The role of youth in creating the culture of peace

Published December 16, 2018, 12:08 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat


(Rep. Christopher VP de Venecia spoke on “Millennials and Post-Millennials: Architects of Peace, Cretors of Our Future at the Asia Pacific Summit 2018

International Youth Assembly Kathmandu, Nepal on December 3, 2018.)


Rep. Christopher VP de Venecia
Rep. Christopher VP de Venecia

First and foremost, may I commend the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), founded by the late Rev. Sun Myung-moon, which reach and influence have spread to various continents with its message of peace among nations and brotherhood among races.

Let me also express my appreciation for being a part of this assembly, where the wisdom and experience of so many inspire us and give us fresh ideas for workable solutions to the critical challenges of our time.

Youth make up the majority of world population

It is the youth that make up the majority of the world’s population today. According to the United Nations, there are about 1.8 billion young people in the world between the ages of 10 and 24. It is the largest youth population ever recorded and many of these young people are in developing countries. In the world’s 48 least developed countries, children or adolescents make up a majority of the population.  It is also noteworthy that majority of the world’s youth population live in Asia, with around 356 million in India and 269 million in China, according to a 2014 report of the United Nations Population Fund.

These facts give me both a sense of awe and responsibility, as one of the youngest lawmakers in my country, the Philippines. The future belongs to us, and we have this opportune moment to create a peaceful and sustainable world.

​Peace, though a loosely defined concept and varying from one culture to the next, has a common denominator – a life of dignity and well-being for the people. This was echoed by the United Nations as they convened a high-level forum on the culture of peace in 2014.

Global challenges

However, all around the world, tensions are rising due to geopolitical wrestling, radical violence, widening economic inequalities, political and societal disintegration, climate change, dogmatism, extremism, constricted livelihood opportunities, social injustice, and migration policies, to name a few. These are in contrast to a life of dignity and well-being. Despite the advancement in science, business, arts, and technology, there is the missing piece – that is, the missing piece of peace.

Indeed, while we live in exciting times, we are also inching closer and closer to a frightening world.

All these are not lost to the consciousness of the youth because it is ultimately what we see or share on social media.

Most of these unrests, volatilities, and uncertainties directly impact the lives and the future of our young people. Hence, the youth are and should be speaking up.

The youth are fighting back.

The youth are disrupting the modalities of power, decision-making, and peacebuilding.

In the United States of America, the youth led the March for Our Lives in February, 2018, as a response to the senseless violence of the Parkland, Florida shooting. Years back, the Arab Spring, though not primarily led by the youth, was still heavily participated in by the youth of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and other Middle Eastern Countries.

Analyst M. Chloe Mulderig of Boston University said that the Arab Spring “could not have occurred without the ideological and numerical push of a huge mass of angry youth.”

Though most of the British youth opposed Brexit and voted for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union, the referendum results edged UK out of the EU. Despite the loss, there is now a growing movement called Generation Brexit to help define the terms of the exit and carve a satisfactory and manageable future for the British youth. It is an online platform that aims to ‘crowdsource’ a Millennial vision for UK-EU relations after the Brexit referendum, and give voice to British and European millennials in the Brexit negotiations.

Architects of peace, creators of the future

Indeed, the future belongs to us, but that future is not one we will inherit or one that will simply fall into our hands. We cannot be passive bystanders in the evolution of events – both local and global – in our time. We are in the here and now – engaged, equipped, and empowered.

Behind the buzzwords of “millennials and post millennials” is our responsibility and power, nay, opportunity, to be the architects of peace and creators of our future.

We are equipped with our passion to create and innovate, our zeal as change-makers and influencers, our intimate knowledge of the digital world, our fresh perspective and new ways of thinking, our innate curiosity and sense of adventure, and our readiness to venture into unchartered territory to achieve developed, sustainable, and inclusive societies— these are powerful instruments of peace and a livable future.

Creative economy

They are powerful because they can drive mankind towards productive and creative pursuits— creating and producing, instead of destroying and abolishing. Their natural outcomes are inclusive development and social advancement, instead of conflict.

All over the world, we are seeing creativity and innovation redefining the concept of nation-building. Cultural products and creative industries are boosting the economies of many nations. And these are primarily spearheaded by the youth.

According to a study published by consulting group EY, creative and cultural industries in the Asia-Pacific region alone are worth USD 743 billion in revenues and employ 12.7 million people.

In today’s modern society, culture and creativity are no longer just aesthetic or esoteric pursuit; rather, it is an exciting frontier for nation-building that once harnessed can help revitalize and re-charter a nation’s economic trajectory.

Think about how much Bollywood has helped surge India’s economy; how the Hallyu culture of South Korea has bolstered both their economy and international tourism; and how creative engineers and designers have driven the digital economy with apps such as Instagram and AirBnB.

Creativity is, in fact, the fastest growing business in the world today. And it is at the core of today’s youth because of the digital landscape we grew up in.

This is the potential we possess— a strong orientation towards lasting peace through culture, creativity, and innovation.

It is also a common ground, manifested through soft power and diplomacy, that nations may consider in pursuit of lasting peace.

