January 2010 Contents Featured Events January 24-29 - The Hague International Model United Nations Youth Network - The Hague, Netherlands March 24-27 - 21st Annual National Service Learning Conference - San Jose, CA
• Youth Service as a Strategy for Peace-Building and Post-Conflict Recovery • African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC) - Youth for Peace and Development • Afghanistan – A Country Looking Toward Service for Peace-Building • Reintegration of Youth in Post-Conflict Ivory Coast • Service and Peace-Building in Higher Education: Peace-Building and PostConflict Recovery at Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut • Service and Peace-Building in Higher Education: Youth Civic Engagement Activities in Higher Education in Post-Conflict Rwanda • The Shinnyo-en Foundation’s “Six Million Paths to Peace” Initiative
April 22 - Earth Day – Worldwide April 23-25 - Global Youth Service Day – Worldwide June 13-19 - 5th Global Youth Employment Summit - Dalarna, Sweden July 7-10 - International Society for Third-Sector Research 9th International Conference - Istanbul, Turkey July 31-August 13 - 5th World Youth Congress Istanbul, Turkey
Connect with ICP • Visit our website for up-to-date news on youth service worldwide • Read our blog • Follow us on Twitter
Note from Susan Stroud, ICP Executive Director In 2007, ICP published an issue of our Service as a Strategy series that examined the potential for engaging young people in post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Then, as now, we argue that young people are a powerful resource for rebuilding their communities following the cessation of conflict and in peace building efforts. Structured service opportunities represent a unique venue for reintegrating young people in war-torn communities, and for teaching them valuable educational and employment skills that they are too often deprived of learning due to the disruption of conflict settings. For this newsletter, we have built on the case studies in the 2007 Service as a Strategy: Post-Conflict Reconstruction report to examine peace-building and post-conflict youth service efforts by the African Union and in Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Lebanon, and Rwanda, and we share our conversations with experts in the field in these areas. We also highlight the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s “Six Billion Pathways to Peace” initiative, which, in keeping with the foundation’s mission to support educational opportunities that engage young people in meaningful and inspiring service activities, encourages individuals to build more peaceful and responsible communities by identifying ways in which they can serve as agents of peace. The historical record shows that when post-conflict societies fail to reintegrate young people, many of whom have witnessed violence, displacement, loss of family members and neighbors, and disruption of education and employment, there is an increased risk of resumed conflict. Service provides a way for governments, NGOs, and international agencies to tap into the potential of young people as positive, active participants in the peace-building process, and as agents for safe-guarding and sustaining development and peace efforts long after conflict has ceased. I would welcome your comments and any additional information about programs or resources specifically designed for addressing the issue of young people’s role in reconstruction and reconciliation through service.
January 2010 Youth Service as a Strategy for Peace-Building and Post-Conflict Recovery By Colleen Hammelman, ICP Program Associate, and Veronika Schlecht, ICP Program Assistant In 2007, ICP published a Service as a Strategy paper outlining how and why youth service can be used as a strategy for post-conflict resolution. Since that time, a growing momentum for national service has resulted in more governments looking to engage young people in the development and rebuilding of communities through national service. Violent conflict rages throughout many parts of the world and young people are often at risk of being inculcated into the violence as child and young soldiers or as victims of the violence. Young people may experience conflict as laborers in military camps, civilians living amidst the violence, refugees or internally displaced persons without the safety of a home. At the same time, young people are critical to the peace-building and reconstruction processes. In many countries experiencing conflict or rebuilding after conflict, young people represent a majority of the population (for example, following the conflict in the Balkans as much as 50% of the population in Kosovo was under 20, in Gaza and the West Bank, over 50% of the population is under 15, etc), they can be the primary actors in grassroots efforts at peace-building, and have the creativity and enthusiasm to positively rebuild society in innovative ways. Young people must be involved in developing peace-building initiatives, creating new economic opportunities and reconciliation between communities. Youth service has been successfully implemented as a strategy for addressing unemployment, promoting democracy, or strengthening bonds within and between communities. In post-conflict settings, where many youth and their communities face a loss of social and human capital, sporadic violence, inter-group hostility, and shattered infrastructure; well-designed and context-sensitive youth service programs have enormous potential to mitigate these impacts. Youth affected by conflict are often confronted with little economic incentives, unemployment, scarce opportunities in education and vocational training, and exclusion from social and political life that can lead to new conflicts and violence. The UN Secretary General underlined in his progress report on the well-being of youth and their role in civil society the “need to go beyond reintegration in post-conflict areas.” Youth service programs have the potential to provide long-lasting benefits to individuals and communities. Well designed programs can actively involve young people to meet their specific needs and strengthen the whole community by harnessing young people’s potential for community development, post-conflict recovery, peace building and conflict resolution. Actors throughout society can promote further investment in youth service as a strategy for post-conflict reconstruction. Non-governmental organizations can work with young people and community members to identify needs and design community-based programs engaging young people in addressing those needs while also reintegrating them into society. Governments can harness the potential of young people through national youth service programs as part of peace-building and reconstruction agendas. As many of the examples in this newsletter demonstrate, these programs can be wide-spread and contribute to engaging young people in addressing many rebuilding needs. International organizations and agencies can support governments in these efforts, support information-gathering and sharing of effective practice across borders and create a framework for rigorous impact assessment to determine which programs have the greatest impact. All of these sectors should work together to effectively engage young people in national service for peace-building and post-conflict recovery. Several initiatives are being developed and implemented throughout the world to use youth service as a strategy to equip young people with life skills that can contribute to peace-building and post conflict recovery by stimulating their self-esteem and responsibility for their own future and their community. In this newsletter, some of the initiatives are addressed more in depth. For additional information, please see ICP’s 2007 publication, Service as a Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction.
