DAGUPAN CITY—A Pangasinan lawmaker said that for peace-building to be inclusive, it has to actively include the youth.
Speaking on the role of youth and students in creating a culture of sustainable peace at the inauguration of the network of Youth and Students for Peace at the United Nations Conference Center in Bangkok, Thailand on June 12, Pangasinan Fourth District Representative Christopher de Venecia said the youth have a special role in building peace, lasting peace, here and around the world.
In the Philippines, our government has been engaged in formal peace talks with various armed groups for over decades now, he said.
He added that the mere mention of “peace talks” evokes the image of old men and women sitting across each other, trying to figure out what commonalities they share which would serve as a place from which to start.
“When it comes to peace, our young men and women are left out of the conversation — and, as studies have shown, that is often the case in many countries around the world,” he said.
He pointed out that political power, whether inside or outside the realms of peace and peace negotiations, tend to be capitalized by adults or elders.
De Venecia said as early as 2014, the United Nations noted that there are more young people in the world than ever before.
“At 1.8 billion, we are seeing the largest global youth population in the history of humankind,” he said.
He added, “The flipside is this – young people often form the majority of the population in conflict-affected countries. The world’s youth is directly affected —and that means that stakes are higher for us to get involved”.
He pointed out that because success in building peace depends so much on inclusiveness, “we can only ignore the youth at our own peril”.
He said this would involve a bottoms-up approach – where the imperative is that “I don’t know, but I want to find out.”
“That might seem like too big a burden. It might seem like an incredibly difficult task. But it is not impossible—we just have to break it down into smaller, easier things we can do to help build a sustainable culture of peace,” De Venecia, a millennial congressman, told Youth and Students for Peace of the Asia-Pacific Region on their inaugural conference.
He advised the youth to “First, educate yourselves in history and culture”.
He said the world today seems plagued by ignorance and fake news and covfefe.
“All these breed fear, discrimination, and alienation, which are all tinder (not the app) that can quickly spark into conflict,” he said.
He said the key is “to know history and culture—and not just yours”.
He urged them to “expand beyond the familiar”.
“Develop a love for humanities and critical thinking. Don’t limit yourselves to books and articles—actually get to know people from other cultures and other backgrounds, and maintain channels of informed and well-meaning dialogue with them,” De Venecia said.
He said another thing they can do is enhance their knowledge and skills on this particular area.
“You’re already here, and presumably you’re part of the Youth and Students for Peace network. This is a good a start as any—but don’t stop here,” the young congressman said.
He added, “There is always more to be learned. There is always more to be experienced. That is not a bad thing. Remember: nothing is wasted. But remember, it doesn’t stop in the realm of theory.”
He said they should broaden their mindset with exposure to cultures, ideas, best practices in order to put into good use and effect genuine, authentic, sustainable peace.
“It doesn’t all fall on you, of course. Your elders have the responsibility to help build trust between you and institutions like the government. They have the responsibility to create spaces where you can express your opinions and actually be heard,” de Venecia said.
He said that if they feel their elders are not doing these, they have the internet.
“You can make your voice heard. You can band together with like-minded individuals in service of a worthy cause, like you are doing here,” he said.
He added that the young have been given tools like the internet and social media.
He added that these are tools that those who came before them have never imagined even in their wildest dreams.
“We all have fun using them, but use them wisely, use them responsibly, use them well. The modern adage goes, “Think before you click.”,” de Venecia urged the participants.
He said there are numerous ways in which the youth can help build a culture of sustainable peace.
This being the Age of Google, ideas and access are dime-a-dozen, he said.
De Venecia left this message to the delegates to keep in mind : I want you to remember and always keep in mind that what you do actually matters, and what you do online or offline has consequences. Yes, you’re young. You might feel like our governments and institutions barely notice you. It might feel like whatever you say will only be drowned out in noise. Being part of a staggeringly large demographic, you might feel like a small fish in the ocean. But like I said: what you do matters. It matters now. It will matter tomorrow. Just keep at it. Hang in there. Keep doing what you know is right—because what you do will shape our future, and our present.
It may be recalled that De Venecia also addressed last year the launching of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network –Youth Philippines in Baguio City to encourage the Filipino youth to be part of a global network, mobilizing the young citizens to help find sustainable solutions that will address the new 17 sustainable goals set by the UN to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind by the year 2030. #