Children met in the 11 provincial county seats – their objective – Peace.
“Us children, we are in the best position to state why peace is important to us. Together with other children from the Great Lakes region, we have a message to spread: the war must end,” confides Eunice, 13 years old, who hopes to participate in the Hope Forum in Bujumbura, Burudni, from the 30th May to the 1st June.
“The Forum of Hope”, a platform for Peace
On the 24th of February 2013, acknowledging the danger of recurrent cycles of conflict and violence which persist in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), eleven African countries signed a Framework Agreement for peace, security and cooperation in the DRC and the Great Lakes region.
Faced with the fact that children are at the heart of any sustainable peace, UNICEF has worked since February 2014 to establish the “Hope Forum”, a platform through which children can express themselves about the peace which will determine their future, and to contribute to the process. Preparations are materialising and key dates are confirmed. At this time, children are choosing their representatives in the 11 countries (DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Angola, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia).
Ambassadors for peace
Under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Hope Forum will bring together child representatives (13-17 years) of the signatory countries of the Framework Agreement, to share their opinions and to talk about their dreams. They will have the opportunity to better understand one another; to discuss concrete measures that need to be taken in order to make the Framework Agreement applicable in their communities; and on their return, they will act as peace “ambassadors”, sharing the information with children in their country.
In order for the children’s recommendations to be taken into account at the political level, four Forum representatives will continue the dialogue with the Office of the Special Envoy for the Secretary General, Mary Robinson, and the ICGLR Secretariat. The final Declaration of the Forum will be presented by the children themselves during the ICGLR Heads of State Summit in Mombasa in June 2014.
The preparation agenda in the DRC is quite full: on the 7th and 8th April, a national jury (UNICEF, ICGLR, Coordination of the Follow-up Mechanism for the Framework Agreement, Secretary General of the Ministry for International Cooperation) selected 15 children from among the candidates chosen by the children in the provinces to represent the DRC at the Forum, as well as four chaperones. Girls and boys are equally represented.
“The children were chosen based on their knowledge of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the quality of their oral expression and their ability to synthesise the topic. They must seize this opportunity to show the world that they are already cultivating peace and are its most beautiful promise,” explains facilitator Jean Pontien.
The next step was the national Forum which took place in Kinshasa 25-27 April. The selected children prepared the national memorandum and “a postcard from the DRC” to present at the Forum.
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To learn more about Congolese children’s engagement for Peace, I invite you to watch the film “Flame of hope” made during the Francophone Summit (2012) which recalls the promise made by the states when they ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article published on Pona Bana (French)
Follow DRC youth ambassadors on:
– The Forum of Hope special Blog: Tumblr
– All the pictures are posted on: Flickr
Photos: UNICEF RDC / Serge Wingi / 2014