African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC) – Youth for Peace and Development In May 2009, stakeholders came together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss the establishment of an African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC). Its main goal is to contribute to Africa's human development through effective youth participation in Africa’s development process and to promote youth leadership in order to direct youth energy and creativity into peace building, integration and development actions. The African Union (AU) declared the years 2009-2019 as the decade of youth development in Africa. The decade was announced in January 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, within the context of facilitating implementation of the African Youth Charter. The Charter serves as the AU’s basic legal instrument for youth empowerment and provides a framework for youth development programming across the member states. The decade is an opportunity to further the agenda of youth development in all member states of the AU to ensure investment in youth development programs and increased support to the design and implementation of national youth policies and programs. The AUYVC aims to reaffirm Africa’s commitment to realize the African Youth Charter as an instrument to stimulate youth participation as a key value to advance sustainable human development in Africa. The AUYVC program will draw from the already established database of youth experts with competencies in areas like education, gender and development, social development issues, post conflict reconstruction activities and peace building, and health and population. Young people will be engaged in various fields like environment, education or health depending on the needs of the respective AU member state. ECOWAS, a regional entity recognized by the AU will start piloting its volunteer program, as part of its conflict prevention framework, in Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone in February 2010 and with the support of UNV the program will be ultimately scaled up to all AU member countries. ICP recently interviewed Mr. Robert Toe, UNV Program Specialist for the Africa Region, to provide us an update on newest developments in establishing the AUYVC. ICP: Can you please tell us more about the current status of plans developing an African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC)? Is there any work in progress after releasing the project proposal? Robert Toe: First of all, the African Union has decided to have an African Union Volunteer program and youth volunteering will be part of it. Currently UNV is helping to mobilize resources to set up a small team within the AU Department in charge of the volunteer program. This team will help kick start the process. ICP: What is the exact role of the African Union and ECOWAS in planning an AUYVC? Robert Toe: ECOWAS is a regional entity that is recognized by the African Union. ECOWAS is more advanced with the development of its volunteer program. The launching is officially scheduled for February 2010 in Liberia. Some of the lessons learned from the design of the ECOWAS volunteer program were taken into account during the design stage of the AU volunteer program. One idea discussed during the meeting in Addis in April and May is that the regional entities such as ECOWAS, SADC, etc., will be the regional management structures of the AU volunteer program. ICP: In which countries or regions an AUYVC could be implemented? Robert Toe: No decision has been made so far on the countries that will be concerned by the pilot stage. During the scaling up stage, the program will progressively be extended to all countries. In any case, even during the pilot phase, the volunteers will be recruited from all AU members. For ECOWAS four pilot countries have been identified: Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Volunteers will come from all 15 countries of ECOWAS. (cont. next page)
January 2010 African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC) – Youth for Peace and Development ICP: In which areas would young people be engaged in voluntary work and what would be the expected outcome of introducing such a service scheme in Africa? Robert Toe: Some identified areas include environment, health, education, reconstruction, disaster management, but this list is not exhaustive as the program would like to respond to the needs of the AU member states. For ECOWAS, even though the focus is on peace building and the promotion of a culture of peace (supported by UNESCO), reconstruction activities supported by funds for community initiatives will be managed by UNHCHR. ICP: What is planned in terms of enhancing youth civic engagement and harnessing young people’s potential as peace builders? Robert Toe: The mere exchange of volunteers among countries has been highlighted as one way to contribute to peace building. During the development of the ECOWAS volunteer program, a workshop was organized with representatives from the national youth councils (or similar recognized youth organizations) to validate the project concept paper. These councils will also make sure that youths participate in these programs. ICP: What are the major constraints the planning or future implementation process of an AUYVC could face? Robert Toe: One major constraint now is the lack of human resources within the Department in charge of the AU volunteer program. That is why UNV is trying to solve this problem, while more sustainability is sought. Funds might be at a later stage another challenge. Finally, bureaucracy and lengthy internal validation processes might delay launching the program. ICP: In which areas would young people be engaged in voluntary work and what would be the expected outcome of introducing such a service scheme in Africa? Robert Toe: Some identified areas include environment, health, education, reconstruction, disaster management, but this list is not exhaustive as the program would like to respond to the needs of the AU member states. For ECOWAS, even though the focus is on peace building and the promotion of a culture of peace (supported by UNESCO), reconstruction activities supported by funds for community initiatives will be managed by UNHCHR. ICP: What is planned in terms of enhancing youth civic engagement and harnessing young people’s potential as peace builders? Robert Toe: The mere exchange of volunteers among countries has been highlighted as one way to contribute to peace building. During the development of the ECOWAS volunteer program, a workshop was organized with representatives from the national youth councils (or similar recognized youth organizations) to validate the project concept paper. These councils will also make sure that youths participate in these programs. ICP: What are the major constraints the planning or future implementation process of an AUYVC could face? Robert Toe: One major constraint now is the lack of human resources within the Department in charge of the AU volunteer program. That is why UNV is trying to solve this problem, while more sustainability is sought. Funds might be at a later stage another challenge. Finally, bureaucracy and lengthy internal validation processes might delay launching the program.
