Supporting youth in order to build inclusive peace

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Promoting civilian and youth participation in conflict resolution is of vital importance to achieving sustainable peace in Myanmar. As the peace process itself is a long and winding road, empowering young people as well as other change-makers who can potentially find solutions to move the process forward is an important step.

With the support of the Joint Peace Fund, Halcyon is helping to increase youth engagement in conflict resolution and the peace process.

Halcyon’s Project Manager, Phyu Thi said that Halcyon’s training sessions on peace and conflict resolution assembled young people from diverse backgrounds and different religions to contribute the same goal – building peace in Myanmar.

“The strength of our trainings is that we can include all sorts of young people including people from different religions, LGBT youth and young people with disabilities from all across Bago Region. Due to poor transportation links and the inability for many to access information in Bago Region, youth from the region couldn’t come and attend peace awareness-raising events and other general trainings. They would normally have to travel to a major city such as Yangon or Pyay to join this kind of training. As a result, we reached out to them directly by travelling to their areas and conducted these peace trainings. That’s how we have created a channel for young people from Bago Region to contribute to the peace process,” she said.

Across the lifetime of their project, Halcyon conducted a total 28 training sessions on peace and conflict resolution. It has benefited more than 800 participants aged between 18-35, and included people living with disabilities (PWDs) and people from the LGBT community. These participants came from 28 different townships such as Bago, Daik-U, Kawa, Kyaukkyi, Kyauktaga, Nyaunglebin, Oktwin, Phyu, Shwegyin, Tantabin, and Taungoo in Bago Region. Halcyon also has built a regional youth network in those 28 different townships in Bago Region to strengthen youth collaboration on regional peace activities. This collaboration includes work on campaigns, peace related talks shows and other awareness-raising workshops.

Halcyon’s Executive Director, Linn Nyoh Thway, said forming the “Bago Regional Youth Network” and creating regular meetings among these networks can empower young people to get involved in raising awareness about peace, and allows them to lend their voices and support to the national-level peace process from the regional standpoint.

He said “In Bago Region, we have a rich diversity of races and religions, and we need to pay respect to these different identities. By doing so, our diverse young people will contribute and believe in the peace process. This can potentially increase the likelihood of a successful peace process and help achieve lasting peace.”

He also shared possible solutions to overcoming the challenges of youth participation in Myanmar’s peace process, through enabling the basic values of democracy to flourish.

“In my opinion, the basic values of democracy mean freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association – all of which are very important. If we could overcome obstacles and limitations to these values in Myanmar, we could increase youth participation in the peace process,” he added.

In December 2018, Halcyon also held a “Youth Voices and Future” forum which was attended by 68 participants, including youth representatives, political parties, local CBOs, CSOs, and Member of Parliament from Bago Region. The forum’s results detailed in a report titled “Challenges for Youth Participation in the peace process in Bago Region” included a series of 31 recommendations for the Government. Key recommendations included: creating channels for youth participation in every sector of the Framework for Political Dialogue; conducting peace awareness trainings; establishing a youth center; holding vocational trainings for young people; taking more action to stop hate-speech on social media; increasing the education budget, devising strategies to end discrimination; organizing regional advocacy forums on youth and peace; and promoting the physical and emotional safety of young people across the country.

Min Tikyi Htut, Project Support Officer at Halcyon, recalled his experience organizing training events across East and West Bago Region and highlighted the importance of the right for everyone, including minority groups, to participate in peace awareness workshops and trainings.

“Whenever we organize trainings, we should include all races, religions, and young people from marginalized groups. We need to be inclusive and not only invite participants from majority groups. Through including ethnic and religious minorities in all we do, we will definitely move the peace process forward together,” he said.

Throughout Halcyon’s activities, around 900 youth, MPs, CSOs, government officials, poets, NGOs, political parties and media representatives have gained knowledge and increased their awareness on the peace process, advocacy, conflict resolution and have learned more about how to increase youth participation in the peace process.