By Alma Mirvic, Joint UN Regional Programme Coordinator, Bosnia Herzegovina.
I came into the four-day workshop organized by the Conducive Space for Peace initiative with curiosity of mind, as part of a joint UN team. I walked away both with questions in my head and a conviction that we should not be concerned with numbers, but with identifying, empowering and supporting a critical mass of youth leaders in communities where we work.
More than twenty years since the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, our project, Dialogue for the Future, is looking at improving social connectedness, from a social cohesion perspective, by creating more spaces for dialogue between citizens and their elected leaders. We are working in 28 different municipalities across the country to set up youth-led local dialogue platforms, institutionalized by the local administration.
For me, the biggest value of the accelerator was the opportunity to interact, learn from each other and openly cross-examine our approaches, methods and assumptions. At a human level, we were able to glimpse into the realities of others: vastly different contexts of post-conflict or conflict settings and different power structures, variety of actors on the ground and outside. Behind their words and presentations of peace interventions in South Sudan, Mali and Syria, I could visualize faces of children, women and men, boys and girls, who lived in the communities where they worked. The fact that, in their presentations, nobody mentioned numbers of “beneficiaries”, resonated with me.
Project interventions may be too narrow in focus or too short in duration to achieve tangible impact. However, if we succeed in nourishing and empowering a group of young women and men in local communities to engage in and lead others in constructive dialogue and action on social cohesion priorities, then our efforts have not been in vain.
With the recent launch of the 2019 Global Risk Report, we were once again reminded that global affairs, and relationships among major powers in particular, were marked by geopolitical instability, and weakened multilateralism. The report notes that respondents ranked “increasing polarization of societies” second only to climate change as an underlying driver of developments in the global risks landscape. This is a playing field where social cohesion is undermined, weakening the resilience to conflict. In our interconnected world, global challenges require global action, no country can act successfully on its own. Likewise, more opportunities to question approaches and learn from one another in an open forum represent a conduit to new perspectives and healthy examination of our approach.