Turin, Italy- The key role that youth and women play in the peace process, came under the spotlight at The Virtual Torino Forum for Sustaining Peace – Women and Youth at the Frontlines held from 7 September - 11 September. The forum is organized by the United Nations System Staff college (UNSSC) to support efforts that advance the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) agendas. With participants gaining virtual access to an event that might have been otherwise capped by space constraints ,UNSSC brought together over 200 engaged participants and a powerhouse panel of 50 women and youth peacebuilders from across the globe, to create a space that sparked robust dialogue, and promoted learning.
Through a variety of the forum’s three innovative learning formats #DISCUSS (thematic sessions with interactive elements) #LEARN (hands-on virtual workshops) and #EXPERIENCE (live or pre-recorded videos and artistic performances) participants and speakers spanning civil society, academia, government and the UN, took the virtual floor to showcase the groundbreaking work being done to advance the YPS & WPS agendas. Featured content distributed across several digital platforms under the #TorinoForum2020 hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, made the Torino Forum experience accessible and created a buzz on social media.
The official launch featured an address from Marina Sereni, Deputy Minister at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who are co-sponsors of the Torino forum. Sereni addressed Italy's role in putting forward the WPS Agenda and encouraged all to redouble their efforts in implementing the WPS agenda in order to fill the remaining gaps. The acclaimed 25-year-old Lybian youth peacebuilder and co-founder of “Together We Build It”, Hajer Sharief, spoke on the need for multilevel and inter-generational peace building during Covid-19 and beyond. Her thought-provoking speech called on us to be self-critical by asking difficult questions that will improve our collective work for peace. UNSSC Director Jafar Javan highlighted the timely nature of the forum, and its importance at a time when the responses of women’s organizations,youth networks and civil society organizations are crucial in the battle against COVID-19.
In the days that followed, vibrant and inspirational contributors and participants engaged on the role and challenges of women and youth in peace building, and explored the innovative interventions being put in place to promote more meaningful participation in sustaining peace efforts amidst the pandemic, and in a post-pandemic world. Some notable discussions include the use of intersectional feminist approaches to peacebuilding, and how they are helping to elevate efforts to achieve gender parity in the peacebuilding process. The growing field of PeaceTech, which uses technology to support peacebuilding also featured, with many impressed by innovative tech solutions, and the increasing number of youth and women starting to advocate for peace and human rights in digital spaces. On a practical level peacebuilders shared how they were using digital techniques such as secure email, separate social media profiles, and secure communications to protect themselves against threats. Youth trailblazers shared excellent insights on the steps being taken to ensure that peace negotiations are youth inclusive. Amongst their numerous interventions, youth are increasingly making use of Peace and Security coalitions which despite their challenges, offer solidarity and collaboration that has helped to improve and amplify evidence-based practice. Both the YPS and WPS communities expanded on their efforts to advance disarmament in response to the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire.
Many other informative sessions were held, and accompanied by entertaining artistic performances that included the likes of the Pequeñas Huellas orchestra and more.
What became increasingly evident after the five-day period is the collective view that the WPS and YPS communities do not operate in silos, and that synergies are needed to implement their respective agendas effectively.
The Torino Forum takes place at a time when we are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference, the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, and the 5th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250. When some of these resolutions were made, women and youth peacebuilders were largely excluded from peace processes. Although UNSSC is proud to have put this dynamic this event together, it realizes that the work on gender equality and youth inclusion is not yet done — women and youth still face insurmountable challenges as they seek a space at the peace building table. There has been progress, but more effort is needed to ensure that we accelerate global collaborative progress on inclusive peacebuilding.