Young Peacebuilders Forum

Why different stories matter.

Over 50 young peacebuilders from around the globe gathered from 18-22 September in The Hague, Netherlands to connect and work together during the UNOY Young Peacebuilders Forum.

As a response to the rise of populism and polarizing rhetoric that we can witness all over the world, this networking event was run under the title “Shaping the Narrative”.

Refugees are bad for our society? Migrants are stealing our jobs? Young people have no capacity to change policies? We set out to detect and reconstruct predominant social narratives that often divide people in “us versus them” and are based on stereotypical images.

So, what can we do? !Tell different stories!

In groups we worked on small project ideas that potentially create more positive and inclusive social narratives. We addressed topics such as refugees, gender equality and youth participation, and came up with ideas like an online campaign about positive peace or intercultural dinner events.

The participants, each of us already working locally on peacebuilding topics, all brought in their own perspectives and expertise. During a “method market” we had the chance to share our experiences and lead small workshops ourselves. Roberta and I from the FCV offered an activity about hate speech on social media, during which we discussed different ways to fight it.

The forum coincided with the international day of peace on the 21st of September, and being in The Hague—the city of peace!—a visit of the iconic Peace Palace with the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration was, of course, not to be missed. The forum could not have ended with a better goodbye party in another very inspiring place: a Middle Eastern restaurant which is lead together by an Israeli and a Palestinian, with the fitting name “Love & Peas”.

While there was not always enough time for reflection during the forum, we left with lots of new contacts, inspiration and some new tools to try out. I hope to be able to collaborate with some of these inspiring young peacebuilders in the soon future!