Students & Campus
07 March 2023

Peace Initiative: Engaging Youth in Peacebuilding

The Peacebuilding Initiative was established by Institute students in 2019 to more effectively link the youth and young professionals to global peacebuilding efforts. In an interview, Initiative members share their view on why the youth’s engagement in this sector is critical and steps they are taking to include them. 

How has the Initiative impacted youth inclusion in this sector? What is the main hurdle to younger generations hoping to work in peacebuilding? 
At the Peacebuilding Initiative, we see a huge role for youth in supporting peacebuilding efforts around the world. After all, youths represent the majority of the population in most countries affected by armed conflicts, according to the United Nations (UN). Yet the peacebuilding sector can be challenging for young adults to permeate, filled with very technical silos, many unpaid internships, and a (perhaps understandable) partiality towards experts with decades of experience. Even if one has boundless passion, it can be daunting (but not impossible!) to develop the specific connections and technical skills you need to make this a career. 

Our vision as an initiative is to harness that passion and provide an entry point to engage young professionals in the global peacebuilding sector. In practice, this means regularly hosting events that both inform and inspire our members. In our various panel events, we get to learn about the diverse opportunities available in the peacebuilding sector, and debate the ways in which we can shape this field for the better. 

Our former members have gone on to work at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Interpeace, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and more. While we can’t take credit for their achievements, the Initiative acts as an incubator and lifelong network for future peacebuilding leaders. 

In December 2022, the Initiative hosted its very first Peace Café, an event "designed to connect aspiring and practicing peacebuilding professionals". What did this event achieve? 
The Peacebuilding Initiative’s first two Peace Cafés in December were a huge success. We hosted Evelyn Voigt and Gordon Breedyk of the Civilian Peace Service Canada, who have decades of experience working in operations around the world (e.g., in Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Kosovo, Ghana, and the Philippines to name a few!). 

In the cozy atmosphere of the Fab, we were able to personally get to know our guests, their stories, and what their life has been like in this field. Many of us could really imagine ourselves in their shoes and get a glimpse of what life might be like after our time at the Institute. 

At the same time, the benefits of the Peace Café go both ways. After the event, our guests shared with me that they appreciated debating with students on the important and critical challenges facing the peacebuilding field right now. It was also a great chance for them to suggest ways for us to change the field for the better as we embark on our careers. 

Speaking more globally, what topics are important to youths when speaking about peace? 
In our experience, youths speaking about peace are ambitious. The Peacebuilding Initiative is filled with members that are passionate about addressing the root causes of violence, and most of all, creating sustainable, positive and inclusive peace. We are interested in how peace is interrelated with other topics, such as climate change, cyber security, gender, and trade. We recently hosted a Trade for Peace Youth-to-Youth networking event at the World Trade Organisation, which was a fantastic opportunity to see peace more broadly and understand how we can work together with other fields.

Students attend the Peace Café in December 2022.