- We have organised peace workshops with local youth and a peace rally, Suresh Poudel explains.
The tall young man speaks enthusiastically about the activities the Youth Peace Council he is a member of has organised so far in 2014.
- And we talk to schoolchildren, teachers and caretakers about the importance of peace-keeping values, he adds, proud of being a role model for the children.
The Youth Peace Council in Chitwan was established to gather youth in the district around the values of peace after the ten-year insurgency in Nepal. With support from the Norwegian Embassy in Kathmandu, the programme ‘Support of Measures to Strengthen the Peace Process’ implemented by the German development agency GIZ has worked to facilitate a wide range of activities to create a peaceful reintegration of ex-combatants to their communities.
The Youth Peace Councils have been an important initiative within the project to create awareness of post-conflict related issues among young people who also carry experiences from the conflict time. Four such councils have been established around the country.
Norwegian ambassador to Nepal, Kjell Tormod Pettersen, recieved a warm welcome when he recently visited the Youth Peace Council in Chitwan.
Organising youth for peace
Poudel and the other council members tell us that young people in their district used to have a bad reputation. Youth unemployment is high, and crime and violence among the youth were common. During the 2008 Constituent Assembly (CA) election young people took to the streets and many encouraged violence and vandalism.
By organising events where young people from different backgrounds can meet to talk about peace, the Youth Peace Council activities has contributed to change perceptions of the youth.
- We have showed that young people also care about keeping this country peaceful, Poudel says.
For the 2013 CA elections, the youth used their voices and votes, not violence, as means to show their political awareness. The Peace Youth Council leader feels that young people now have greater influence in their local communities and are taken more seriously than before.
- Before, the local authorities did not trust the youth, but today they invite us to participate in local decision bodies and to speak in schools, Poudel says.
The council is politically neutral and none of its members are active in party politics.
- Some political parties have tried to recruit us, but we always say we remain politically neutral because working for peace goes beyond party politics, the youth say.