The Youth Dialogue, an event organized by the United Nations President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, on the 30th May had as one of its main goals to provide the youth with a space to engage in a dialogue with the UN, in order to help shaping the future agenda of what we care the most.
Mr. Lajčák emphasize that “the United Nations needs to listen to you.”While the UN has been aiming to create more spaces for the youth to participate, these scenarios are still a few and have a limited reach. Without a meaningful communication strategy, the youth would still be perceived as passive actors who are waiting for others to do for them, while the case is that the youth oftentimes are at the edge of innovation and challenging the status quo.
I participated in the panel Missing Peace: The Role of Youth in Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace, where I had the chance to speak directly with Mr. Lajčák, Ella Okko, from the Finish group Lennons Peace Ambassadors and, Mr. Sherwin Bryce-Pease, the president of the President of the United Nations Correspondents Association. With an audience of nearly 80 people, the majority of them youth, an element that was missing was the direct engagement with decision-makers who can implement some of the outcomes of the discussion. Nonetheless, the conversation pointed out how there should be more avenues to listen to one another and co-create projects together, having the youth as partners in peace, rather than beneficiaries, where one supposes which are our main needs and concerns.
I spoke about how youth are already doing meaningful projects in the area of peacebuilding, that with the adequate institutional support could be further scaled up and have a more meaningful impact. The campaign Letters for Reconciliation that we conducted in Colombia is one of such cases, where youth organizing allowed for more than 3,000 citizens getting engaged writing letters to FARC ex-combatants, thus challenging negative stereotypes in an environment full of hate speech and polarizing narratives. This was an exercise that capitalize on the increase of empathy through finding common ground. Instead of seeing the other as an “enemy”, through dialogue one can see how one belongs to a larger category, such as a Colombian or human being, thus using the commonalities as a way to relate at a deeper level.
However, being it an exercise without much government support, Letters for Reconciliation did not achieve its full reach potential and miss the chance to catalyze the work that the government was doing in the post-peace agreement stage, pushing for the integration to society of a group that was not generally well-received, such as the FARC ex-combatants. This is why dialogue with the youth is so important, because to avoid duplicating efforts or carrying out activities that are not that relevant for the youth, it is necessary to purposely co-create programs together, where the role that the youth and institutions play in clear and complementary.
As such, another aspect that was widely discussed was the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security. This was a milestone to recognize the role that the youth plays in conflict prevention and transformation, as well as peacebuilding. Nonetheless, while it aims to give a more relevant role to the youth an create a framework to achieve it, we still lack the implementation part from behalf of the state. Having this resolution as an underfunded policy, as well as not creating spaces for the youth to have a seat at the table are the most reliable way that we the youth remain the eternal missing peace.
Leonardo Párraga is a global citizen acting in a local context. He believes that peace, development, and happiness in society start at a personal level, that is why he is in a constant process of self-actualization. He is passionate about the arts, community empowerment, and life-long learning. With diverse studies including business management, journalism, and social entrepreneurship, he combines the knowledge of diverse areas to achieve disruptive results. He founded the BogotArt Foundation in 2013, a youth-led organization aiming to generate social inclusion, foster creativity and promote peace through the use of the arts and culture. In 2017 he co-founded the campaign Letters for Reconciliation, which brought together more than 3,000 people, generating a dialogue between FARC ex-combatants and people from the cities, in order to reduce stereotypes and mutual hatred, transforming “the enemy” into someone one can relate to. He loves writing poetry, taking pictures and traveling.