January 2010 Afghanistan – A Country Looking Toward Service for Peace-building The Joint National Youth Program (JNYP), signed in 2006 between eight government ministries in association with UN agencies focused, along with three other major components, on “promoting volunteerism for peace and development and establishing a youth volunteer corps for Afghanistan.” The establishment of a National Youth Volunteer Service (NYVS) aim at increasing the participation of young people in the national recovery, development and peace-building process in Afghanistan, while enhancing capacities, education and employment opportunities for young men and women. The NYVS was originally scheduled to be launched in 2009 to contribute to the national peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Around 68% of Afghanistan’s population is under 25 years old. Young people with their social, economic and intellectual capabilities are the future of Afghanistan and represent an important factor in moving forward the peace and reconciliation process toward democracy, good governance, economic growth and development. Afghanistan realized the need of utilizing this enormous potential of its youth to create a foundation on which the ongoing nation-building process can take roots and peace efforts can flourish. Aware of the tremendous potential of youth and identifying them as “a crosscutting issue for all governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations” in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), eight government ministries in association with UN agencies signed the Joint National Youth Program (JNYP) at the end of 2006. While the conflict in Afghanistan is still ongoing the country is looking toward NYVS forpeace-building. ICP interviewed Mr. Zardasht Shams, Director of the Department of Planning and External Affairs at the Ministry of Information and Culture, Afghanistan to receive more information on the current implementation status of the NYVS and its way forward. ICP: Can you please tell us more about the implementation status of the “National Youth Volunteer Service” (NYVS) that was launched in 2009 as part of the Joint National Youth Programme (JNYP)? Is the NYVS still in its piloting phase or ready to be implemented nationwide? Mr. Shams: The National Youth Volunteer Service (NYVS) is yet to start nationwide. Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs (DMoYA) and Ministry of Information and Culture are gearing up to launch the service based on a feasibility study conducted by UNICEF Afghanistan. The comprehensive proposal submitted to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) is about to be approved and funds for the service will be received by the DMoYA. The establishment of a Youth Volunteer Corps is also a part of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) 2009-2013 and the delay is due to efforts to align the service with the goals fixed in the ANDS. ICP: How will the Government of Afghanistan work to establish the NYVS? Mr. Shams: The first phase of the Joint National Youth Programme (JNYP) is over and the next phase will take some time to start, so the NYVS will start with the support of the government. This will ensure ownership of the government and help build the capacity of the government to start new youth initiatives based on that experience. However, when the second phase of the JNYP will start, both programmes will work in synergy to double the impact. (cont. next page)
January 2010 Afghanistan – A country is looking toward service for peace-building ICP: What are the main fields in which young people will be engaged in voluntary work? Mr. Shams: A number of programmatic areas shall be incorporated into the volunteer services program. These will include education, health, human and Islamic rights, and agriculture apart from gender, anti-corruption, counter-narcotics, environment and regional cooperation. ICP: How will you select volunteers and will you recruit them mainly from rural or urban areas? Mr. Shams: The NYVS will be established at the district level in each province. The coverage of this program will be in all 34 provinces. The number of districts covered will be increased every year starting with five districts in its first year, then six districts in the second year and seven districts in the third year. The goal would be to cover every district and all villages in Afghanistan so that the benefits of this program can reach everywhere and the youth of Afghanistan are trained to volunteer with regards to the reconstruction efforts of the government. The main target should remain rural areas since there are fewer opportunities available for young people, while offering a safety net for the young people in terms of resources and support. Young people between 15 and 25 years of age will be targeted to participate in that program irrespective of whether they attend school or not. ICP: What issues will the NYVS aim to address? Will the NYVS contribute to peace-building and national reconciliation? Mr. Shams: Volunteerism will help channel the positive energy of youth into constructive work and at the same time will help the overall community development. The efforts of volunteerism in the programmatic areas mentioned above will contribute to the development of Afghanistan and youth will not only be informed about issues of social menace such as corruption, drug abuse, environmental degradation, etc., but they will also learn how to fight against those to free the society at the grassroots level. This will bring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. ICP: What are the major issues challenging the successful implementation of a NYVS in Afghanistan? Mr. Shams: The nationwide implementation of the NYVS has yet to start. The funding is a major challenge in the implementation of the NYVS apart from capacity.
