Peace and Security and Building Community Resilience From The Ground Up

In 2019, 58 participants from across 7 South Asian Commonwealth countries aged between 18 – 23 years were brought together in Kuala Lumpur to take part in a 5 day experiential workshop on peace-building. The overall aim of the programme was to build the capacity of emerging young leaders to bridge communities, lead action and prevent violent extremism through dialogue.

In partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Countering Violent Extremism Unit, the Society delivered this workshop to 58 emerging young leaders providing the skills, knowledge and practices needed to work for positive change.

Through sessions on values-based leadership, non-violent communication, consensus building and active citizenship, participants were introduced to high-level concepts and international frameworks in advocacy; enabling them to return to their communities more inspired and educated, to amplify their work.

The programme was supported by the Malaysian Government; it was opened by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport who delivered a session. The South-East Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism (SEARCCT) was  also involved throughout, providing literature for the participants, speaking at the opening panel discussion and leading a session on ‘Skills Youth need to Counter Terrorism’.

Building on the Society’s demonstrable history of delivering successful youth workshops and multicultural residential training events and establishing successful youth networks, this programme was an invaluable opportunity for participants to meet like minded young people from a range of cultures and backgrounds that usually have very little direct contact. Through dialogue, they began to establish links and connections across the region. This was highlighted by one young person’s comment who said:

‘I feel that as a person I have grown to understand diverse perspectives more than I did before.’

On the penultimate day, the young leaders participated in a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Simulation. This summit was an effective tool for beginning to use some of the soft skills developed over the course of the workshop; demonstrating the international concepts introduced and relating them to a national context, all whilst building on public speaking skills.  Participants were allocated a country in advance so that they had a greater understanding of the country they were representing – particular care was taken to ensure no participant was assigned their own country.

One young Indian man commented that he had been filled with negative assumptions about the beliefs and attitudes of Pakistani and Bangladeshi people. Through the experience of considering issues from Pakistan’s point of view, he reached the point of saying:

“I have come to regret the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh which has prevented people like us from knowing one another and trusting one another until now”.