UN Youth Envoy & Young Leaders

On Thursday 20 May 2021, the UN Secretary Generals’ Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, held a unique meeting with 20 young people from across 10 local and regional organisations in Northern Ireland and the border regions.

Jayathma Wickramanayake

This was part of the new seminar series entitled Youth, Peace and Security Leadership Series.

In preparation for a public dialogue with the UN Secretary Generals’ Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, 10 youth organisations were consulted and detailed discussions took place. Here Elizabeth McArdle of Ulster University and Youth Pact who led the webinar with the Chair, captures the spirit of what was discussed and shares two padlets reflecting content put forward by the youth groups who took part. 

Young People as contributors to peace

Padlet. To view the details click this link.

Resolution 2250 recognises the contribution that young people make to peace and security locally and globally. Young leaders explained the work and roles they undertake to build grassroots communities and peace-building initiatives locally; from community gardens, to podcasts on mental health; from drumming workshops to recording My Story; from lobbying and campaigning to civic action and marches. 

To see the work and actions of this group of young leaders, click this link.

Young participants spoke about the building of tolerance within our society; with competing identities that need to find space to exist. Where tolerance is lacking, then violence spills over.  However, tolerance was viewed as a pitstop on the journey, with real acceptance and connection with other different people and cultures being part of a lasting peace.  

Issues of education were fore-fronted with the educational under-achievement of Protestant young people highlighted and access issues for young people with disabilities adding to issues of systemic inequality.  For these, young people called for greater engagement with the formal education structures and local politicians. 

Mental Health

This is a serious presenting issue, for the UN youth Envoy and for the young people locally.  Links were made between young people living in poverty and under pressures, and their experiences of mental health.  The pressures on young people and their access to mental health services has been exacerbated due to Covid-19.  Immediate investment is needed by governments to address these issues and give young people the support to recover from the educational and social isolation of the past year.  

Padlet. To see the details click here.

This is a snapshot of the discussion with the young people on 20th May 2021; with further discussions of the gendered nature of peace-building and conflict; the daily actions of bread-and-butter peace-building and the ‘silent pandemic of mental health’.  

To see more of the young people’s concerns, passions and actions, click here.

Youth, Peace & Security Leadership Series

This dialogue was part of the new seminar series entitled Youth, Peace and Security Leadership Series. The seminar series explores the positive contribution of youth to peace. Every 6-8 weeks, an online platform will be created for young leaders to share their experience from around the world.

The seminar series is a partnership between Ulster University (INCORE & TJI), The John and Pat Hume Foundation, John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, International Fund for Ireland (IFI), the Centre for Youth Research and Dialogue and Interpeace.

To review all posts about the series, click Categories, Events and “Youth Leadership Series” on right side bar.

Peace as Violence

On 10 March 2021 the Chair presented a paper at the “Understanding Violence Seminar Series” hosted by the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.

This talk explored how peace processes, and the aftermath, are experienced by survivors and former combatants. It argues that the change in context embodies a range of new forms of violence and harm for some. It draws on case studies of empirical research with former combatants and survivors in Northern Ireland and South Africa, as well the case of some Vietnam Veterans who formed part of a recent research project. It explores how a sequential understanding of trauma can help explain the challenge of reframing meaning away from violence once a formal peace has been established.

Celebrating Rights, Right to Celebrate

On the evening of 9 December 2020, the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) and her Youth Panel hosted a seminar to explore how the protections found within the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) can provide a framework for children and young people to confidently celebrate their identity and their culture in a non-conflictual way without threatening the identities and cultures of others.

Specifically, the event was a consultation and discussion aimed at assisting the Youth Panel to draw up a statement on how children’s rights can support children’s and young people’s expressions of identity and culture in a non-conflictual way. This is important in the context of the ‘Decade of Commemorations’ such as the Easter Rising and Battle of the Somme in 2016 and including the establishment of Northern Ireland as a state in 2021.