Read the detailed country profile on youth service in Afghanistan
Read the December 2008 Service News Worldwide article on Afghanistan
View ICP’s video of an interview with Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Zaher Gauss (in French)
Reintegration of Young People in Post-conflict Ivory Coast Financed by the Government of Norway, UNDP provided technical and administrative support implementing a socio-economic pilot project to reintegrate young people in post-conflict Ivory Coast in August 2007. The project provides young men and women with orientation, professional training, support to self-employment through income-generating activities, and promotes socio-economic insertion and social cohesion of conflict affected young people through civic education and sensitization sessions in their communities. Within the framework of the reinforcement of social cohesion, the project also supports community as well as micro projects and the creation of employment networks within communities. The project actively promotes volunteer activities as an important contribution to the national economic growth and the peaceful development of the country. Project participants receive a professional training that build their knowledgebase and enables them to start their own business after its completion. The project, designed to help young people at risk, has successfully engaged more than 2,200 young people since its inception in 2007. The pilot project is currently in its completion phase and an in-depth evaluation will be conducted in the upcoming months to assess the outcomes of the project. A meeting with local stakeholders and government officials will soon be held to discuss how the pilot project could be scaled up as a national program administered by the Ivorian government. ICP interviewed Benjamin Olagboye, UNDP reintegration expert, to provide us more details on the project. ICP: Is the project open to every young person or only to specific groups in particular? Mr. Olagboye: This project targets young people between 18 to 35 years who are affected by the conflict and who did not actively participate in it. It also targets young people at risk to make them less vulnerable to the recruitment attempts of armed groups or militia. However, this project pays special attention to the most vulnerable community members like women and handicapped people. ICP: What are the most important skills participants are gaining? Mr. Olagboye: The project participants benefit from receiving a professional training that enables them to increase their knowledgebase and work capacity to carry on their activities after completion. Moreover, after completing the training they are able to launch their own business and contribute to the economic recovery in their country. In addition, the project aims at stimulating the concept of social cohesion and good citizenship to strengthen peace within families and communities. ICP: Why are employment programs so important with regards to post conflict recovery? Mr. Olagboye: Programs concerning employment are crucial for post-conflict settings because they can successfully engage young people in meaningful activities, create opportunities and significantly reduce hostilities related to unemployment that can cause conflict. Indeed, the high youth unemployment rate contributes to young people enlisting in armed groups or armed forces and constitutes a danger toward successful post-conflict recovery and a durable peace. ICP: What was the reason to create this kind of socio-economic reintegration project? Did it achieve those objectives? Mr. Olagboye: According to the general census of the population of 1998 the population in Ivory Coast is mainly comprised of young people; 43.5% of the population is younger than 15 years and 36.4% is between 15 and 34 years old. This large group constitutes a major asset for the growth and development of the country. However, since the crisis in Ivory Coast occurred in September 2002, a dramatically increased youth unemployment rate that rose from 19.3% in 2002 to 31% in 2003 weakened the national development. (cont. next page)
January 2010 Reintegration of young people in post-conflict Ivory Coast Struck hard by the effects of the crisis that could be summarized as “exacerbation of unemployment”, these young people were since then unable to take part in the social, political and economic rectification of the Ivory Coast that is in process since the peace Agreement of Ouagadougou was signed in 2007. In order to reinvigorate the youthful population of the Ivory Coast and to enable them to become agents of economic development, UNDP with the financing of the Government of Norway, set up a pilot project to support a durable socioeconomic reintegration of young people in Ivory Coast. ICP: How would you describe the implementation process of the project and have there been some challenges? Mr. Olagboye: A national expert was recruited for this project who worked under the supervision of the adviser to the program in charge of the youth and post-conflict unit of UNDP. In addition, local focal points were set up in communities to provide assistance to the project coordination so that corrective measures could have been taken swiftly without any delay. The challenges we faced where two: First, at the local level most communities did not have local development plans in place for registering and prioritizing problems with regards to the social and economic insertion of young people within their communities. This caused problems regarding project coherence and generating synergies of action. The second concern was the lack of technical capacities that challenged the perpetuation of activities. ICP: Can you please highlight some achievements or positive impacts of the project? Mr. Olagboye: This project allowed the socio-economic insertion of more than 2,000 young people as well as the reinforcement of technical capabilities of these young people who were seeking employment. This project also created a model of device and insertion for communities that can be used as a lever of development in the respective areas. ICP: What other type of government-led youth projects could be important for Côte d’Ivoire? What do you want to see successfully implemented in the future years? Mr. Olagboye: It is important that after the pilot phase the UN in cooperation with the Government of Ivory Coast will continue working on engaging young people to sustain peace and to make youth development a national priority in Ivory Coast by drafting a decennial or quinquennial national strategy. The project could be continued if the Government of Ivory Coast will provide support and capacity to implement the project nationwide.
