FINDING PEACE: YOUNG CAMBODIANS JOIN THE PEACE DAY MOVEMENT

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While violence in armed conflict has seen a significant decline over the last century, young people today face new challenges accessing peace.

According to the United Nations, the proportion of children and adolescents in high income countries, who are affected by cyberbullying, ranges from 5 per cent to 21 per cent, with girls appearing to be more likely to experience cyberbullying than boys. At the same, about 1 in 4 young people, mostly in the developing world, are still affected by violence or armed conflict in some way.

The ability to access peace also remains fundamentally gendered, particularly in relation to personal safety, with sexual and gender-based violence affecting roughly one in three women worldwide.

Building peace across the generations

For young people in a country like Cambodia, peace is deeply personal, as many of their parents and grandparents experienced the trauma of war. Even today, the legacy of that violent past is hurting many Cambodians, who still fall victim to landmines and unexploded ordnances.

Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day and a global peace advocate, recently visited the Kingdom of Cambodia. Gilley was moved by the country’s resilience and impressed that the Government established an additional Sustainable Development Goal (18) aimed at removing all landmines by 2025. During his visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, hundreds of young people, students and peace advocates took the opportunity to meet with him.

“A lot of youth still see peace only as the absence of war,” one young person in Cambodia explained to Gilley. She further said that today she is more concerned about other forms of violence and harm, rather than armed conflict.

And she’s not wrong.

A recent report by the United Nations found that for young people, peace and security are not only related to the absence of violence. For most it is about development and human rights, and is essential for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

But there is one day when the world is trying to end all forms of violence. Thanks to Gilley’s tireless advocacy and campaigning efforts, Peace Day is now internationally recocognized with a fixed calendar date on the 21st of September.

“One day may seem small and insignificant, but we have shown that it works,” says Gilley.

After nearly two decades of advocacy and campaigning, it’s now estimated that more than 2.2 billion people have been exposed to the Peace Day message, while 940 million are aware of the day, and roughly 16 million behaved more peacefully as a result.

 

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Young people building peace

With about 70 per cent of young people aged 15 to 24 years-old online, there is an urgent need to curb the prevalence of online violence.

“Today, 95% of violence occurs away from the battlefield. It happens in our homes, schools and through our social media channels,” says Gilley.

In Cambodia, there are extraordinary young people who are creatively seeking ways to prevent violence at home, school, and online.

“For Peace Day, I want to give away free hugs to remind everyone of the importance of loving each other,” one student from the Royal University of Phnom Penh said to Gilley.

Another student, Kim Sonalis, plans to perform contemporary dance to the public to raise awareness of Peace Day. While others plan to write blogs, engage with friends online, hold meetings, and even use an online video game to have a discussion about peace.

Even the film community in Phnom Penh is seeking to advance peace through their work. “We are not just film-makers,” said Sophea Kim, “we are peace makers.”

To date, young people have been engaged with Peace Day activities in all but 5 countries. Peace One Day’s goal by 2025 is to have activities in all 193 member states and reach 3 billion people with the message of Peace Day.

Young people can, and are, demonstrating their commitment to peacebuilding and sustaining peace. It’s time to give them the space and resources they need to help them make their peaceful vision a reality.

“Sometimes, one gesture or idea can change the world. If our work can trigger a thought to the next generation to give back and engage in peaceful behaviours, that’s what we want to do,” Mr Gilley says.