01.12.2016 - UNESCO Office in Beirut

Networks for Mediterranean Youth stand for World Peace

Over 170 representatives from 50 international NGOs were brought together under one roof to share experiences on the promotion and construction of peace. The Sixth International Forum of NGOs gathered these institutions to discuss the topic: “From Promoting to Building Peace with NGOs”, in Querétaro, Mexico. Organized by the NGO-UNESCO Liaison committee, this forum aimed to cover various aspects of peace-building, such as utilizing education, culture, sports and arts as vectors for peace.

Though often overlooked, one significant factor in the promotion of peace is Youth, who can be a leading force in that field. This topic was developed during the round table on “The Voices of Youth, World Citizens for a Culture of Peace” which included 4 young speakers from 3 different continents bringing forward their peace-building success stories.

I had the privilege of being among those speakers and representing NET-MED Youth Lebanon at the forum, to showcase, through my experience with the project, the untapped potential of youth engagement in the promotion of peaceful societies. During our discussions, I was able to highlight the role of NET-MED Youth in promoting peace and we came to a set of significant conclusions that I will now elaborate.

First, when we are discussing crucial topics such as peace, that have long been debated and are always a pressing matter, we need to start thinking outside the box, and to experiment where the traditional methods have failed. Who better to be the pioneers of that field than the young women and men of today?

This vision is shared by the NET-MED Youth program, where youth are the inspiration, the leading force, and the target. But with such a large specter of activities how can you prioritize a single peace building project? Instead of concentrating on the specifics, I chose to look for the common denominator: inclusion.

No matter what we do, we make sure that it reaches everyone involved, not just the apparent targets. Policies, media, and unemployment may be the key lines of work, but in NET-MED Youth these lines are always entangled with the ones of tolerance and mutual understanding, that are core values in a peaceful mentality, to ultimately create a peaceful society, and a peaceful world.

It all starts with the core of NET-MED project: youth power. And that doesn’t mean simply believing in youth, but putting those words into practice by giving young people, like me, the chance to be full participants in local and global communities.

After that, our role as active young women and men comes into play. When we live in communities often torn apart by tension such as the Middle-East, it’s up to us to relieve the pressure, starting by a shift in our mindset and perception of the world. When we acknowledge that our differences are merely superficial, we learn that our strengths and weaknesses are not to create a society of ruler and subject, but a society of complementarity, of coexistence and codependence.

Just like the 2030 agenda for sustainable development that “leaves no one behind”, we shed the light where it’s needed and matters most, are open to positive transformations, grow from the past and march well-prepared into our future.

These words I spoke resonated well with the audience, which included over 400 university students. Participants were thrilled to see young people like themselves making their mark on such an important topic, and were in turn eager to participate themselves through interventions and questions. They saw in the four of us their own dwelling capacities, their hopes and aspirations.

Through our discussions, we agreed that social media is the most effective way to reach youth these days; that diversity should be celebrated and embraced; that patience is vital when dealing with a long process such as achieving peace; and that peace is a global value that should not be restricted to local or security-related definitions, because peace is ultimately a wide reigning atmosphere.

But most importantly, we are now certain that the optimism and activism of youth is the key to a more tolerant, peaceful world that reflects the positive mentality of its inhabitants. For no matter how many laws or policies we implement to achieve peace, we will not go anywhere until those guiding principles of openness and inclusiveness are deeply engraved in our mindsets.


* This article was written by Rind Hage : member in the NETMED youth group in Lebanon, and representative to UNESCO's International  youth NGOs Forum.

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