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Youth UPF

International Young Leaders Summit in Nairobi Offers Vision for Renewal

Nairobi, Kenya - An International Young Leaders Summit in Nairobi called for a new era of peace for the continent through mobilizing its youth, renewing the family as the normative model, and building a culture of service. It drew young leaders from 25 nations to an international summit in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 19-21.

Hosted by the Youth Federation for World Peace (YFWP) and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), the summit convened at the United Nations Office in Nairobi and drew broad support from a host of international and local organizations, including Kenya’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kenya’s Vision 2030 Secretariat, and Martin Luther King III’s Realizing the Dream, Inc. Other prominent supporters included Kenya’s National Youth Parliament, Kenya Jaycees, Africa News Break, United Press International, and the Nation Media Group.

Kenya-2009-13-21-International Young Leaders Summit in Nairobi Offers Vision for Renewal

The summit and service project gathered some 400 young leaders representing 22 African nations, Jordan, India, and the United States and was co-sponsored by YFWP, UPF, and a coalition of government, civil society, and faith-based organizations.

At the Nairobi Festival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his wife, Ida Odinga, joined an international delegation that included seven former heads of state and over 120 members of parliament, spiritual leaders and representatives of civil society, and a crowd of some 10,000 Kenyans. The Young Leaders Summit shared many of the goals of interfaith service and cross-cultural engagement as strategies for resolving conflict. Welcoming the delegates to Nairobi, Mrs. Ida Odinga stressed the importance of values in the education of young people, especially the value of peace education. “We are all children of God,” she declared, and “as long as the youth carry the vision of one family under God, the future is bright.”

Janet Mbugwa, News Anchor for Kenya Television Network, lamented that Kenyan journalists too often focus on the negative aspects of their society—scandal, tribal divisions, and political corruption. She was inspired, she said, to report on something positive and constructive. Writers and photographers from the leading newspapers in Nairobi also provided extensive coverage from print, online and TV media, including three print media stories, three television segments, and multiple online articles dedicated to the event.

Voices of peace

Among the Summit’s prominent supporters, U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King III, founder and chairman of Realizing the Dream, Inc., emphasized the importance of nonviolence in the context of the recent unrest. “We all know [my father] was a Christian minister and worked hard to unite Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu brothers and sisters and others together, with the understanding that we are all children of a common Creator. . . . We are God’s highest creation, but are reduced to lowest levels by resorting to violence. . . . I’m challenging young leaders to be thermostats to set the tone of leadership for peace,” he told the delegates.

Sir James Mancham, the founding president of the island nation of Seychelles, recalled the time when Kenya was winning its independence from Britain. In those days, he said, the rallying cry was Harambee! a term indigenous Kenyans used to affirm their unity in opposition to British colonial rule. In recent years, he said, that spirit of unity has been challenged, and Kenyan politics reflect bitter partisanship and tribalist attitudes. Urging a spirit of unity in confronting contemporary challenges, Mancham advised the young leaders, “Take care where you step, for each footprint will show.”

PLO Lumumba, a famed national constitutional lawyer, orator, and political and youth leader for national unity in Kenya, called on young leaders to rise to the challenge of giving new hope and direction to Africa. “At each critical moment, it was young people who stood up, as the children of Soweto, South Africa, did in demanding freedom,” he said.” Lumumba charged the youth delegates to launch a new movement to address the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that will “go beyond ethnicity and tribalism.”

Nairobi River Project

The Nairobi River tree-planting project brought together residents from the city and its outlying areas to plant 1,500 trees along the banks and clear garbage from the murky waters. Mrs. Odinga remembered the days when her son would bring home fish from the Nairobi River and ruefully remarked that today if a child even touches the water he or she is likely to return home with cholera or at least a stomach ache. “We want our clear water so children can have picnics by the riverside, can play there, and so that people can enjoy themselves,” she said.

The trees were provided through a partnership with the Ministry for the Environment. Many who had attended the earlier Global Peace Festival in Nairobi returned to participate in the project, and scores of children in school uniforms came to sing for the participants and to plant. In all, about 400 people showed up to serve.

The Nairobi River project marked the effective launch of a broader Global Peace Service Alliance inspired through social impact volunteering projects in every continent in 2008. In addition to the river restoration, supported by Prime Minister Odinga’s “Kenya We Want” and Vision 2030, plus the  Global Peacemakers conflict resolution and peace building model developed in Cote D’Ivoire and other nations. The Seattle-based Next Generation Academy also engaged 30 international volunteers in character education across six African nations as part of the launch of this alliance.

Global Peace Service Alliance director and former national director of AmeriCorps VISTA David Caprara says that the time is right for a service partnership that is global in scope. “British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for ‘a new kind of global peace and reconstruction corps’ based on Kennedy’s vision of the Peace Corps,” Caprara says.

“International service is a unique peace making methodology. It provides a bridge of understanding across ethnic and cultural divides and can powerfully complement political diplomacy as a tool for achieving peace. President Obama has called young people committed to international service ‘our greatest resource.’”

“I bow my head in profound respect of the God of all of you,” said Rai Markandey, Chief of Global Parliamentarians for UN Habitat Headquarters. “I salute the role of young leaders in achieving peace and the MDGs. . . . Peace is not a utopian dream—it begins within yourself, your family, society, nation, world based on the philosophy of oneness, one God, one family.”

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