Report by Youth Advocacy Team (The UN system can produce results!)

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From the 1st till the 14th October 2005, seven youth peace activists participated in a lobby action, which was dedicated to the promotion of the Civil Society Mid-Decade Report on the Decade of a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence as well as having discussions with the UN-Member States about ways they can show their commitment towards the realization of a culture of peace and actions for the next 5 years of the decade.

The Participants

Under the coordination of Hilary Jeune, UNOY Peacebuilders, UK (center), the participants came from different parts of the world. Elvira Fundukova, NGO Commonwealth, Ukraine (left); Gert Danielsen from World Voices Norway, and a Rotary World Peace Fellow, Norway, Argentina (second); Anika May, UNOY Peacebuilders, Germany (third); Incia Zaffar, WFUNA, Canada/Pakistan (fifth); Loredana Orhei, GYAN intern, Romania (sixth); Josephina Lofgren, Life-Link Friendship Schools, Sweden (far right).

The Training

During the first two days the participants received intensive training in order to gain lobbying and advocacy skills especially relating to the UN system, taking advice from Alicia Cabezudo, Educating Cities, and Cora Weiss, Hague Appeal for Peace; learnt more about the history of a Culture of Peace from David Adams, Decade Office Fundacion Cultura de Paz the creator of the concept; and produced a strategy plan for the next two weeks, including information folders and letters for each country mission, media plan and specific people to talk to.

The Aim

From the third day onwards, the main goal was to contact as many Permanent Missions to the UN as possible, and to inform them about the Decade of a Culture of Peace in general, the Civil Society Mid-Decade report in particular, and to ask them for their support and commitment. Our requests were the following: We wanted to see the Civil Society Mid-Decade Report published as an official UN-document. We wanted as many countries as possible to make a statement on the 20th October 2005 in the General Assembly mid-decade evaluation session on behalf of the report. We wanted to convince as many missions as possible to co-sponsor the resolution. We wanted to submit an amendment to the draft resolution, emphasizing more civil society’s contribution to the decade and mentioning the civil society report. We wanted to discuss ways individual countries could support the decade’s next 5 years and in general a culture of peace.

The Two Weeks

In these two intensive weeks, about 700 phone calls were made, 100 Faxes sent, 48 representatives from the Permanent Missions to the UN were met and with another 69 Permanent Missions the youth were in contact via telephone, Fax or front office-conversations. In many cases, the youth were given an audience with the Ambassador. The youth were also able to have a meeting with Ambassador Mr. Anwarul Chowdury, Under-Secretary General for Least Developed, Landlocked and Small-Island developing States. A quick exchange with Jan Elliasson, Head of the General Assembly, meant several meetings with his office. The countries visited included Argentina, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Belarus, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Finland, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Iran, Italy, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Sweden, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, UK, Ukraine, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe.

During the public event, Youth in Action: Building Peace Together, 14th October 2005, the audience of around 60 people was told about the civil society report, hearing specific examples of organizations and individuals working towards a culture of peace. This event officially launched the report. The Ambassador Mr. Anwarul Chowdury (Under-Secretary General for Least Developed, Landlocked and Small-Island Developing States) and Ms. Cora Weiss (The Hague Appeal for Peace) addressed the audience by giving speeches that highlighted the importance and value of the achievements made by the youth team during the two weeks.

The Results

It is difficult to imagine, that a group of seven young people believing in the idea of a culture of peace have influence on the bureaucratic system of the UN. However, during the 20th October live-webcast of the General Assembly session, which was dedicated to the mid-term evaluation of the Decade, this became a reality.

The progress toward a culture of peace being achieved by civil society and their important role for the future was recognized by many of the speakers, and five speakers recognized, in particular, the Civil Society Report at the Midpoint of the Decade. Bangladesh, which takes responsibility for the annual culture of peace resolution, stated, "We are particularly thankful to the civil society. These include the NGOs and the young people. Their enthusiastic support to this cause has made a huge difference. Our special thanks go to the Fundación Cultura de Paz for their commendable work in compiling a report on the progress achieved by over 700 organizations from over 100 countries, including my own. We urge all of them to continue their good work."

The Civil Society Report was also recognized by the United Kingdom in their official statement on behalf of the European Union: "... the European Union welcomes the World Report on the Culture of Peace prepared by over 700 civil society organisations as an important contribution to assessing the review of progress made in the last five years." Similarly, Thailand stated, "... my delegation wishes to express our appreciation to the civil society for engaging so actively in promoting the Decade and the Global Agenda. My delegation welcomes the report on the contributions by almost 700 civil society organizations from over 100 countries as appeared in the annex of the UNESCO's report." Qatar and Fiji also mentioned the report.

The role of the Youth Advocacy Group, and of youth in general, was specifically commended. The European Union stated, "The European Union pays particular tribute to "The United Network of Young Peacebuilders", a global network of young people and youth organisations active in the field of peacebuilding. Their work is an example to us all, and evidence of the significant role that civil society can play in advancing a culture of peace." Similarly, Qatar stated, "We commend the many young people from different parts of the World who collectively contributed to the Mid Decade World Civil Society Report on a Culture of Peace."

The amendment the youth asked for in the draft-resolution was submitted and accepted.

6. Commends civil society, including non-governmental organizations and young people, for their activities in further promoting a culture of peace and non-violence, including through their campaign to raise awareness on a culture of peace, and takes note of the progress achieved by more than seven hundred organizations in more than one hundred countries.

The number of co-sponsoring countries to the resolution raised 66 from last year to 105 this year; among the new co-sponsors were many of those countries, which missions were visited! Bangladesh agreed to submit a letter to the Secretary General’s Office to make the civil society report into an official UN document.

The Evaluation

This is a true reason to celebrate, because it does not only show us as participants, that all financial and personal efforts were perfectly well invested, but also that committed people can still make a difference!

The European Union, for the first time since 1999, made steps towards acknowledging a culture of peace. This has opened up discussions to push for in the future a greater dialogue with them and a possibility for future co-sponsoring. As a UN document, the report will be translated into the 6 official UN languages, be widely distributed, have more impact, and be taken seriously.

The remaining task for the future is now to use this momentum and to develop strategies how to proceed. We agreed that our activities need a follow-up. We want to continue working on these issues, and even more we want to show the UN, that we are taking them and their promises serious and will have a strong eye on their activities during the remaining second half of the decade.

We had a number of strategy sessions in New York which will be documented and discussed. In general, however, we will try to build on the process that we did in New York, by having more such advocacy initiatives (say two weeks of training and action), in which some of those who have taken part in one initiative join in as trainers in the next.

We will do this again next October at the UN, but we also need to come up with similar initiatives elsewhere in the world. We see this as a process of developing leadership for the Global Movement, passing on the knowledge and experience from one generation to another.

We need to include more of a representation of youth from around the world and from different types of organizations working on a culture of peace. We see this as a weak point in this action mainly because funds, resources and visa issues, meant a geographical imbalance ensured. A lengthier process of choosing participants will be worked on for future initiatives.

This action has been a great success. It is a reason to believe in the power of civil society, in the power of the combined commitment and action of individuals everywhere in the world working towards the same goal: building sustainable peace by living and creating a culture of peace.