Between 11 and 18 October the Youth Peace Initiative 2014 took place in The Hague, international City of Peace and Justice. The Youth Peace Initiative 2014 (YPI 2014) has been set up to get Israeli and Palestinian youth involved with the current peace negotiations between their nations. The YPI 2014 participants discussed and deliberated a whole week to achieve consensus on ideas and solutions for the peace process. Finally on Friday October 17th, they presented their Roadmap to permanent peace "Our Common Future" to the ambassadors of Israel and Palestine. This Roadmap will be also presented to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and the Palestinian and the Israeli heads of the Peace Process negotiation teams.
Israel and the Palestinian territories count some 12 million inhabitants. Half of them are younger than 25 years. The success of peace negotiations, previously facilitated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (70 years old), between Abbas (79 years old), Nethanyahu (64 years old) and Peres (90 years old), is crucial for these young people. The decisions will have an impact on their future well-being. It is ‘about us, without us’. If things go wrong, these young people will be the ones who will have to pay the price. Simultaneously, if agreements are developed, they will be responsible for insuring their success. However, these young people do not take part in the peace process. Therefore it is time for the Youth Peace Initiative, to make younger people part of the peace process. During the Youth Peace Initiative 2014, seventeen young adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, (five from Israel, five from Palestine, and seven from the rest of the world (Korea, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, the United States and the Netherlands) assembled in the Hague. The young adults toured through the Netherlands to get to know the country and each other.
On the morning of October 14th, the YPI 2014 participants gathered at the Peace Palace in The Hague to meet with 200 enthusiastic students from 11 different high schools. The high schools who represented the youth of The Hague came from the Rijswijks Lyceum, Wolfert van Borselen, Aloysius College, Zandvliet College, the Hague International School, the British School, the American School The Hague, Gymnasium Novum, Johan de Witt school, Edith Stein College and Erasmus College.
Topic of the discussion was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for which the high school students had prepared possible solutions in the form of poster presentations since the beginning of this academic year. The well received opening speech by the Managing Director of the Carnegie Foundation, Mr. Steven van Hoogstraten, was followed by an inspiring speech by Mr. Jan Pronk, former Minister in several Dutch cabinets and former Deputy Secretary General of the UNCTAD. Mr. Pronk emphasised the need to recognize the failure of his own generation in the peacemaking process and encouraged the present generation to engage the leaders to recognize the importance and interests of the young stake-holders. Furthermore he shared ten valuable lessons he learned from working many years in conflict regions.
The one or two representing students from each high school presented in working groups their proposals and ideas on the history, foremost the future of the conflict, and its possible solutions. The ten YPI participants who had come from Israel and Palestine for the conference gave feedback on the poster-presentations, which led to insightful dialogue and discussion with the high school students. Serious, yet informal discussions reached their zenith at a plenary session in the Academy Hall next to the Peace Palace Library, where the most creative and inspiring solutions were brought together. Here all high school students had a chance to comment, argue and question the proposed solutions with the presenters as well as the YPI participant who had adopted this solution. Notable were the common ideas on grass roots politics, mutual understanding, the need for dialogue in even the direst circumstances and especially the participation of young in people in the peace process.
In conclusion, both the high school students and delegation members of the YPI 2014 negotiations have learned a lot of each other at the Peace Palace. The discussions culminated in the symbolic release of hundreds of white balloons with the YPI logo and a personal peace message from all participants, from the terrace in front of the Peace Palace. Perhaps one balloon will find its way to Jerusalem and bring its message of peace to both nations.
Roadmap to permanent peace "Our Common Future"
The YPI 2014 participants stayed together at the Institute of International Relations, Clingendael, (think tank and diplomatic academy) and worked on their own Roadmap for permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Finally on Friday October 17th they presented their Roadmap "Our Common Future" to the ambassadors of Israel and Palestine. During the presentation at the international Press Centre Nieuwspoort in the Hague, the participants concluded that the YPI 2014 was very successful. Throughout the process the belief has grown among the participants that peace between Israel and Palestinians is possible. Not only mutual respect was gained between each other during the discussions but also the willingness was clear to come to common solutions and an agreement. The Roadmap contains consensus about core issues but there are also unresolved issues because of lack of time. Further more the participants agreed on the creation of the Youth Peace Initiative of Palestinians and Israelis (YPIPI), a core group to continue with the fulfillment of the Roadmap. "Our Common Future" will be presented to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and the Palestinian and the Israeli heads of the Peace Process negotiation teams.
- Fendius Elman, M., Oded Haklai, E., and H. Spruyt (eds.), Democracy and Conflict Resolution : the Dilemmas of Israel's Peacemaking, Syracuse, New York, Syracuse University Press, 2014.
- Deeb, D.J., Israel, Palestine, and the Quest for Middle East Peace, Lanham, MD, University Press of America, 2013.
- Peters, J. and Newman, D. (eds.), The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, London, Routledge, 2013.