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UN AoC Focuses on Youth & Peace Building

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2014 (IPS) - Speaking to 75 youths representing 75 countries, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson offered a sweeping assessment of the United Nations’ place in the world and outlined his hopes for the future.

“We are right now in a time when we are testing multilateralism [and] testing international cooperation,” Eliasson said. “The whole new global landscape is changing so quickly.”

According to Eliasson, the proliferation of information in today’s day and age has spurred expectations for immediate results.

“We have to deliver, both nation states and international organizations.”

Wednesday’s event, Youth and Peacebuilding at the United Nations, was organized as a part of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations – Education First (UNAOC-EF) Summer School.

Participants in the summer school were selected based on their involvement in intercultural and interfaith dialogue and youth issues. One third of the attendees came from countries in conflict, in a reconciliation process or at high risk of conflict.

In the face of the challenges confronting the United Nations, the Deputy Secretary General identified four sources of hope.

The first was sitting right in front of him. “You are the hope,” he said to the young people who had gathered to hear him speak.

He expressed his encouragement at the eagerness and capacity of new generations for positive change.

Women’s empowerment was the second reason why Eliasson expected the future to be brighter than today.

“This century… women will finally for the first time in history play the role that they deserve,” he said.

The advancement of science and technology and the promise of international institutions were his last two sources of hope.

The U.N.’s job, according to Eliasson, is to “make a little difference between the world as it is and the world as it should be. I won’t say that we can or should even try to close that gap, we won’t do that, but we should at least diminish that gap.”

Cecile Mazzacurati, Youth and Gender Policy Advisor at the U.N.’s Peacebuilding Support Office, also spoke at the event, directly addressing the topic of youth and peace.

Peace workers often think of young people as perpetrators or victims of violence instead of potential peacebuilders, she said.

“We tend to see… a large youth population as a potential threat and not as a resource and not a demographic dividend that we should build on.”

The Security Council has never addressed the nexus of youth, peace and security. However, Mazzacurati said that the Peacebuilding Support Office, along with civil society and NGOs, has created a set of guiding principles for youth participation in peacebuilding. She hoped that the topic would gain more prominence in the future.

UNAOC-EF Summer School participants asked the panellists a number of questions on topics such as violence against journalists, religious extremism, and how to get involved with the U.N., their curiosity and engagement further bolstering the panellists’ confidence in the new generation.

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