In October 2017 the second event in our Youth Dialogues series took place in Jordan. We organised the three day event in association with the British Council, the West Asia-North Africa (WANA) Institute and the Department for International Development (DFID).
The dialogue brought together sixty leaders from the MENA region and non-government organisations, practitioners and policy makers for action focused debate on the role of young people in meeting future challenges.
Young people make up a third of those most affected by conflict, limiting their life opportunities and chances. Often traumatised and unable to find work, they may feel forced to leave their countries or join an armed group. Despite this, young people are playing an active role in peacemaking. The dialogue examined how these efforts could best be supported and strengthened. Themes included grassroots efforts to tackle extremism, the role of education in developing citizenship, and finally some reflection upon a social contract that would support a culture of peace.
Participants reflected on how to support local projects which empower young people and how such activities could be increased in response to extremism. Mark Clark, CEO of Generations for Peace, a Jordan-based international peace-building NGO, explained: “The best sustainable impacts for youth empowerment, resilience and social cohesion, come from developing positive values and peer-group fusion. We need to give youth the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership and responsible citizenship.”
The role of education in supporting and developing young people’s sense of citizenship was examined. Inspired by her time spent as a refugee in Jordan, education activist Muzoon Almellehan (19) shared her campaign to encourage parents to send their children to school, determined to encourage more girls into education. The work enabled her to become UNICEF’s youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador in June 2017.
A new social contract
Participants considered the nature of a social contract required to uphold a culture of peace which actively includes young people. Barik Mhadeen, researcher at the WANA Institute, explained, “Arab youth want a social contract based on equal opportunity, be it educational, social, economic, or political. Instead of merely giving young Arabs a seat at the table, we should be given an equal shot at life.”
Blogs and Vlogs have been created by the Youth Ambassadors, telling the story of the event, what they learnt, and giving an insight into a Wilton Park dialogue. One of the bloggers, Haidar Ali, programme manager for Amman, Jordan, has reported on some of the conferences main findings. Follow their progress Youth as Peacemakers – Shorthand Social.