Hello, my name is Nika and I am from Belarus. On May 23-24, six Young European Ambassadors including myself took part in the EU Conference on Youth, Peace and Security in Brussels which brought together more than 60 participants from Europe and Africa.
The purpose of this conference was to engage young leaders with senior experts and policymakers to discuss the role of young people in peace and security.
On the opening day, the main topic of discussion was the UN Security Council Resolution No. 2250 which notably provided young people with the right to take part in decision-making processes as a fundamental right.
The Conference was opened by Mr. Antonio Tanjani, President of the European Parliament, who gave an impassioned speech on the importance of youth in our times, emphasizing that young people are not the future, but the present. Therefore, young people like us should be active now rather than wait for years to pass by without taking decisive action. Mr. Tanjani also commented on European Parliament hearing with Mr. Marc Zuckerberg which took place a day prior to the Conference, pointing out that Mr. Zuckerberg is one of the leaders of our generation with great influence among youngsters.
It was an amazing feeling to understand that history was being made around us, right then and there!
The Conference continued with the following four panel discussions:
- Youth Inclusion for Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace (which the Young European Ambassadors attended)
- Young People Innovating for Peace
- Empowering Young People to Prevent/Counter Violent Extremism
- Protecting the Human Rights of Youth
The panel discussions were followed by an interactive dialogue with Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, in which participants reported on the key issues raised during the panel discussions.
The following day, the Conference came to an end with a closing session held by Ms. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission. It was a very conversational session. Ms. Mogherini followed the reports of the various EU-funded youth initiatives invited to the Conference (including that of the Young European Ambassadors), and then opened the floor for questions from the audience.
While many of the questions raised were difficult given that the issues discussed throughout the Conference were of complex nature and require both a long-term and cooperative solution, I was truly impressed by her answers.
Coming out of the Conference, my main takeaway is that true change must occur at the national level, as throughout the Conference I came to understand that young people in different countries do have different problems. Although international instruments such as Resolution No. 2250 have a significant importance and draw attention to youth issues, the actions should be taken at the national level due to the different nature of youth issues in various countries and regions.
Therefore, international organizations, policymakers of the high level, and young people should work together to help states discuss youth issues and to jointly develop effective youth policies based on cooperation with young people and youth participation in policy-making and peace-building.
I was really happy to be a part of such a bright event that is just one of the many opportunities for youth and peace promotion in Europe, and beyond. Below, I will share the insights into the Conference of my fellow Young European Ambassadors that attended the event with me:
David Androshchuk (YEA, Ukraine)
I hoped that this event would turn out to be the type of conference that provides participants with the opportunity not only to meet experts and professionals in their field, but also to share in best practices, knowledge, and to make international connections. Throughout the conference, I was proven right.
I had the chance to meet many young experts with whom I discussed ideas on how to further develop youth programmes and activities currently in place to have a greater impact on core problems of our generation in peace and security.
I believe that this conference helped me to not only develop my own knowledge but also to encourage EU policymakers to reflect on their problems and proposed solutions from different generational viewpoints.
Loredana Gamurari (YEA, Moldova)
Throughout the Conference, one notion was especially emphasized: young people are not the future, they are the present. For this reason, today’s youth must be included in the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security. Regardless of the various stereotypes applied to our generation today and in conjunction with the central promotion of this Conference, the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security highlighted that:
most young people, even in the face of legitimate social, political and economic grievances, remain peaceful
Therefore, youth inclusion is both helpful and necessary.
Overall, the talks and discussions that took place throughout the two days were interesting and empowering. I was left with the sense that, in order to achieve real and lasting change, we must aim for improving inclusion with every action we take and every change we make in every sector of human life. In order to promote sustainable peace, we must start with addressing and changing ourselves.
Levan Kutashvili (YEA, Georgia)
To me, discussing ideas, problems and solutions with policymakers is the most exciting opportunity for young peacebuilders.
This Conference was an important chance for me to discuss the subjects of peace and security. As a Georgian, I understand the value of peace and the cost of war; therefore, the promotion of peace is very important me. It was great conference and I intend to share the knowledge I have gained with any and all Georgians.
Luis Bekteshi (Albania)
In my opinion, the brightest and most youth-friendly event was the closing session with HR/VP Federica Mogherini.
Ani Khachatryan (YEA, Armenia)
The conference was a great opportunity for young people to come together and share their thoughts and recommendations on how to engage youngsters in peacebuilding. As EU HR/VP Mogherini said, youth participation is not just about ticking a box, but opening up spaces for meaningful policy discussions with young people. In my opinion, this conference was a vivid example of such interactions
Philipp Brugner (YEA, Austria)
It was both an honour to have been invited to such a high-level conference as well as a personal reward, testament to my long-standing engagement within the Eastern Partnership.
The conference in question, the EU Conference on Youth, Peace and Security, took place in Brussels on 23-24 May. During this conference, a personal highlight was being part of a panel with HR/VP Federica Mogherini and to personally debrief her on the topic of innovations, youth and security. It is an experience I will never forget.
As Young European Ambassadors, our focus tends to lie on EU-Eastern Partnership relations which made it extremely interesting to learn about what happens in the EU's southern and south-eastern neighbourhood as well. In my opinion, the EU’s youth networks that extend into these regions are the perfect means to share our European values with local societies.
I was particularly proud to see how far the passion for the European project has already spread geographically.
Veronika Pavlovskaya, Belarus