If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in your room.
– Dalai Lama

Mobilisation is not useless, and it is important. We can change the world, we can build peace, we can build a better future.

by Marie Cucurella, coordinator of the Young WILPF Network

At the end of September 2016, the 4-day long conference “Disarm! For a Climate of Peace”, organised by the International Peace Bureau (IPB) and co-sponsored by WILPF, was held in Berlin. Speakers and participants came from all around the world to discuss how to build a world without violence, arms, inequality and discrimination. Many enlightened and enlightening people had chosen to travel to Berlin. The conference was inclusive, in terms of origins as much as in terms of gender. Although, one category was still missing. Guess who? The young activists.

The importance of youth inclusion and participation

Youth inclusion and participation are important. Education is also crucial, and more specifically, non-formal education. How can you pave the way for peace without including and educating young people? It seems hard to do so.

Therefore, prior to and parallel with the Congress, a youth gathering was organised. The aim was to bring a youth perspective to the Congress, but mainly to establish a network of committed young persons working for peace.

The structure of the encounter focused on team building and non-formal education activities: games that actually fostered discussion and debate, but also intercultural learning. While the official Congress was quite formal – built on a classic structure – the youth gathering fostered exchange and communication, and helped to find the tools to take practical steps in our day-to-day life. It also provided a safe space for everyone to express their views and share their experiences.

Participants of the youth gathering wrote a declaration, stating their claims, and the next steps to be taken by and for the youth. They are now willing to spread it as widely as possible, in order to facilitate more international exchange, action and discussion.

Young WILPF at the youth gathering
Photo of a group of participants

Credit: Lucas Wirl

A few members of Young WILPF were present and contributed to the meeting. They also seized this opportunity to meet and brainstorm on Young WILPF future activities, how to get new members and have a really dynamic network. The answers they came up with included: personal communication, development of a webpage on youth and peace activism, hosting of webinars … All of this to come soon!

Most of all, the aim of this youth gathering was to build a platform of communication among young people. It is about building peace and solidarity at one’s own level, by tiny steps and moves.

Now that the youth platform has been created, some of the members of the youth gathering that met in Berlin have decided to continue working together. Young WILPF, together with other organisations, have big projects to come, starting with a World Youth Congress to take place in 2018. The main theme would still be peacebuilding, but this time, the youth would be perfectly included – both in the organisation of and participation in the Congress – so that no external youth gathering would be needed.

After all, inclusion of the youth is a critical aim that all spheres of society should aspire to, from civil society to employment.