Peacebuilding at the Abbe

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is the largest annual event in peacemaking. Needless to say, attending an event such as this is an incredibly daunting task—especially when you’ve been chosen to be the first Native youth delegate to attend.

Why was I chosen? Could they not find someone better? What if I speak too strongly, or am not strong enough? What if I misrepresent my people? What if?

These questions raced through my mind at what seemed like a thousand times per second as I checked in at the Bar Harbor International Airport. With my hand drum and my mother’s eagle feather tucked into a compartment on the wing of the tiny plane, I embarked on a journey that already felt like one of the most significant and terrifying experiences of my life. 

I was excited to be able to hear from the Nobel Laureate’s directly—last year, due to various political reasons, the Summit was postponed and I attended the Global Youth Peace Indaba in Capetown, South Africa, instead. I knew that the Summit would be very different from the Indaba, and the chance to be able to ask questions of today’s leading peacemakers made me feel nervous and intimidated. I arrived in Barcelona, Spain, prepared to consider ways in which peacebuilding can be incorporated into my work at the Abbe Museum and armed with the goal of creating the first Native Youth Delegation to the Summit in 2016. After visiting the city in high school and spending three months there as an undergraduate, it was as if I was returning to a home away from home.

Plaza Espanya, Barcelona

After one brief evening of getting to know the other delegates, the Summit began like a whirlwind. The opening ceremony and sessions took place at the Universitat de Barcelona and began with a welcome by the mayor of the city, Ada Colau. I found that even though I hadn’t heard the Catalán language since I left the city in 2008, I understood the majority of what was said! Not only did Mayor Colau express gratitude to the Laureates and Secretariat for choosing Barcelona, but she also set the tone for the rest of the Summit by publicly stating that Barcelona would welcome Syrian refugees. This led to larger discussions regarding refugees, with other Laureates pointing out the fact that this is not a new humanitarian crisis, and that the root causes of war must be eliminated in order to create peace. Laureate Mairead Maguire, from Northern Ireland, stated that eliminating the roots of war—specifically, ending militarism—would ultimately be up to young people. She believes that the youth is more ingenious than previous generations, and she apologized to the youth delegates for the world that would one day be handed to us.

Me and Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire.

Laureate Mohammed Yunus, from Bangladesh, echoed Maguire’s message, stating that creating a new civilization is the mission of our generation. He stated that, with 20 million refugees around the globe, the world needs direction from the peace Laureates. His message was that the concentration of wealth and the unemployment of young people worldwide ultimately makes for an unsustainable society; he encouraged that we, as human beings, are not job seekers but job creators and that unemployment is the artificial creation of wrong-thinking. If we are to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030, then we, as young people, needed to take action. These goals are meant to serve as guiding steps to achieving sustainable world peace.

Each of the youth delegations nominated two participants to contribute to the creation of the 2015 Youth Declaration of Peace, which would be composed of declarations pertaining to each of the Sustainable Development Goals. Students and young activists from around the world discussed ways in which we, as young people, can work to achieve these goals, and working with my colleagues from LUISS (Libera Università Internazionale degli Studio Sociali Guido Carli), Oxford University, and PeaceJam, the following was written to accompany goal number ten, “Reducing Inequalities:”    

Financial inequality, ongoing colonization, refusal of reconciliation, institutionalized and non-institutionalized discrimination, and the disparate distribution and development of agricultural and medical resources are just a few of the challenges concerning the reduction of inequality; the role of youth is key to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through raising awareness and constantly learning; an effective preliminary solution for eliminating these social constructs is to encourage the unconditional appreciation of all human life (The Youth Declaration of Peace).

Me and other Youth Delegates after the American Friends Service Committee Workshop.

I knew that the Youth Declaration was going to be read during the closing ceremony of the Summit, but I was still surprised when my colleagues informed me that, while I was in the restroom, they had unanimously decided that I would read our section. Aloud. On a stage. In front of all the participating Laureates. The next morning, I met with the other delegates assigned to read the declaration and prepared to read in front of the world’s leaders in peacebuilding. I was, to say the least, absolutely terrified, and have never been more thankful for my theater degree. With my drum keeping my hands steady and my mother’s feather giving me strength, I walked on stage with representatives from the other delegations.

Me at Font Magica, Barcelona

My experiences in Barcelona were far too many for me to effectively summarize in one blog post. I reconnected with old friends while making amazing new ones; returned to a city that I adore; was able to ask questions of incredible peace builders including Jody Williams (a driving force in the launching of an international campaign against landmines), Tawakkol Karman (she has been called the "Iron Woman" and "Mother of the Revolution"), and Frederik Willem de Klerk (the former State President of South Africa!), and excitedly told anyone that would listen how the Abbe tackles social justice issues in a museum setting. Now, I’m conducting research to create the FIRST EVER Native Youth Delegation to the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates for 2016, and couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this history!

Me and Nobel Laureate Jody Williams

There were an infinite amount of meaningful messages received at the Summit. If I were to boil all of these messages down into core lessons, they would be as follows: Mohammed Yunus taught me that youth is key to making change; Mairead Maguire reaffirmed that dialogue is essential to making peace; Frederik Willem de Klerk encouraged that reconciliation is essential to decolonization, and Jody Williams stressed that empathy must be converted into action. With these lessons being added to my peacebuilding toolkit, it is my hope to share these messages with other Indigenous youth and ultimately contribute to the cultivation of sustainable peace, and create a world that my grandchildren will be proud to be a part of.

Thank you to the American Friends Service Committee, an amazing organization that made my journey possible.