Helping young people across Europe confront conflict in their lives and communities.
A group of youth workers and young people from across Europe are better equipped to combat and address issues of conflict around the continent following a €30,000 Erasmus+ project in London.
The Skills and Tools to Transform Conflict initiative was developed by Youth Innovation Ltd and set out to equip youth workers and leaders with practical conflict management tools and peace education strategies, enabling participants to return home and inspire young people to become peacemakers in their own communities.
“Young people face many different forms of conflict in their lives,” said project coordinator Nilgun Pala. “Our beneficiaries shared their personal views and experiences of xenophobia and nationalism, which has seen a rapid increase in recent years across Europe.
Our project created an opportunity for 12 organisations to get to know each other and to work together as sustainable and reliable partners,
“Our beneficiaries stated that political movements and policies have resulted in extremist groups becoming increasingly vocal and openly violent towards minority groups, despite them living in these countries for decades.”
The importance of peacemaking for young people
According to Nilgun, the training was important as this is an area of youth work that most professionals are ill-equipped to handle.
“Youth workers are often lacking the skills to deal with conflict,” she said. “We gave them the tools to deal with many different forms of conflict. The workshops built on a mutual understanding of peace, creating a domino effect by encouraging beneficiaries to act as peacebuilders. It also encouraged our partners to create similar projects reaching a wider audience.”
The training course, which ran in London in 2018, demonstrated that youth work and young people can achieve positive change for their community using conflict transformation and peacebuilding techniques.
“Our project created an opportunity for 12 organisations to get to know each other and to work together as sustainable and reliable partners,” said Nilgun.
With participants involved from countries which were actively involved in conflicts at the time, in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, for instance, a careful and sensitive approach was needed.
“For us, one of the most significant outcomes of the project was to see participants from the countries that are in conflict currently.
“We observed how much they changed their behaviour towards each other in just one week. It was truly extraordinary, and it made us so proud, as an organisation, to be part of this peacemaking.
“Seeing their progress was extraordinary for us. Erasmus+ facilitated this opportunity for them through our project. It planted seeds of peace and these partners have been sharing their direct experiences in their community to show that we can create peace - they have become peacebuilders in their countries.”
The group served as a mediator by providing a neutral and safe platform for partners from countries that would not otherwise have had the chance to communicate in person.
“It was a great step to transform conflict and make peace with each other, and then share this experience to multiply the impact in their countries,” said Nilgun.
The UK benefits of peacemaking training
As well as the international aspects of the work, there were also benefits for young people in the UK, as Youth Innovation organised peacebuilding and conflict management workshops with local youth organisations.
“We believe it promoted mutual understanding and dialogue and motivated young people to become more active in their societies. This has contributed to a reduction of violence and conflict, not just in the partner countries, but also in the UK,” said Nilgun.
We observed how much they changed their behaviour towards each other in just one week. It was truly extraordinary.
As well as the impact on participants, the experience of working on an Erasmus+ project proved beneficial to staff from Youth Innovation.
“Taking part in an Erasmus+ project helps you see outside the box, challenges your comfort zone and eventually helps you expand it,” said Nilgun. “It gives you an extraordinary opportunity to improve yourself and gain new competencies which will create countless new opportunities in your professional and personal lives.
“You will share many great memories, laughter and experiences whilst learning in a more effective way than we are used to from formal education.”
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