Report of the participation of the Amahoro Youth Club in the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum, Istanbul, Turkey 6th -7th April 2009

By Armand Giramahoro

The AYC is one of the members of the UNOY – The United Network of Young Peacebuilders- Peacebuilders which is a network of 38 youth organizations involved in peacebuilding and operates in different countries all over the world.

At the beginning of March 2009, AYC received a call for application of projects advancing intercultural understanding to be presented at the so-called Market Place of Ideas which took place during the Second Forum the United Nations Alliance of Civilization that was held in Istanbul on 6th -7th April 2009.

The AYC decided to make an extra effort and sent an application with its general project which has been developed in 2008, extensively based on our application to the Bernadotte Academy in Sweden. 18 projects were selected by the UN and fortunately the AYC project « Social Mobilization for Change Trough Dialogue » was among them. The Administrative Team of the AYC decided to send the Legal Representative to represent it in the Forum and to be the presenter of the project.

The presentation of the AYC project took place on Monday 6th of April at 5h30 PM Turkish time and each presenter had 3 min of presentation after which the moderator Ms Ghida Fakhry, co-anchor of Al Jazeera English proceeded to a series of questions aiming at clarifying the innovative aspect of the project and its potential to be scaled up and replicated in other diverse communities around the world.

A high-level audience of leaders from government, international organizations, business, religion, civil society and academia attended this session.

My presentation of the AYC project focused on the description of the social features of Burundi, some of the bad events such as the genocide that Burundi experienced and the economic (the annual average income for each Burundian is $148) and political matters that my fellow Burundians are facing nowadays which provide no hope for young people.

As the time of presentation was very limited, I tried to explain to the audience that the AYC project aims at creating spaces of exchange among Burundian young people in the perspective of correcting
the rather grave mistakes committed by old generations and then cultivate a culture of dialogue in the minds and behavior of young people for a harmonious society in the future and to prevent a new genocide and violent conflicts.

Through a series of debate sessions, seminars on democracy, debates on the history of our country, the establishment of a parliament of young people etc, the AYC project intends, I said, to involve
young people to participate actively in social life by giving their input to solutions of problems we also face in our country.

In the long term, the establishment of the Amahoro Open Center which will be a small community center in the countryside where youth can get education for what the UNESCO calls “a culture of peace”.

All these activities aim to prevent also the manipulation of young people by power politicians especially in the times before elections.

After my brief presentation, Ghida asked me some questions related to the innovative aspect of the project and how we are open to work with local and international organizations when implementing the project. My answers focused on the fact that this project, in contrast to other projects, aims to reach out everywhere in the countryside of Burundi where there are real needs and not work only in the capital. This initiative of young people, by young and for young people is coming to give a new image of Burundi and thus the good image of the future of our country and our region where dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue is the only way of building a peaceful society. I confirmed that the AYC is happy to work with other organizations as we also realize that this is a huge project that requires many resources.

After the Market Place of Ideas, there was an opportunity to meet representatives of other organizations and I was very happy to exchange with some high-level personalities who were very interested in the project and who appreciated also my presentation.

Among them were Fatiha Serour, the Director and Head of Youth Affairs Divisions of Commonwealth with whom I exchanged on the vision of the AYC, were interested and promised to get in touch in the future for perspective cooperation and that she will link us with other organizations working in the youth area. Other personalities from UNESCO and from the European Commission, etc. have appreciated the initiative.

The Istanbul Forum has been a very important experience for the AYC as it opened doors to many resources we would otherwise not reach. The future work of the AYC will benefit a lot since the Club has obtained many contacts and links and people have heard what is the situation of young people in Burundi and what the AYC is doing to face such situations.

The meeting and exchanges I had with other youth will help us to stay involved in peacebuilding instead of being discouraged by obstacles that we meet as we also know that our way towards a harmonious and peaceful society is long.

Istanbul was a real discovery for me as a young person from Burundi which is the third poorest country of the world. As we are used to see it, people especially youth from Africa, have a vision of a Europe which totally different from what they perceive about Africa, and that is why immigration from south to the north is so frequent.

What I noted is that the Europe I visited – Istanbul – is really a beautiful, luxurious and attractive region filled with culture and remarkable architecture. The Hyatt Regency Istanbul – the hotel I stayed at, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel where the Forum took place, the clean roads and houses etc. are good examples and they are really impressing.

I believe that if such investment was made in Burundi with its 28.646 square kilometres, its good climate and relief our country would probably be one of the most interesting places in the world where people from all over the world would come to visit and be inspired.

The trip to Istanbul was also an opportunity to meet representatives from UNOY Peacebuilders who were there and other young people with whom we shared some very nice moments in that beautiful and historical city that is Istanbul.

I will not forget Michael C.Slaby, Program Coordinator of the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values with whom I shared fun and emotional moments too when exchanging on how life is hard for my fellow Burundians. Michael helped me a lot during the presentation by encouraging me as it was a high-level audience that I had to face.

My thanks are warmly addressed to Phd Jan Oberg, the Director of TFF – The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research – for his support during my mission as he encouraged me and gave me day-to-day advises over the phone on many issues regarding the presentation.

To everyone who helped me and supported me during that experience I extend my sincere thanks.

3 responses to “Report of the participation of the Amahoro Youth Club in the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum, Istanbul, Turkey 6th -7th April 2009

  1. Amahoro Youth Club

    Dear Armand & Co.,

    I am very happy to finally see this report from Istanbul. I hope you’ll spread it to all members by e-mail and sms and that others in Burundi will pick up the story. It is so important for the Club and you can all be proud that the AYC was chosen by the UN to come to Istanbul. Now…now is the time to make good use of all the contacts, the inspiration and the energy it has gven you all.

    Best and amahoro, always


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