January 2010 Service and Peace-Building in Higher Education By John Pollock, Talloires Network Program Assistant and Veronika Schlecht, ICP Program Assistant There is growing interest around the world in the potential for using youth service and civic engagement in higher education as a tool for post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. Service programs not only help meet the material needs of a post-conflict society (housing, health care, education, etc.), they also help rebuild social cohesion and solidarity. Young people from different ethnic or sectarian groups work together and serve diverse communities. In so doing they help repair the fabric of society and reduce the likelihood of future strife. Higher education can play an important role in engaging students in meaningful activities towards national reconciliation and peace building and instilling a sense for solidarity and social responsibility by actively support youth civic engagement activities on universities. Two places where the efficacy of higher education and civic engagement in post-conflict settings is being demonstrated are Rwanda and Lebanon.
Peace-Building and Post-Conflict Recovery at Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut Université Saint-Joseph (USJ), a private university founded in 1875, is a Talloires Network member and associated with universities around the globe. The university responded to conflict in Lebanon in 2006 with an emergency call that mobilized students, staff and alumni to take action to help people affected by the conflict. “Operation 7th day” was launched to engage students, gathered around seven cells that divided students by academic background, to promote social action, citizenship, human rights and reconstruction. After the conflict “Operation 7th day” was institutionalized and become the civic engagement program of the university dedicated to social engagement and socio-economic development in Lebanon. While Lebanon is ethnically and religiously diverse, “Operation 7th day” aims at overcoming sectarian divisions. USJ is following a multi-cultural and multi-confessional approach that acknowledges the ethnic diversity of Lebanon and strengthens solidarity with communities through students from all backgrounds by demonstrating social action wherever needed. “Living in an ethnically and religiously diverse nation made our civic engagement activity a reality of citizenship, a concern of humanity and a reason to create a civic engagement program,” Ms. Abdo said. ICP interviewed Gloria Abdo, Social Administrator at USJ to learn more about the university’s work toward peace-building and development. ICP: Lebanon has experienced civil war and foreign invasions throughout recent history, as recently as 2006. How has USJ responded to the post-conflict situation, including the aftermath of the 2006 war? Ms. Abdo: Université Saint-Joseph of Beirut responded to the post-conflict situation by launching an emergency call of action for students, staff and alumni. Everybody of the university community was asked to act, to work and to use all their potential to “rescue” the affected population from the 06 war. We still remember what the rector said on that day: “We are called to look past our political and religious sensitiveness to unite as citizens of one country that must be rebuilt, and regain it’s economic, cultural and spiritual wealth." During those painful days of great drama, Université Saint-Joseph chose to be present at the side of those in need by launching “Opération 7eme Jour” or “Operation 7th day.” Each group of students, teachers and staff was gathered by academic background in a division called Cell. Operation 7th Day gathered at its beginning seven cells. The axes of intervention revolved around the development and promotion of social action, citizenship, human rights, dialogue, education, tourism, environment, professional training, reconstruction and health rehabilitation. (cont. next page)
January 2010 Peace-Building and Post-Conflict Recovery at Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut Why Operation 7th Day? “Six days during which we study, and on the 7th day, we rest by dedicating ourselves to the needy…” it is with these terms that the rector addressed our community at the beginning of the academic year 2006-2007, thus officially launching “Opération 7eme Jour.” After the 06 war, “Opération 7eme Jour” was transformed into a permanent institutionalized body, dedicated to social actions. It has become the civic engagement program of USJ. Every day we are growing bigger. Our activities are spreading to remote Lebanese villages in need of assistance in terms of socio-economic development and healthcare, among other needs. We are aware that the rehabilitation of social links requires patience and faith in people and their potential, yet we are equally confident of what they can do if they are accompanied by professionals animated by the desire and passion to progress towards a better, healthier community. Today, our objective is to maintain actions of solidarity and assistance sustainably, wherever needed. ICP: Lebanon is ethnically and religiously diverse, and has a history of sectarian strife. What impact does this have on USJ overall and particularly on your civic engagement activities? Ms. Abdo: In accordance with its mission, Université Saint-Joseph of Beirut is open to all the Lebanese community starting from its geographical standing (North, South, Bekaa and Beirut Campuses) to its multiconfessional and multi-cultural community. Many challenges must be overcome occasionally in our campuses. The University is aware of both differences and similarities of such a situation. Thus, we are here to respond and act efficiently to build the citizen and the nation. Living in an ethnically and religiously diverse nation made our civic engagement activity a reality of citizenship, a concern of humanity and a reason to create a civic engagement program such as ours: Operation 7th day. ICP: Do USJ’s civic engagement programs seek