This conference’s co-chairman and five-timeSpeaker of the Philippine House of Representatives, Jose de Venecia, was a strong believer in and practitioner of interfaith dialogue. Our generation, along with millions of other youth, are believers in intercultural dialogue and how this often unexploited and unharnessed frontier is a platform by which we can come together.

My fellow young leaders, there are many paths to peace, but I believe one of the most effective paths is to awaken our power to produce creative products and create an inclusive space for trailblazing, disrupting, and innovating minds.

Youth as digital natives

Another goldmine in the capabilities that we, the youth, possess is the language of the digital age. We have access to tremendous amounts of information like never before. As digital natives, we can design apps that redefine and redesign the world in a way that our grandparents never even imagined.

Now, we have Uber and Grab, which reinvented and crowd-sourced urban mobility. We have Netflix, with a stock market value of USD 150 billion, that disrupted the entertainment industry and liberalized access to platforms that were once dominated by network television and film studios. We now have Spotify, with 83 million paid subscribers, which artists like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift have utilized to change distribution calendars and music releases. These are but some of the virtual worlds we have opened up for others to explore. As digital natives, we can bring about groundbreaking transformations, trigger unprecedented advancement in the fields of business, banking, communications, governance, transportation, to name just a few.

With our natural affinity to technology and all things digital, we can transform our world and create a secure, safe, and progressive future.

Power of disruption

The innovation and reinvention available at our fingertips are the very disruptions we need to shake up, move, and transform our world into the future we envision and badly need.

The youth should build our future hand in hand with the decision makers of our time. The youth should lay the foundation of the future given our strengths, ingenuity, idealism and our genuine power and propensity for disruption.

Disruption is not one that adds fuel to the fire of conflict, rather it is the vigor and the wherewithal to challenge the usual courses of putting out the fire, introducing innovation, and reinventing options of resolution.

In this day and age of rising dogmatism and extremism, consistency, inertia, or equilibrium might only lead to more conflict. As the saying goes, “If you don’t change anything, nothing changes.” Our increasingly frenzied environment needs drastic, intentional, inclusive actions to ensure order and progress.

The youth need to disrupt the process of normalization in governance, in business, in civic society, and catalyze change. As Tim Cook of Apple Inc. said, “You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change.”

Youth empowerment

The key to bringing the youth’s potential to bring ripples of change is to empower them. This is what we aimed to achieve in the Philippines when we enacted the Sangguniang Kabataan, or Youth Council, Reform Act. This is a law that seeks to encourage an environment of teamwork and collaboration among youth leaders and youth organizations as they participate and lend a youth perspective to our democratic institutions.

Our local youth councils are given ten (10%) percent of the local village’s general fund to be used solely for youth development and empowerment purposes.

Some of their programs include computer literacy trainings, organization of youth cooperatives, reproductive health seminars, anti-drug abuse campaigns, cultural festivals, sports trainings and intramurals, and livelihood avenues for out-of-school youth.

International actions

On a positive note, the global youth agenda has caught the attention of the international stage resulting in more concrete actions on the role of youth such as the Youth 2030: The United Nations Youth Strategy and the UN Security Council Resolution 2250.

​Both provide an avenue for the youth to be in the thick of policy-making and actions on peace and security and young people’s needs in the global, regional, and national stages.

‘The youth is the hope of our future’

Our Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, has an oft-quoted statement. He said “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.”, which means “The youth is the hope of our future”. As simplistic as it may sound, it is the truth. If we do not like the world we live in now, we are its only hope to disrupt the status quo and transform it into the world we want to live in.

All of us here – young leaders and trailblazers of their countries – are pebbles that will effect the ripples of change in the echelons we occupy.

We are the architects of the peace we aspire, we are the creators of the future we envision. Decades from now, what world are we going to share with the youth of that age? As they gather in a youth forum, will they gather to mend a world of discord or to continue the world of peace we have created?

Tribute to my greatest mentor

As I close my message, allow me to mention and honor aman of peace, one of the prime movers of the Asia Pacific Summit. He is none other than my greatest mentor, my father Jose de Venecia Jr.

Believing in the power of dialogue and cooperation as a path to peace, he founded the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) in the year 2000 and which now represents some 350 ruling, opposition and independent political parties from 52 countries in Asia.

My father also initiated and co-founded the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council (APRC), with former Thai Deputy Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister SurakiartSathirathai. The APRC is composed of former heads of governments, leaders of parliament, foreign ministers and policy-makers who are united in vision to achieve peace in Asia. He is also the Co-Chairman of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) and Chairman Emeritus of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF).

To reduce politico-religious conflicts and tensions in various parts of the world, my father also initiated the Interfaith Dialogue in the United Nations in 2004, involving Christians, Muslims, both Sunnis and Shiites, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and other religious groups, which the U.N. approved and began to carry out. Before this period, inter-religious discussions were considered taboo in the U.N. system.

With the legacy of peacebuilding my father and his peers have started, I hope of all us here, leaders of our young generation, can and will bear the torch of peace and keep it aflame until it is time to pass it onto the next generation.

Thank you very much, and I wish you all joy in your work and great success.