by Elliot Mur
International Youth Day, celebrated on 12 August, is an opportunity to highlight the power that young people have in promoting peace and security, and how UN Peacekeeping missions are supporting their development and engagement in peace processes.
UNMISS in South Sudan
Developing the skills of youth is critical to ensure they can find employment, and meaningfully participate in society. Ghanaian peacekeepers serving with UNMISS trained around 70 young people around from Bentiu in advanced computer skills with aim “to equip youth with professional-level expertise that would enable them to find jobs and, eventually, become economically secure.” At the end of this 6-month intensive training on Information and Communication Technology, peacekeepers handed over computers and printers to a youth centre located in Bentiu.
As a mission, UNMISS is committed to making sure we protect civilians in need. However, it is also incumbent upon us to help young South Sudanese to develop their abilities and look forward to a prosperous, peaceful future. Therefore, we help local communities wherever and however we can within our capacity,” — Lieutenant-Colonel Antwi Awua Darkwa, Commanding Officer.
In the ceremony awarding the young participants, Riek Yuanis, Secretary-General, Bentiu Youth Union, thanked the peacekeepers on their support and their efforts to share their knowledge and expertise to empower other young people. Moreover, Madup Ruai Wang, Chairperson of the Youth Union, discussed and highlighted the benefits of youth centres and trainings such as these and wishes to continue to receive their support. Madup Ruai Wang also noted that in the youth centre, will be able to “gather and learn about reconciliation and the importance of peace” will then be shared with other young members of the community.
Furthermore, as part of the commemorations of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, which this year, focused on the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda, Indian peacekeepers serving with UNMISS organized a tree-planting mission involving young people in the Malakal town. They also ran an animal care camp, where they treated and dewormed more than 200 cows, donkeys, sheep, and goats, all of which are owned by young livestock farmers. While the UNMISS peacekeepers treated the animals, young actors performed a drama on the “erstwhile civil war” and how it changed the lives of many young people, a theme that resonated among the crowd, and the wanting to build a brighter, more peaceful future.
“The older generation make the decision to go to war, but it is youth who are sent out to fight,” — The Youth Minister for Upper Nile State, Hafsa Ajak stated. “This is why I say, without youth, we cannot have peace and security in South Sudan.”
MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Despite having active role in peacebuilding activities and movements in their communities, young women are often overlooked and perceived as victims. Knowing that this couldn’t be further from the truth, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO)Gender Unit, informed around 60 young women and men on resolutions 2250, on Youth, Peace and Security and resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This holistic approach, provides all members of the community with the key elements and the ongoing challenges of both resolutions, and ensures that young women are able to engage in conflict prevention and resolution. Doing it this way, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the majority of the population remains women, allows for young women to address their needs and issues and increase their representation, while assuring that more young men are informed of the obstacles faced by young women and how they, as men, can best support.
Similarly, in another workshop, MONUSCO turned its efforts solely to young women to enhance their leadership skills. Nearly 500 young women, from various youth associations and schools in the city of Lubumbashi, took part in the workshop animated by jurists and university professors and taught them to develop their listening skills and to support other young women in their path towards success. In addition, the MONUSCO Section of the Joint United Nations Office for Human Rights (UNJHRO) and the Police of MONUSCO, presented on the need for women and in particular young women on their rights in dealing with violence made against them and the legal tools to denounce them and avoid impunity. The United Nations Police (UNPOL) section added on the necessity for the continued education of young women in the overall development of the country and community.
UNFICYP in Cyprus
In an effort to engage with youth and to foster a conversation between young Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy Cyprus and the Technical Committee on the Environment, organized a photo contest for World Water Day. This initiative invited young people to submit photos capturing their views on the value of water and address the theme: “What does water mean to you?”. In the ceremony recognizing and congratulating the three young Cypriots finalists for their photo submissions, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar, highlighted the importance of this competition, adding that “this is an island surrounded by the sea, while it frequently suffers from fresh-water scarcity. In several ways, water defines life in Cyprus.”
UNIFIL in Lebanon
Supporting the development and engagement of youth doesn’t always have to be through organized workshops or trainings, instead it could be supporting through funds and efforts. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) along with the the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Tiro Association for Arts, aided in funding the “Mobile Peace Bus” which aims to promote arts and culture and marketing the south of Lebanon, where the UNIFIL mission is mainly located, as a touristic area. Bringing together “youth of different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds, with the objective of building arts and creating safe spaces” this bus picks up children from the southern towns and bring them to a nearby village to screen various movies, draw, view theatre performances, all while promoting the respect for differences. In viewing and discussing movies from other cultures including from Algiers, Italy and Spain in addition to various regions of Lebanon, from the North, Beqaa and Beirut, this festival is helping youth appreciate a “culture of social integration as well as promoting cultural awareness and respect for diversity.
UNMIK in Kosovo
Knowing that sports play an important role in shaping a community, in particular with young people, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, supported both the financial and training of Play International. The event brought together a diverse group of youth from different communities to learn about human rights law and principles through games. Play International Project Manager Valentina Picaldi says the use sport and games is useful when trying to raise awareness on certain issues or topics. The goal of this event help the “youth foster a common language” and understand what it means to be a “multi-ethnic group.” Play International volunteers participating in this activity will then go on to establish their own human rights clubs in their own schools and towns.
“We believe in the power of sport as a tool to bring people together and bring youth together from different backgrounds.”
MINUSMA in Mali
To reduce the risk of youth being recruited by armed groups or terrorist organisations, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali launched a project for 30 young people, of which 20% are young women, to receive professional training on renewable energy. Youth unemployment is a major socio-economic factor exploited by armed groups to recruit young people, and highlights the importance of these trainings to enhance the inclusion of young people into the community. During this 30-day training, participants learned how to install and maintain solar installations and take part in internships with local entreprises.
“This support sufficiently shows to what extent MINUSMA is ready to equip young people in the Kidal region so that they are qualified and able to meet the needs of the job market in such an important area and a constantly changing environment.” — stated the president of civil society, Attayoub Ag Intalla.
MINUSCA in the Central African Republic
In another project and after a three-month long training to develop their skills in mechanics, welding, carpentry and sewing, 30 young men and women received their official certificates of completion. Empowering young people continues to be a crucial aspect of the work of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission In The Central African Republic (MINUSCA) to build social cohesion and sustainable peace. Such trainings help participants gain access to employment and attain financial independence. MINUSCA will continue to follow-up with these 30 youth to make sure that they are supported and able to exercise the trades they learned throughout this training.
Peacekeeping missions are working hard to support youth and help them reach their full potential as meaningful agents of peace. As demonstrated, young people have an essential role in communicating and sharing knowledge with their peers. Through trainings, workshops, or simply support, peacekeeping operations recognize and understand that to achieve social cohesion and the ultimate goal of sustainable peace, young people must be involved and supported at every step of the way.
Youth Day: Peacekeeping missions facilitating the development of young people was originally published in We The Peoples on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.