specifically to overcome sectarian divisions? Ms. Abdo: One of the aims of this program is to overcome sectarian divisions. We work with all the communities with no exception, no discrimination and thus with no differences. We keep it a priority in our actions to always choose multi-cultural and multi-confessional communities to work with. Our cells dedicated to mediation, conflict resolution and dialogue strive to achieve their full potential in their areas of expertise. Plus initially, we are a multi-cultural and multi-confessional university. ICP: As a Christian university, are there challenges to working with non-Christian communities? If so, how are these challenges addressed? Ms. Abdo: Since its constitution, USJ mission was: “Intellectual and spiritual education: USJ aims at being an intellectual source instilling reflection and consideration, offering the students a well balanced education for full human development, open to spiritual values and based on the principles of freedom, respectability, critical sense, peaceful initiatives and social solidarity. It insists, in all fields, on respect for man, guarding his religious liberty and his convictions. It aims specially at strengthening Islamo-Christian dialogue.” It is systematic for the university to live and to be open to all communities whether it is Christian or non-Christian. Thirty-four percent of our students are non-Christian, so, considering the University Community constitution (students, teachers, staffs...) there is no problem dealing with a multi-confessional and multi-cultural student body. ICP: Do the national or local governments support your work with the community? Are other Lebanese universities focusing on post-conflict reconstruction and strengthening social solidarity? Ms. Abdo: Since the beginning, our work was supported and partnered with ministries, municipalities, local and international non-governmental organizations. It depends on the geographic area, the segmentation of the NGO or INGO, and of course the type of program we are involved in. This is one of our priorities and policy of work: we work united with all the parties in our venture because united we stand. Concerning other Lebanese universities, the American University of Beirut started and is developing its program in civic engagement and volunteering services. But their policy of action is quite different from ours. (cont. next page)
January 2010 Peace-Building and Post-Conflict Recovery at Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut ICP: What lessons have you learned that you think could be applied to other universities seeking to serve communities in post-conflict settings? Ms. Abdo: • Civic engagement projects should and must be carried out by an institutional strategic decision. • Abilities and development of character must be first developed inside the institution and then promoted outside or in parallel. • Flexibility of the interaction: learning, giving and developing at the same time, it is an ongoing process. • Acceptance of a long-term change or impact. • Adaptation of the changing process.
Youth civic engagement activities in higher education in post-conflict Rwanda The National University of Rwanda (NUR) is actively promoting youth civic engagement activities in higher education within a post-conflict setting. Dr. Herman Musahara, one of the principal staff members of NUR, explained in an interview to the Talloires Network that civic engagement is embedded in NUR’s teaching, research and community services. Thereby research and community services are influenced by the post-conflict needs of Rwanda. The genocide that took place in 1994 resulted in massive destruction of human beings and their capacities so that post-conflict needs and the genocide experiences have essentially shaped the work of NUR. The university has been taken to the people in order to bridge the knowledge it generates and skills it develops with the needs of the community to alleviate poverty and increase the countries productivity in the aftermath of the genocide. Through its community services NUR has been proactive in making the university more relevant to the people. Each faculty and school has continuously tried to be engaged with communities in Rwanda. The Centre for Conflict Management, established in 1999 with the financial support of UNDP, has been the single research facility of conflict management in Rwanda and critical in inspiring policy development and strategies to support a sustainable peace-process in Rwanda. In addition, the Center is visibly engaged with communities by organizing “community dialogue programs” and providing civic education and training in conflict prevention to community members. The Faculty of Law has been providing free legal advice to community members and the Faculty of Medicine is proactive in community health and education by assisting survivors of genocide in selected villages. The Faculty of Economics and Management has organized an annual solidarity camp where students spent time working with communities. NUR is also hosting a radio channel, called Radio Salus that has become a remarkable bridge between the university and communities. Radio Salus, named after the Latin word “Salut” that means “salvation”, aims at serving the Rwandese people with qualitative programs while offering training to students to instill broadcasting and educational skills. Radio Salus, accessible in all of Rwanda and in neighboring countries, is producing a myriad of news, educational and entertainment programs by a team of professional journalist in cooperation with lecturers and students enrolled at NUR’s School of Journalism and Communication. Dr. Musahara said that “NUR has played a proactive role in the social recapitalization of Rwanda –of restoring a collective spirit, trust and networking and especially taking on board the ‘train of reconstruction and development’ the cream of the Rwandan intelligentsia.” The interview with Dr. Musahara and more information on NUR can be found on the Talloires Network website.