Professor Hamber was asked to address the group to help lay a foundation, along with other keynotes, for the group deliberations. In his input Professor Hamber reinforced the importance of young people’s participation in peace processes, and how research has routinely found young people feel excluded from mainstream peace processes. Professor Hamber made specific reference to United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2250 adopted in 9 December 2015. This resolution, deals with the role of young people in issues of peace and security. Most important this resolution points to the positive role young people can play in peace processes.

Building on the “The Missing Peace” report, which was commissioned by the Secretary-General and authored by Graeme Simpson, Professor Hamber made the point that we should look at young people as an asset in peace processes rather than treating them (and particularly young men) as a threat. When it comes to issues such as commemoration, the point is not to force certain understandings of history about the past on young people, but give them the freedom to express their views and ensure their voices are heard. We need to let young people interact with the past, that is “it’s not about educating or sharing parents’ views. We need to give space for young people to interrogate the past and interpret it through the lens of present”.

Memorialization as Truth-Telling

The sixth seminar in the Dealing with the Past series entitled “Memorialization as Truth-Telling: Lessons from the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation” was hosted online on 21 October 2020, 58 people attended.

The seminar was given by Sara Bradshaw, Program Director for Transitional Justice at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC). The seminar discussed the opportunities, challenges and best practices for local-level memorialization efforts to serve as truth-telling initiatives in the absence of formal truth commissions. The seminar used practical examples and case studies from the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GIJTR), a consortium of nine partners led by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. Lessons focused on cases in Colombia, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, The Gambia, and other conflict and post-conflict contexts. These explored how community-driven truth-telling initiatives can help ensure that all members of society, particularly marginalized groups such as women and minorities, are able to share their stories and contribute to sustainable peace.

The seminar is part of the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and INCORE, in partnership with Healing Through Remembering and the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, online seminar series.

Footsteps of the Disappeared

“Following the Footsteps of the Disappeared” is a two-day programme incorporating a textile display and 2 seminars to mark International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances 30 August 2020.

Photo credit: La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone, Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1989, Oshima Hakko Museum collection, Japan. Photographer Martin Melaugh, © Conflict Textiles

Programme of Events

Launch of “Following the Footsteps of the Disappeared”, 30 August 2020, 14:00pm for more information and/or register.

Seminar “Transnational Experiences of Enforced Disappearances”, 30 August 2020, 14:00pm for more information and/or register.

Seminar “The Search for the Disappeared: Textile and art expressions”, 30 August 2020, 16:00pm for more information and/or register.

Partners

“Following the Footsteps of the Disappeared” is a partnership between Conflict Textiles, the Ulster Museum and the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, Ulster University, and also the Transformative Memory Network.

Ulster University INCORE

Reconciliation: A Global Perspective

The fifth seminar in the Dealing with the Past series entitled “Reconciliation and Dealing with the Past: A global perspective” was hosted online on 28 July 2020, 55 people attended.

The seminar was given by Dr Fanie du Toit, Senior Research Fellow and Former Executive Director, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, South Africa & Technical Advisor (Community Dialogue), and part of the In Transformation Initiative, Myanmar. The seminar discussed three prominent conceptual models of reconciliation which have been used internationally as a guiding metaphor for political transition from war or oppression to something “new”. It included references to the South African, Iraqi and Myanmar cases, each of which continue to pose their unique challenges to prevailing theories on reconciliation. The seminar explored the idea of reconciliation as understood as a complex, ever-evolving form of inter-dependence.

The seminar is part of the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and INCORE, in partnership with Healing Through Remembering and the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, online seminar series. The seminar was chaired by Professor Brandon Hamber.

Gender, Truth-telling and Reform

DCAF (Geneva Centre for Security Sector Reform) with UN Women organised a panel discussion on integrating gender into truth-telling to create a platform for institutional reform on 23 July 2020. Seminar is now online.


Panel Members

  • Ibtihel Abdellatif, Chair of the Women’s Committee, Tunisia Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD)
  • Professor Brandon Hamber, John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), Ulster University
  • Farah Tanis, Executive Director, Black Women’s Blueprint (US), Commissioner BWB Truth Commission USA
  • Yasmin Sooka, Commissioner, UN CoHR on South Sudan and former Truth Commissioner for South Africa TRC, Sierra Leone TRC