Thank you, Mr Chairperson, and a very good morning to All,
I would like to use this opportunity to thank you for having entrusted me with the preparation of this Opinion. I would also like to congratulate Ms Inka Hopsu for her insightful report.
The role of young people in the prevention and resolution of conflicts is a very complex and difficult topic.
I deeply regret that this topic is becoming more and more pertinent for our countries and for the world. Today, as we speak, children and young people are being killed, maimed, made homeless and their families and their lives are being destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
It is beyond comprehension how such barbarism is possible in the modern world. Humanity can reach the furthest corners of universe, reproduce human life and cure the rarest of diseases. How is it not possible to stop senseless bloodshed?
We are failing our children, we are failing future generations.
This report will not be able to change that.
It is my hope, however, that it will be an incitement for all of us to look in the mirror and to ask questions about what role our own actions – or our inaction – play in current and future conflicts.
The amendments that I propose to make in the draft resolution on behalf of our Committee aim to address three key concerns.
First, I am convinced that no conflict prevention and peace-making efforts can be effective, as long as flagrant violations of international law, human rights and the rule of law, persist. Such violations are the main cause of conflicts. Therefore, the starting point must be our shared responsibility to ensure that children and young people can live in a more just and secure world, where these values and principles prevail.
Second, respect for human dignity, openness to controversy, and ability for dialogue must be infused in all forms of education, from an early age, and throughout our lives. We need to ensure that new generations are aware of the multiple worldviews around them. Teachers need to be trained and school manuals must embrace this type of learning. The approach should not be “We are right, and anybody who disagrees is wrong”, but rather “We see this world in different ways, how can we live together in spite of this”. History teaching is a very important part of developing such competences. Being aware of different perspectives – and their origins – is of fundamental importance for any peacebuilding efforts.
Finally, I fully agree with the Rapporteur that the role of young people in the prevention and resolution of conflicts should not be consultative, they should have full ownership of the process. I feel that it was important to add that not only young people, but also children – especially the older ones – should be involved in such process. Too often, things are done to children, and not with children. Having no say in the crucial decisions that affect your life is deeply frustrating. Children who are already affected by conflict must be given a sense of agency, as much as it is possible. This must be done in a way that corresponds to their level of maturity and in full respect of the best interests of the child.
Before I conclude, I would also like to stress that we need to bring to light the interests that lie behind the scenes of every conflict. As in a criminal investigation, we need to ask “who benefits”, with respect to every conflict. Who is making money – on arms sales, for example? Who becomes stronger because of others getting weaker? Whose access to the limited natural resources is becoming more secure? We – both adults and young people – need to look beyond what lies on the surface. The road to peace lies in addressing the hidden root causes of every conflict.
I hope that this report will encourage decision makers in all our countries to give a stronger role to young people and children in their peacebuilding efforts.
I also hope that not only young people, but all of us will see peace as the most urgent goal to be achieved and will put saving human life before any other objectives.
I fully agree with the Rapporteur that the role of young people should not be purely consultative. It seems to me that the current wording could lead to a misunderstanding, as the word “consultant” might relate to adults, who are professional consultants involved in peace processes. The aim of the proposed amendment is to clarify the wording of this important recommendation.
With this amendment I would like to flag the importance of considering the role of children in conflict prevention and conflict resolution, along with the role of the young people. Their views and experiences should be taken into account. As I point out in the proposed paragraph, due care should be taken to ensure their protection. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the adults, and instrumentalisation of children must be avoided.
Education is key to successful conflict prevention. In this paragraph I suggest adding the concepts of “critical thinking” and “media literacy” as important elements of school curricula. I also suggest including the need to understand the root causes of violence, as without such understanding any peacebuilding efforts are bound to fail. Finally, it seems to me that mentioning “multicultural societies” is useful for setting the context within which young people exercise their respect for diversity.
I believe that it is essential to include a reference to history teaching in this resolution. Understanding how relations between countries have evolved over time, how they have resolved past conflicts and what memory they have kept of sometimes very painful events can help develop mutual understanding and promote dialogue. The Council of Europe has been successfully promoting an approach of “multiperspectivity” in history teaching, and many useful publications have been produced on this topic. We should build on this work and encourage the member States to make better use of the available materials and expertise on this topic.
I suggest broadening the current formulation so that it suggests that safe spaces of peacebuilding should be created in all circumstances, and not only in non-democratic regimes. Even in democratic societies, some topics evoke strong emotive and sometimes violent reactions. There should be spaces where difficult questions can be addressed without taboos and in a secure environment.