January 2010 The Shinnyo-en Foundation’s “Six Billion Paths to Peace” Initiative By Jean Manney, ICP Program Associate and Veronika Schlecht, ICP Program Assistant The “Six Billion Paths to Peace” initiative inspires people to become more aware of how everyday actions can lead to peace. Six Billion Paths to Peace represent the idea that each of us can make a unique contribution to peace by rethinking our daily actions. The Shinnyo-en Foundation aims at building more peaceful and responsible communities by supporting educational programs that engage and inspire young people in meaningful service activities. The Foundation was funded in 1994 by Shinnyo-en, a lay Buddhist order whose members strive to live in respect and truthfulness to each other. ICP interviewed Dr. Ineko Tsuchida, Associate Director of Programs at the Shinnyo-en Foundation, to learn more about the Six Billion Paths to Peace initiative. She previously facilitated a dialogue among panelists at the 8th Global Conference on National Youth Service, held in Paris in 2008 to explore how youth service can be a means for peace building through the contributions and connections people make. Shinnyo-en is a generous sponsor of the IANYS Global Conference. ICP: Please briefly explain the background of Shinnyo-en Foundation’s “6 Billion Paths to Peace” initiative Dr. Tsuchida: The Shinnyo-en Foundation’s peace initiative, Six Billion Paths to Peace, was embarked on as a way of exploring and integrating the Foundation’s “paradigm of service” a few years ago. The paradigm of service addresses a secularized set of universal values that we consider unchanging and everlasting, such as sincerity, loving kindness, and compassion. We also believe that those values are essential in creating global harmony and peace. Through integrating the philosophy of the Foundation, secular and Buddhist concepts, theories of education and human development, the “Six Billion Paths to Peace: What’s Yours?” initiative was born. It was launched publicly at the first annual Pathfinders to Peace Award Ceremony in Yorba Linda, CA, in 2007. Through the support of the Foundation, many expressions of Six Billion Paths to Peace were created: a dance, music, the development of integrative curriculum for schools, university fellowships called the Shinnyo Fellows Program, etc. Inspirations for the possibility of peace and service emerged into the world. ICP: Please highlight some activities and strategies undertaken under that campaign Dr. Tsuchida: The Shinnyo-en Foundation includes the concept of Six Billion Paths to Peace throughout all Programmatic and External Affairs projects. The main tenet of the initiative is that peace begins with individuals who create inner peace and harmony. Each person has his/her own path to peace, creating a ripple effect out in the world with others. Sharing this message and increasing an awareness of individual contributions to the larger global peace building is an important part of the Shinnyo-en Foundation's work. The activities include a wide variety of tangible connection points: The Foundation convenes dialogues and presents this initiative in workshops, and provides Six Billion Paths to Peace t-shirts, reflection cards, and other resource materials, all with hopes of encouraging understanding and acceptance of each person's path to peace. Since the launch of Six Billion Paths to Peace, the Shinnyo-en Foundation has never imposed on its grantees to embrace or adopt the philosophy of Six Billion Paths to Peace in a particular way other than to encourage their own application of it in their existing projects or programs. The Foundation will continue to support this kind of independent and creative adaptation of Six Billion Paths to Peace through its grantmaking. (cont. next page)
January 2010 The Shinnyo-en Foundation’s “Six Billion Paths to Peace” Initiative However, in recent months, the Foundation has also taken more intentional and strategic approaches to promote Six Billion Paths to Peace. For example, the Foundation’s grantmaking effort has been more streamlined to support the projects, programs and organizations that take on the philosophy of Six Billion Paths to Peace, rather than to support more general or broader service, service-learning and peace building. In this way, we hope to allocate needed resources more efficiently at the time of the economic slow-down and also yield more impactful outcomes from our support. ICP: What is the role of young people in becoming peacemakers and contributing their individual path to peace to a global peace idea? How do the 6 Billion Paths to Peace engage young people? Dr. Tsuchida: Six Billion Paths to Peace provide a compelling alternative to the loud messages of violence and war prevalent in the lives of young people today. This initiative aims to convince young people that their beliefs matter and difference of opinion does not have to mean dissonance with others. Young people may discover their voices and learn that sharing, listening and service are powerful tools for growing and belonging. Through workshops, retreats and leadership positions, young people learn to share their personal stories and paths to peace as a means of building peace in the world. Each young person has his/her own response to this concept; but often, young people share an experience of feeling empowered after learning about Six Billion Paths to Peace. Precisely because of this benefit, the Shinnyo Fellows Program