On behalf of Upact and UNOY thanks for joining the ‘Uniting Youth for Peace’ event; happy to see such a young audience, also from previous editions of the Peace of Minds Academy. It is exactly you I had in mind when preparing my speech: you as the next generation ENTREPRENEURS IN PEACEBUILDING.
Today is a special day for those in the Netherlands that care about war and peace in the world: the Dutch parliament agreed to participate in the UN-mission in Mali. Quite a courageous step, given our army’s experience with UN missions. And I refer to our drama in Srebrenica. Even more courageous when you think about the challenges in Mali: a vast desert in the north where crime, smuggle and terrorism rule. And a lot of young people who don’t have many -or even any- options in life; and not much hope; as I saw in their eyes one month ago when I was in Mali. What will an average Dutch person say when you ask: is that our problem, should we care?
Well, one could say, there are many regions in the world which suffer similar problems, and we have our own to deal with. Poverty and the economic crisis in our own countries for example. Yes, that is a problem. But we have an open economy. Look at the history of this city, Amsterdam. It had always earned its income on international trading, as a port. This was one of the reasons by the way why it was hard to provoke the Dutch into wars: it is bad for business. More than ‘ of our national income is still being earned abroad. Stability is good for business. And we have relatively open borders. You can’t stop criminals and terrorists if they really want to get in. So that is the rational argument for engaging in such a mission as in Mali. For those who want to calculate the return on investment; the cost of conflict and the dividend of peace.
That’s the macro level. But there is another dimension, and that’s why we are here today. That is the social dimension of peacebuilding. Apart from all kinds of ethical and moral arguments, there is an emerging reality and that is interconnectedness with your generation worldwide. Is it ‘you and me’ or ‘we’? If it is we, then we all know that armed conflicts are embedded in our global system. The continuous war in Congo – fought out by child soldiers of [up to here] whom I met in 2010 – can be traced down to control over mines with valuable resources, like coltan. It’s probably in your pocket or handbag right now, that same coltan. Fortunately, we’ll soon be in a position to buy a fairtrade phone ‘ 1 January 2014! But there are more ways to use your influence to help prevent more armed conflict in the world. And I know I am preaching to the converted, but let me mention the first five:
1) Buy products and services from developing countries ‘ to create demand for the products from the entrepreneurs there. This will create opportunities for people of your generation; that is ‘ if it’s labelled fair trade. Because after the Bangladesh drama, we are wary of the clothing industry.
2) Live in an environment friendly manner: it does have an effect on peace on the other side of the world. CO2 emissions and climate change have desastrous effects elsewhere. A former child soldier from South Sudan told me about the violent clashes over grazing land which is drying up slowly but steadily. You can play our serious game ‘WaterConnexx’ and find out your impact. But also in your daily life: like one group participating in the Duurzaamste Studentenhuis / Most Sustainable Dormitory did last Winter: put on your wool vest and turn down the heater. Of course they won’
3) Transfer your savings to a ‘fair’ bank. Some banks invest in speculations on land in developing countries, resulting in land grabbing. Whereas our savings could be invested in local entrepreneurs. Triodos and ASN Bank know how to do that; you’re just a few clicks away from supporting a local entrepreneur!
4) Help control arms trade. The year 2013 has been succesful in this regard: a treaty was signed for stricter controls on arms. Quite necessary because the Netherlands is still in the top 10 of arms exporters.
5) Engage with your generation in developing countries. I am particularly excited about Africa: economies are booming, people start up business and more young people get connected through mobile phones and internet. One of the places that is known as being unsafe, Benghazi, has the greatest facebook adepts: the girls I met there, who want to start their own internet cafe, are online day and night. Interconnectedness: it is only a few clicks away’..but what you did as Peace of Minds Academy is taking it one step further.
The Peace of Minds Academy is a deep plunge into real international cooperation; trying to understand the context of your partner organisation and find synergies between them and you. Sounds easy, but is very hard. I saw that you worked really hard to get good results. I would like to ask the audience to appreciate exactly that. Believe me: you learned more than you think and WILL put it in practice some day, maybe sooner than later. Because two of the POM alumni will go to Mali now to work on peacebuilding! Which takes me back to the topic of the Mali mission, which will fight the symptoms of the crisis. It is just as important to work on the underlying causes of that crisis, such youth unemployment. Your social entrepreneurship here can help create new economic opportunities for young entrepreneurs there. So since we are here at the Impact Hub, go and start your own company and engage!