The voice of students in the UN
Seventy-five years of peace and the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. A memorable year for the Just Peace Festival in The Hague. But what is there to celebrate when there are global conflicts? Students from THUAS give their input about the future of the United Nations. ‘Young people have vast amounts of energy and that gives hope.’
As an international city of peace and security, each year the Municipality of The Hague together with local and international organisations, including The Hague University of Applied Sciences, organises the Just Peace Festival. This year, the Just Peace Month was organised for the first time in the run up to the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.
Part of the Just Peace Festival is the exhibition ‘75 years of the UN in 75 stories’. It tells 75 different stories about peace, security and humanity. The stories were displayed on pillars spread throughout the city. One of these stories was also on display at THUAS, in the Atrium, from 16 October to 30 November. The story was about young people who play an important role in solving problems.
According to the United Nations, young people’s voices are not heard enough when it comes to problems affecting their contemporaries elsewhere in the world. And that is strange because according to the 2020 World Youth Report, there are currently no fewer than 1.2 billion people aged between 15 and 24 years.
“The UN acknowledges that they have ignored young people’s voices for too long. But it is precisely their fresh perspective and energy that can contribute to global solutions,” explains Saskia Rademaker, researcher and coordinator of the Making Peace not War minor of the United Nations Studies research group, which is part of the Centre of Expertise for Global Governance. “It is important that we not only listen to young people but also that youth involvement is structurally embedded within the UN.”
Different world view
Third-year Public Administration student Rick Peper is following a minor that started this year at THUAS. “There is a new generation of youth with other opinions, with a different world view. The youth look differently at the consequences of climate change, for example. That is directly related to peace and migration.”
Ella MacLeod, International Law student, cares deeply about human rights. Her ambition: an international career as a human rights lawyer. In her free time, she is co-chair of the UN Youth Impact project. With other youths, she works on the local implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. “I am an idealist,” she says. “Young people have bundles of creativity. That should be used with peace negotiations. The youth see compromise sooner and have an open mind.”
In the context of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, 25 students following the minor, took part in the UN75 Dialogues project. Over 70 youths were challenged to present creative solutions for pressing themes such as conflict, gender and climate. They then entered into dialogue with policy-makers, UN representatives and other stakeholders. Their most important ideas about the future of the UN were included in a report. On 24 October, the youths presented that report to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok, among others, in the Peace Palace.
The method developed for the UN75 Dialogues that brings youths into direct contact with the UN can be used again in the future. All participants expressed the desire to continue the dialogue with each other in this open and transparent manner after the 75th anniversary.
The Hague University of Applied Sciences places importance on preparing its students to be global citizens.
According to Saskia, critical thinking and involvement with international collaborations are important for all students at THUAS. ‘In your later career, you will always have to deal with international influences. Even if just considering the major challenge of the future climate and energy. Conflict and peace are intertwined with that. We could really use the investigative ability and strength of the youth in that.’
United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice Chair
Creating more opportunities for young people to influence the UN is one of the goals of the United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice chair/research group at The Hague University of Applied Sciences and the University of Leiden, with leading professor Alanna O’Malley in charge.