was created for college-age youth. During an academic year, the Shinnyo Fellows will actualize the Six Billion Paths to Peace philosophy in their own peace and service projects on university campuses and/or the campus neighboring communities. This is an example of the ways in which the Shinnyo-en Foundation attempts to engage young people in meaningful acts of service toward peace. ICP: Can service-learning and youth service programs be effective tools for peace-building and/or reconciliation? Dr. Tsuchida: Absolutely yes and it is a premise of the Six Billion Paths to Peace philosophy that any individuals, including youth, can engage in the acts of service towards peace building. ICP: How would you describe the transformation service can cause in young people, and why are dialogue and gatherings so essential in the process of becoming peacemakers? Dr. Tsuchida: The transformative experiences that service could cause in young people can be very obvious but it is not necessarily quantifiable or researchable. However significant one’s experience might be, it can be difficult to be generalized and compared with others’ similar but individually unique experiences. With that premise, we at Shinnyo-en Foundation believe that it is possible for young people to experience life-altering, transformative experiences through service and service-learning especially when it is closely tied to peace building efforts. Engaging in service and service-learning often allows young people, who have limited life experiences by the virtue of their young age, to gain life perspectives that are significantly broader and different from their own. By gaining such new perspectives in life, young people could gain more insights into their transformative experiences. In addition, gaining new and different perspectives in life could be unsettling and disheartening to many youth. Therefore, dialoguing and reflecting about their experiences with other youth and adults can be invaluable to youth in deepening the understanding of their experiences. In addition, we believe that reflecting on one’s own experiences can help one solidify learning about oneself and come to terms with one’s role as a peacemaker in a positive light. (cont. next page)
January 2010 The Shinnyo-en Foundation’s “Six Billion Paths to Peace” Initiative ICP: What do you think is needed to further build the case for youth service and peace building and to stimulate youth civic engagement worldwide? How will the 6 Billion Paths to Peace initiative contribute to this? Dr. Tsuchida: The Six Billion Paths to Peace initiative values and respects diverse individual contributions to peace building. In addition, we assume that we live in an interconnected world and that individual peace building efforts in isolation will not cause a larger ripple effect toward global peace. By letting others know about the Six Billion Paths to Peace initiative and speaking globally about how some of our partner organizations implemented the Six Billion Paths to Peace philosophy, the Shinnyo-en Foundation hopes to stimulate youth’s engagement in service and peace building worldwide. To do so, we believe that the stories of any small acts of service should be shared and honored and we should play a role in convening the gatherings as the places for individual and group reflection and sharing. ICP: Are there any new or exciting projects or initiatives of 6 Billion Paths to Peace that you would like to share? Dr. Tsuchida: The Shinnyo-en Foundation is embarking on the second phase of the Six Billion Paths to Peace initiative after the first few years of its launch. While the Shinnyo-en Foundation will continue to devote its resources to let others know about the initiative in a broad general way, it will also take more intentional and strategic approaches to ensure the deepening of the Six Billion Paths to Peace initiative with its partner organizations. For example, the Foundation’s annual retreat at the Marconi Conference Center in Marshall, California, has been featuring the exploration of spiritual, cultural and religious roots of service for the last 11 years. This year the annual retreat will be offered as a place and time for the participants to engage in deepening their understanding of Six Billion Paths to Peace (the date to be determined). We will also widen the scope of our perspectives on peace and service by inviting international peacemakers at the annual retreat. Together with the national and international participants, we hope to address and grapple with what the Heart of Service is, i.e., the core principles of Six Billion Paths to Peace. In addition, the Shinnyo-en Foundation will attempt to bridge service and peace through co-sponsoring and coplanning of larger national and international conferences on service and service-learning, such as the National Service-Learning Conference in March 2010 in San Jose, CA, and the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in June 2010 in New York. It will be an exciting new phase for Six Billion Paths to Peace as it gains a larger public audience while continuing the far-reaching bottom-up approach to peace building.
View the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s presentation on “Six Billions Paths to Peace” from the International Association for National Youth Service (IANYS) 8th Global Conference (executable file, requires Adobe Flash Player) (download Adobe Flash Player))
Published on Jan 22, 2010