. An amazingly diverse group of 19 extremely brave young people from Asia and the Pacific were selected, and their work was an example of the great capacities of this generation.

Why? Some of these young people have learnt sign language to be able to work with youth with disabilities, and one of them created the Youth Diversity Alliance at the age of 22 in Indonesia. Another, amidst all the country’s challenges, started the first-ever food bank at the age of 25 in Vietnam to fight poverty and contribute to sustainable consumption. And finally, a young woman living with HIV in Nepal empowered young populations to raise their unheard voices, providing them with a platform for a strong unified voice.

We gathered this group for the first workshop “We Are 2030: Youth Driving Forward Inclusive and Peaceful Societies in Asia-Pacific” in Bangkok in June 2016. Through youth-led sessions on regional development challenges, conflict prevention and inclusion, the group agreed that through volunteerism young people can achieve more and “leave no one behind”.

Some members realized only at the workshop that they are in fact volunteers in everything they do as social advocates and activists, but there is still a lack of skills-based volunteerism, a lack of understanding of volunteerism in the region, and a need for cross-border volunteer exchanges, for “offline” impact of volunteerism and for better measuring of volunteer activities.

The workshop culminated with the unquestioning willingness of youth to work together on difficult topics related to inclusion. It was clear that these young people were demanding a space for regional action, and UNV and UNDP welcomed it and will continue to provide support.

In the presence of numerous partners and supporters, the Regional Asia-Pacific Youth Network was launched. Young change makers chose “2030 Youth Force” as an empowering name for the network. Armed with knowledge on inclusive and peaceful societies, they presented regional and country-level youth-led activities targeted at the SDGs. As a first step and in order to raise awareness and attract more young people to this movement of inclusion and change, the group plans to launch a massive campaign in social media under the hashtag #sendloveON, addressed to other young people in the region to act in their communities and share stories of change.

My greatest learning from the workshop was that young people need a common space and opportunities to drive the SDGs in the next 15 years, and they have all the skills and capacities to do so. Inviting them to be at a table to take part in discussions of national development plans or localization of the SDGs is all that it takes.

Emiliya Asadova is the UNV Regional (Asia-Pacific) Youth Programme Specialist in Bangkok, Thailand.