Peaceful Change initiative, through the Social Peace and Local Development Programme has launched ‘Bader’, a social media youth campaign to strengthen the role of young Libyans as peace actors. Through amplifying the voices and experiences of young peacebuilders and civil society activists, Bader aims to inspire young people to take action and engage in peace, social cohesion, gender equality and social inclusion initiatives in their own communities.
The campaign will use social media to connect young peace leaders from across the country and facilitate knowledge and learning exchanges. This will support the strengthening of existing youth networks, as well as building new relationships among peace leaders with diverse experiences and backgrounds, challenging divisive narratives through meaningful interactions around peace and youth issues. The young leaders are being encouraged to tell their peace initiative stories and through the campaign, three of the participants will be awarded a grant to fund a new initiative. Please visit https://www.facebook.com/bader.libya.pci
After 7 years of civil war, Syrians on different sides of the conflict are deeply mistrustful of each other and can be afraid to meet. Peaceful Change initiative worked to bridge this trust gap by convening a group of 12 young people from politically diverse areas at a dialogue forum outside Beirut, Lebanon. It provided the opportunity to build bridges and share perspectives, whilst developing a genuine respect for ‘the other’. Trust and confidence was slowly built.
Nadia is a 27 year old graduate in Civil Engineering from Aleppo. She said: ‘The different realities I heard during the dialogue forum helped me to break down the stereotypes I had formed about people during the war because I lacked access to information. I listened to how it was for other young people to exist during the war and it has been helpful for me to know about their lives.’
The dialogue forum also provided an opportunity for the young people to learn about peacebuilding and concepts such as human rights, conflict and violence. The facilitators led a guided discussion on economic and social violence (visible and invisible) that need to be addressed in order to bring conflict to an end.
Khalid is a 19 year old student from Homs, the third largest city in Syria, who implemented civil society activities in his locality. He said: ‘It was helpful to learn about peacebuilding concepts as they underpin my work as a civil society activist. I want to empower myself and understand actions that respect human rights and non-violence.’
Rabha is a member of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership and an important role model for women in her community. With support from Peaceful Change initiative, Rabha implemented a successful women’s literacy project, teaching local women to read and write for the first time. The Department of Education decided to fully fund the school and to expand the initiative to neighbouring towns.
Tulmaitha is a quiet town situated along the east coast of Libya, often overlooked by development projects. It has suffered conflict, as well as political, economic and social upheaval. Rabha explains that the lack of opportunities for women in the town have led to their marginalisation and women struggle on many levels. She said: “I had the opportunity to finish my university studies at Benghazi University in Al-Marj and this has enriched my life but I always thought about those women who have not had the same opportunities.”
This women’s literacy project highlights that in a context where conservative social norms are an obstacle to women’s participation in decision-making processes and broader inclusion in public spheres, women’s meaningful participation is possible.
In towns and cities across Libya, the youth are extremely vulnerable as it is difficult for them to find meaningful employment, leaving them with a lot of free time. In Libya’s fragile and challenging context, this precarious situation can further fuel the flames of conflict, as the youth seek alternative opportunities, which can include joining a militia or becoming involved in criminal activities.
The Social Peace and Local Development grants support and encourage citizens and particularly youth, to be actively engaged and participate in their local community affairs. The grants are distributed through the Social Peace Partnerships in Libya, with support from Peaceful Change initiative. The grants have the potential to develop and mature, with some of the projects succeeding in independently securing funding and support.
Tulmaitha is a village situated in eastern Libya, over 100 kilometres east of Benghazi and forms a part of the Al Sahel Municipality, known for its beautiful and expansive beaches. An important part of Libyan culture is going to the beach to socialise with friends and swimming lessons are included in the school curriculum.
Prior to 2017, the Alsahel Municipality was unable to provide a life guard service, while sea rescue centres in the area were neglected. This created tensions, due to a large number of drowning incidents and children were particularly vulnerable because of strong undercurrents.
Hamad is 31 years old and born in Tulmaitha. He is a former combatant and after 2011 returned to his hometown but could not find work. When the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership opened up a Youth Grant opportunity in 2017, Hamad and his brother submitted a proposal to establish a volunteer Sea Rescue Centre. This was approved by the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership and Hamad was responsible for training 20 young people from the area to be life guards, as well as managing the use of a fully equipped boat, new diving suits and first aid equipment. During their first season between June and September 2017, the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre saved over 50 lives.
As a grant winner Hamad was invited to join the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership, he said: “Upon becoming a member of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership, I felt a sense of belonging to my community; being able to help people on a daily basis has made me a new person.”
The presence of the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre encouraged more people to visit the beach, as they felt safer – which was also good for local business. Over several months, the service provided by the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre became popular with residents and especially families, as well as the Municipality.
As the youth grant came to an end, Hamad and his team felt inspired and encouraged by their work. In late 2017, they produced a short video to raise more funds to ensure the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre was able to operate during the next beach season. In early 2018 the Alsahel Municipal Council officially accredited the Centre and listed it as an official partner, with the Municipality providing technical and financial support.
