Youth Advocacy for Peace: Study Session at the European Youth Centre in Budapest

Inspiration. If I had to define my experience during the week spend in Budapest with 30 youth people from all over Europe this would be the word I use. Because inspiration is what we need to keep going, inspiration brings joy and a feeling of being able to do whatever we want. And why not? Human beings are able to do whatever they want, you just have to look around to see. So why not work towards a culture of peace?!

Culture of peace was one of the themes we discussed in Budapest, and our main conclusions were that a culture of peace is a process that leads to a better world where human beings can live free in peace and dignity.

To know what is a culture of peace in a more concrete way, just look around you and think of the things you would like to improve in your life and in your quarter, community, country. Each place and community looks forward to the ‘own’ culture of peace, because to engage the community in this process is fundamental. And, furthermore, it is important to keep in mind some basic aspects when creating a culture of peace: equality in human rights, nonviolence, respects and care for the environment (because we don’t live in a vacuum), share of information and knowledge, gender equality and freedom from discrimination, sustainable development, peace education, inner peace…

It is hard to me to imagine a human being who would answer ‘no’ to the question ‘would you like to live in a culture of peace?’. What do you think? This is the reason why few years ago the petition for the ‘manifesto 2000 for a culture of peace and human rights’ ( http://www3.unesco.org/manifesto2000/uk/uk_manifeste.htm ) gathered 1% of the world population signatures!! Wow! And maybe the reason why it was totally ignored by the world “leaders” is because it was starting to wake up people minds and hearts.

Maybe some of you may laugh while reading this article, because it seems that there is a general tendency to irony and cynicism in our modern society towards peace and human rights matters. But, as Nick Lowe says in his song says ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding’ ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7txCdLCP9U )? For many people in Europe and in the world violence and human rights violations are a sad reality and something to care about. Just to give an example that is quite close to the majority of the readers from Europe I would like to mention the Roma case.

In Budapest we met with an expert on Roma issues who introduced the group of young participants to the dreadful human rights violations of which Roma people are victims in Europe. Roma often have to hide the own identity if they want to have access to some basic rights (such as job), they lack access to education, lack access to jobs, lack access to health services, lack access to housing, the places where they live are burned, they are expelled from cities and countries (that signed human rights conventions and declarations), they are not involved in the community life, they are

discriminated against… But, is this their problem? Or are they our problem? Or is it a blatant violation of human rights supported and perpetrated by States?

Well, it seems to big issue for you to solve? Maybe, but there are many things that we can do. And this what we learned in Budapest, how us young people can contribute to create a culture of peace by using advocacy tools such as awareness raising, dialogue, empowerment of communities so they can raise their voice and fight for their rights, lobbying, using media in a positive way, petitions, campaigning, mobilisation, among many other great things. And above all, it is fundamental to share, to get inspired, to meet people, don’t work alone. So, what can you do??

Final note:

The European Youth Centre Budapest ( http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/eycb/default_EN.asp ) is one of the two Youth Centres created by the Council of Europe Youth Department. There young people from all over Europe meet to learn together about human rights and peace.

The study session was coordinated by UNOY Peacebuilders in cooperation with CEIPES, Fundació Catalunya Voluntària (FCV) and Support Initiative for Liberty and Democracy (SILBA). In a team of 6 youth trainers, from which CEIPES was part, we run 5 days training on advocacy for peace, addressing the subject of peace, culture of peace, advocacy and many other things. One of the outcomes of the study session were the ‘guidelines for peace advocacy’ created by the entire group in an amazing team work! Soon they will be available online.

Ana Afonso