With half of the population affected by crises all over the world below the age of 30, UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security was recently passed where, for the first time in history, the role of youth in peacebuilding was recognized globally. Youth are not simply victims of crises, but agents for change. To quote UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, “it is imperative for us to invest in young people to fulfill their potential, and help achieve peace and security”. Inheriting the world, in all its diversity, vulnerabilities, and promises of peace, requires capacity.
Peace and Security issues involve interwoven and interconnected issues. The backdrop of Southeast Asia, is of diverse political and socio-economic narratives - closed and open governments, indigenous peoples issues, internal conflicts, internally displaced people, human rights issues, religious fundamentalisms, and the like. At the same time, on the ground, ASEAN is also home to inter-communal conflicts, as can be seen in the tensions surrounding almost every state’s Southern regions. The Rohingya crisis, for instance, affects many of the neighboring countries in more socio-economic ways than one. According to the UNHCR, Rohingyas are among the most actively persecuted people in the planet. Whether or not they are politically considered as citizens is beyond the fact that most of them remain to live within the borders of the region.
Youth is a particularly vulnerable sector, given their need to transition to higher forms of education, and also enter the workforce, while still undergoing the circles of violence, coming from a post-conflict warzone, to being exposed to the risks of human trafficking, extremism, and domestic crimes. There is a lot of work to do to educate ASEAN youth, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds such as the Rohingya, about migration in the region, their rights and responsibilities. In the process, they are able to protect each other from exploitation, trafficking, and even extremism, through developing capacities to organize themselves, advocate for their causes and support their peers.
In celebration of this year’s ASEAN foundation Day (August 8), International Youth Day (August 12), and World Humanitarian Day (August 19), the ASEAN Young Public Servants and ASEAN Youth Ending Slavery - IOM X, in collaboration with the International Youth Centre Malaysia, Humanity Heroes Malaysia and Dakwah Bookstore, presented the first-ever Rohingya Youth Camp tackling digital advocacy for migration and youth welfare. The pilot batch comprised 25 selected Rohingya youth leaders in Kuala Lumpur, and was live streamed around the world. The camp focused on skills related to the latest, accessible, and relevant digital platforms, in hopes of capturing compelling narratives from the lens of the youth, and delivering it to a global audience for the sustainability of future community-led projects. Relevant ASEAN documents were articulated such as the ASEAN Convention on Trafficking of Persons, Especially Women and Children and ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, as well as international conventions such as ILO Convention 189.
A year after the programme, last May 18, 2017, CAYC volunteer Joey de la Cruz joined the Asia and the Pacific Regional Consultation Partnership Exchange on the UN Security Council Resolution 2250, at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss how can ASEAN youth, regionalize the global discussion of Youth, Peace and Security. Establishing a regional network of youth peace builders and a youth fund for peace and security, as well as protecting young people from violent extremism online and offline, were among the recommendations put forward.
“The youth participants in the conference discussed how to be civically - involved, to broker peace among different warring political, religious, and cultural groups, to support women over their destinies, and the merits of socio-economic and civic & political rights in A Caring and Sharing ASEAN Community. Basically, the youth articulated – we desire to shape this region into a peaceful and secure one.” - Joey
ASEAN is a young region. 60 % of ASEAN people are below the age of 35, making young people not only the future, but the present of ASEAN. However, this remains to be a challenge. As young people, we are only beginning to understand the bigger roles we play in the family, community and as citizens of our countries, and now in our region. This may come to the disappointment of the cruel structural realities in this world, and the insecurity perhaps that we have done so little than our elders, professors, maybe bosses. But this is what makes our youth sector unique. We have the ability to discover, learn, immerse oneself, relate to the narratives of each member state with each other and, together, realise the true meaning of “unity and diversity” for our generation, and the generations to come. To build peace and security, young leaders, adult mentors, and peers, need to start within themselves and be able to work hand-in-hand to recognize our differences, and our similarities. Only then can we go make ripples of change to the forgotten members of our beloved ASEAN community.
10 pointers for young peace advocates in ASEAN
by Regine Guevara and Joey de la Cruz
1. Remember your non-negotiables.
2. Find an enabler that can champion your causes.
3. Have resilience and at the same time patience.
4. Initiatives must resonate he youth’s concern but this includes Youth-Adult partnership
5. Develop microscopic, telescopic and panoramic views on the complexity of issues
6. Map-out how the diverse, and dynamic identities work to strengthen each other
7. Help the parties discover hidden wells of common interests, and not personal positions
8. Manage the process and you can manage the power
9. Recognize one’s identity as a peace advocate, and its inherent privileges
10. Peace starts within yourself, and your own community!
Regine Guevara is a peace activist from the Philippines. Raised Christian, with Jewish ancestry, and a student of Islam, she is currently a fellow for the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network's Local Pathways Fellowship Program and the Volunteers Head of the Committee for ASEAN Youth Cooperation. She completed an MA in Conflict Resolution from Brandeis University, and the Program on Negotiation of Harvard Law School.