Youth Protagonists of Change
an article by Ana Afonso, CEIPES
Twenty-six young people from different European countries - Italy, Spain, Holland, Armenia, Estonia, Romania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Portugal – spend one week in Palermo to participate a youth leaders meeting aimed to the promotion of social change and the construction of a culture of Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights. This meeting was part of the Project “Youth Protagonists of Change”, coordinated by the CEIPES (International Center for the Promotion of Education and Development) with the financial support of the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe (the EYF this year celebrate its 40th anniversary - www.eyf.coe.int/).
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The meeting occurred for 7 days, from the 18th to the 25th of April, and had an agenda with lots of activities on learning skills in peace education and human rights education. The skills concerned conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, knowledge about Human Rights, the understanding of the mechanisms that leads to discrimination, the awareness about the role media play in society, gender awareness and some others. A fundamental part of the meeting was the work about the values and attitudes of openness to diversity, solidarity, active participation and critical thinking.
The project arose from the exigency of investing in training young people, helping them to acquire the necessary skills to build a better world. Looking around us reality appears characterized always by several serious problems, as poverty, discrimination, conflicts managed in a violent way, individualism. In this context, the role of youth is of fundamental importance as it will complement the role of the NGOs, other non-profit structures whether public or private, the governments and all the other social stakeholders that contribute to the promotion of cooperation and development.
Wrongly, young people are often described as lazy, non-active and without any interest or curiosity about the world around them. But in fact they are an essential resource and what they usually lack is the context, opportunities and instruments for participating that are multiple and cannot be reduced to the act of voting (in this regard please read the “Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life”, Council of Europe). In practice this means that young people don’t have the chance to learn how they can participate, they lack appropriate spaces and opportunities for discussion and especially there is a lack of trust on them! It’s exactly this that the project “Youth Protagonists of Change” wanted to offer: an opportunity to learn, discuss and participate, to grow personally.
Question(s) related to this article:
Is there a new international generation of human rights activism?,
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We live in an extremely violent world. States and transnational non-state actors use violence to achieve their political and strategic objectives, believing that use of violence is the most effective way to do so, notwithstanding that it does not work most of the time. Only the last decade (2001-2011) saw 9/11 terrorist attacks, a protracted and bloody war in Afghanistan, the American invasion of Iraq, Israeli aggression against Lebanon and Palestine, 7/7 bombing in London, terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 and so on. Literally hundreds of thousands of people died in these violent conflicts and terrorist attacks. For that matter, the 20th century was perhaps one of the most violent centuries in human history, witnessing two world wars responsible for the deaths of millions of people.
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