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Council of Europe Youth Peace Camp a symbol of 40 years work with and for young people

Strasbourg, 05.07.2012 - PRESS RELEASE

Young people to drive forward new strategies to break down conflict in their countries

Cross-border youth environmental campaigns, languages courses for mixed ethnic groups in Kosovo and awareness raising through art exhibitions and social networking sites – these are just some of the strategies devised by the 51 young people involved in the Council of Europe’s 2012 Youth Peace Camp.

Participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, various communities in Kosovo, the Palestinian National Authority and the Russian Federation took part in the peace camp at the Strasbourg European Youth Centre, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

For eight years now the peace camps have enabled young people and youth organisations from conflict-stricken regions to engage in dialogue and conflict transformation activities through human rights education and intercultural learning and to gain positive experiences of living and learning with others. Many participants have had a chance to talk face to face with young people from “the other side” for the first time in their lives.

On their return home, participants are expected to pass on what they have learnt – particularly the importance of dialogue, peace-building, human rights as a framework for conflict-resolution and non-violence – to other young people in their groups, communities and organisations.

Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe Maud de Boer-Buquicchio closed the peace camp with words of support for the participants: “Too often young people are involved in violent conflicts against their will. They are among the first casualties. It is therefore your right – everyone’s right – to participate in the resolution of these conflicts, through dialogue, trust-building, co-operation and the search for common ground…
“I would like to thank each and every one of you for your commitment to promoting peace and dialogue. It may seem more difficult to engage in dialogue than to replicate hatred, prejudice and rejection. And I am sure that some of you will have difficulties in being understood by your friends and neighbours back home who did not take part in the peace camp. But don’t be deterred. Dialogue is more rewarding and infinitely more sustainable than conflict and hatred. Dialogue is about understanding each other, in spite of differences of opinion. It is about making friends, not enemies. Dialogue is the path to peace.”

Hranush Shahnazaryan, a member of the Council of Europe’s Advisory Council on Youth, also encouraged the participants urging them to “team up” with the Organisation’s Youth Peace Ambassadors, who have a peace-building mission in communities divided by violence and conflict. Ms Shahnazaryan is one of the youth leaders who decide, alongside government officials, on the Council of Europe’s work with young people. The idea for the Youth Peace Ambassadors came from the youth leaders of the Advisory Council on Youth.

This year’s participants have devised a wide range of strategies and ideas to promote peace in their communities, including the following:

Media contact:
Emma Hellyer: 00 33 (0)3 90 21 42 15

About the Council of Europe and Young People:
For over 40 years, the Council of Europe has been working with and for young people to build a better, safer and more united world. We defend and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We are pioneers in the field of youth policy; the only organisation in the world which gives both youth leaders and government officials an equal say when deciding on youth policies, priorities and programmes (our “co-management” system).

Strasbourg, 22.06.2012 - The 2012 Youth Peace Camp, starting today, is a symbol of the work done with and for young people by the Council of Europe over the last four decades and more.

The camp, which runs until 30 June, is being held at the Strasbourg European Youth Centre, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

There are 51 participants from conflict-stricken regions: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Kosovo (various communities) (*), Georgia, the Russian Federation, and the Palestinian National Authority.

The objective is to engage young people and youth organisations in dialogue and conflict transformation activities through human rights education and intercultural learning, to leave them with positive experiences of living and learning with others. The peace camp provides a unique opportunity for many young people to meet their neighbours from "the other side" of the conflict face to face for the first time.

Success-story

Following the 2011 Peace Camp, six Israeli and Palestinian participants have decided to hold regular monthly meetings on the so-called "green line", creating a joint group engaged in community work.

The Council of Europe has also created 75 Youth Peace Ambassadors, the result of an idea put forward by the youth leaders who sit side by side with government officials to decide on the Organisation’s policies, programmes and priorities regarding young people. This power-sharing system (known as “co-management”) is unique in the world.

Deputy Secretary General's quote for the media

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said: "Since 40 years, the Council of Europe has been promoting policies to build trust and to foster dialogue among young people from different communities. Today, our young generations are affected by the growth of nationalism in Europe and social unrest resulting from the financial crisis. Exclusion of social groups is not an answer. Young people are too often involved in violent conflicts against their will. Peace cannot be built without respect for human rights and no democracy is possible without diversity. These youth camps allow young people from different communities to get together in a safe environment: they learn from each other and from the trainers, but we also learn a great deal from them".

Read also the special page on the 40th anniversary…