The celebration of the International Peace Day in Rwanda creates an important opportunity for peacebuilders to meet and collaborate. Individuals, as well as community-based, national and international organisations share experiences, learn from one another, join efforts and undertake practical acts related to building peace in society.
This year, people of all ages came together in a spirit of hope and unity. They related their shared desire for a sustainable and promising future and reaffirmed their commitment to working for peace in their homes, communities and country. Given Rwanda’s turbulent and violent history, International Peace Day takes on particular meaning: citizens understand the immense value of peace and remember what a lack of peace looks like.
Building blocks for peace
In any context, youth are understood as a bridge that connects the present generation to the next one. If we want to pass peace to the next generation, we inevitably have to consider the role and involvement of the youth. To ensure sustainability, we have to ensure that youth participate in and own the peacebuilding process.
But in Rwanda, the role of youth is particularly important. Rwanda has a young population, with a median age of just 18.7 years. It is also a country that has seen the impact of a youth mobilised for violence. The pre-genocide period was marked by massive recruitment and training of youth for militias. During the genocide, young people carried out vigorous acts of destruction.
The International Peace Day celebrations created a space to review the role of youth in Rwanda’s genocide and to highlight that if youth are trained in peace rather than violence, they can perform wonderful acts for the well-being of the country.
Youth Parliamentarians exchange
The Peace Day celebration also provided the chance to test partnerships between governmental agencies, non-state actors and the UN. These partnerships showed the effectiveness of collaboration at national and district levels.
At the national level, the day was marked by a Youth-Parliamentarians Exchange. This is a platform where young peacebuilders from different districts of Rwanda meet with politicians, peacebuilding experts and UN representatives. They discuss achievements, challenges and opportunities as well as strategies to promote sustainable peace in their communities. This year discussion focused on contemporary issues that undermine peacebuilding processes such as violent extremism and terrorism, human trafficking, corruption, homicide, gender-based violence, drug abuse and genocide ideologies.
Based on this exchange, youth committed themselves to become peace ambassadors, fight genocide ideologies, resist terrorism and violent extremism and join efforts to combat drug abuse. The participants called for the introduction of conflict resolution, peace studies and critical thinking at all levels of the Rwandan education system. They also noted the importance of collaboration amongst peacebuilders and the involvement of youth in peacebuilding initiatives at community and national levels.
Never Again Rwanda organised both an art exhibition and an interesting discussion panel where peacebuilders discussed how the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals can be applied in Rwanda and Great Lakes Region. The discussions explored the role of civil society organisations in building peace in Rwanda, the major challenges faced by civil society organisations involved in peacebuilding field and what are mitigation strategies, and what can be done to ensure peacebuilding organisations are collaborating for widespread impact.
During the discussions, it was reiterated that promoting peace education should be one of the key strategies of building sustainable peace. The panel put forward the idea that this education should start at the family level, ensuring ideas about peace and conflict resolution are taught at a young age.
The partnerships established during this year’s celebration of International Peace Day may be seen as a preliminary step towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Peacebuilders in Rwanda need to build the momentum of the Peace Day celebration and develop and reinforce partnerships between those involved in peacebuilding and sustainable development.