Official launch of volunteer Sea Rescue Centre with Municipal Council Representatives
Peaceful Change initiative worked with an Armenian NGO, Youth Cooperation Centre of Dilijan (YCCD), to promote youth participation in decision making related to peace and governance issues. This supports UNSCR 2250, which urges governments to include youth participation in local, national, and international institutions, in efforts to end conflict.
15 young activists from Yerevan, Tavush, Shirak, Lori, Kotayk and Ararat regions participated in the six-day training held in Dilijan in August 2019. They were equipped with the skills to become ‘trainers’ and take their skills back into their communities, to work with other young people to engage them in peace and governance issues.
The training was structured around a Training Manual that had been developed with support from PCi. It sought to improve understanding, among the youth, of peace and peacebuilding in Armenia, and explained the basics of conflict transformation.
Arman, a 28-yearold civil society activist, said: “It was useful to know that peace is not just a general term and that it can be used in both a positive and negative way.” It also sought to develop communication skills that support non-violent dialogue and outlined approaches and tools that support the development of action plans for youth engagement in governance in Armenia.
Following the training, Marika, a 26-year-old teacher, said: “Now I am ready to go back to school and to work with the new materials, the Training Manual will be very helpful!”
From 11-15 July 2018 in the Georgian city of Kobuleti, PCi’s Programme Adviser Artak Ayunts conducted a training for young leaders from across the South Caucasus titled ‘Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding’. The training was part of a larger project, ‘Youth for Peace in the South Caucasus’, which aims to build trust among young activists from different parts of the region, who will work at peace camps in Armenia and Georgia for teenagers with mixed nationalities.
The training was organised with the support of the international non-governmental organisation HEKS-EPER and several NGOs from across the South Caucasus region: Syunik Development NGO; Regional Network of Peace and Reintegration; Lazarus Charity Foundation of the Patriarchate of Georgia; and The Union of Azerbaijani Women of Georgia.
Within the Alternotion project – which aims to create an online platform of cross-border storytelling on the cultural similarities of Armenians and Azerbaijanis – PCi’s Programme Adviser Artak Ayunts conducted training for young bloggers and vloggers from Armenia on conflict transformation and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (3 February 2019). The training was part of an EU-funded PeaCE project (Peacebuilding through Capacity Enhancement and Civic Engagement), implemented by Eurasia Partnership Foundation, aiming to encourage young Armenians and Azerbaijanis from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh to develop a shared vision for peace in the region through learning conflict transformation and peacebuilding methodologies.
In April 2019, PCi commenced work on a 12-month project funded by the UK Government and within the framework of UNSCR 2250 on youth, peace and security. The first component involves research into youth involvement in the violence-free revolution that led to a change in government in 2018. Workshops will then be convened for Armenian civil society organisations focusing on peacebuilding to discuss the research findings and develop recommendations, and it is envisaged that organisations will work collaboratively to advocate for the recommendations. The project aims to have the recommendations included in the government’s official Youth Policy. The second component will develop educational materials to build young people’s awareness of peace and security issues in Armenia and increase knowledge of peacebuilding activities. Materials will be piloted among youth directly affected by conflict in the province of Tavush in the north east of Armenia.
Peaceful Change initiative and the Youth Cooperation Center of Dilijan (YCCD) hosted a roundtable event on Youth Policy issues in Armenia (October 2019) in Yerevan. This is a component of the project ‘Progressing Youth Participation in Armenia on Governance and Peace’. Participants included officials from the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport (MESCS) responsible for the development of Youth Policy in Armenia, representatives from civil society and youth organisations, active youth workers, and young men and women interested in the issue. The discussions were focused on topics which produced suggested recommendations and messages. PCi and YCCD will work with civil society and government to raise awareness of these recommendations/messages, to promote inclusive and participatory processes in the development of Youth Policy in Armenia.
Peaceful Change initiative accompanied leaders of youth organisations, government representatives and members of the Armenian National Assembly on a visit to Scotland from 18-22 November 2019. The delegation met with Scottish youth leaders, government officials, business leaders and academics, gaining insight into how they might strengthen the ability of young people to participate in decision making at different levels on their return to Armenia. Highlights included meetings with Members of the Scottish Parliament (Edinburgh), the Scottish Youth Parliament (Dundee) and youth working alongside police officers at the ‘Community Safety Hub’ in Dundee.
Artur Ghazaryan from the Youth Cooperation Centre of Dilijan, and PCi’s Armenian project partner, said: “This has been a great experience … young people [in Scotland] are involved in different channels, such as the Youth Parliament, the local council and other informal initiatives and are educated to be civic-minded so they can contribute to political and economic affairs and other areas of life. This is a great example and when we return to Armenia we can seek to try and adopt and improve youth representation in different sectors of life as well.”