Global Citizen Corps explores peace and conflict

May 25, 2011

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The focus on the Global Citizen Corps (GCC) Global Action Plan calendar for the first two months of the year was "Peace and Conflict." To highlight this issue I interviewed William Baron, Mercy Corps Scotland's Program Officer for Gaza, Israel/Palestine and Indonesia.

In western society, we can go about our daily lives and not worry too much about our future opportunities and the safety of our families and livelihoods. However, in many parts of the world, this worry and fear is part of their daily routine.

Within the rural villages in Indonesia, there are many conflicts between Muslim and Christian inhabitants, which are difficult to resolve. Mercy Corps tries to create a safe environment where people of different religions can live peacefully side by side.

The GCC group in Indonesia offers training on how to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner, no matter what their religious beliefs are. This is really inspiring because they create opportunities to understand each other better and thus try and make their home a better place. To support this group, Mercy Corps and GCC mediates discussions and offers training on how to hold a peaceful debate. We also explore how to handle future conflicts between opposing groups, as well as create a safer future where they will be self-sufficient and confident to resolve their differences.

In Palestine and Israel, the local youths often face an unproductive future due to their unstable environment. Mercy Corps evaluates projects that try and help young people get more involved in economic projects and focus on helping unemployed youth to gain productive livelihoods.

Programs to improve employability skills and education are extremely important, but conflict in the region makes this extremely difficult. Not being able to go to school or work because for fear of what is going on outside your house is not something that we often think about here in the United Kingdom (UK). Our safe environment allows us to lead our lives quite comfortably and thus happily. Basic things such as seeing your friends or going to school become dangerous and causes lives to come to a stand still in places like Palestine.

My fellow youth leaders all agree that education should be available to all and that young people need to be educated to ensure a stable future. In the UK, the recession has hit hard and the rise in university tuition fees causes young people a lot of worry. However, in some parts of the world, the opportunity to go into further education is not even available, and they are in a constant state of shortage of money and resources due to the ongoing conflicts in that area.

An important job for Mercy Corps is to convince governments that education is something that needs to be kept safe, as it ensures the prosperity of an entire country. If this belief is firmly set within a community and encouraged despite conflict within that region, it can create opportunities for people and a stable environment for all to live in.

The main issue in Gaza is that there is no trust between different communities, which causes a lot of conflict. Cooperation between these groups is vital in order to improve the lives of all. Youth have no prospects of leading better lives because they are too caught up with their current situation, thus not being able to look ahead to the future. GCC aims to raise awareness to people in the UK and leaders of various countries of the impact of conflict on youth and how they need to be better supported.

The differences between the UK and places such as Israel, Palestine and Indonesia are vast. However, young people in these countries do not have very different hopes for the future than youth in the UK do. They want to learn in order to have a job and be able to provide for themselves and later on their own families.

The UK, being a more stable country, makes this far easier for us than it does for other parts of the world where wars and riots are normal and insecurity is something to be expected. Great inequalities still exist in the UK in various parts of life, and violence makes life difficult for many people who live in deprived areas where knife crime, for example, can disrupt people’s lives and hinder them from going out at certain times. Peace and conflict is a universal issue which every community struggles with and GCC encourages young people to understand that cooperation is a better solution to a problem than violence.

Global Cooperation is the main GCC agenda. Pupils from different schools across Edinburgh, from all different backgrounds come together to talk about issues and make contact with GCC groups abroad — such as Iraq. We come together and debate on how one can best resolve a conflict and learn from one another.

Global partnership is the vital solution to various issues and it has been proven on many occasions that tasks become easier once there are many people working on it. As a Kenyan proverb says, “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.”