What role do the youth play in effecting nonviolent social change and why?

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What role do the youth play in effecting nonviolent social change and why?

To help start the conversation and keep the focus of this discussion thread, please consider and respond to the following questions:

  • Why are young people are so often the drivers of social change movements?
  • What drives them to stand up and make a difference?
  • What happens to those youth, who go out on the streets to create change; after this change has been achieved (e.g. representation in politics)?
  • What are the effects of the economic crisis and ongoing changing social realities, and what does this mean for youth’s involvement in social issues. For reasons of economic survival (due to a less supportive state/ social system), the younger generation might also end up having little time left as to engage in volunteer-based activism next to their paid jobs and care-taking roles.

Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to existing comments!

As a start...

Young people are the future the MENA region. Young people are the Movement’s driving force here and now, and are societies’ strongest confidence for real and lasting change in their communities and beyond.
They are in no doubt the key drivers of social change. Despite considering this fact, proper policies focused on engaging young people in order to build a domestic constituency for international development that will create lasting connections. Young people have grown up exposed to internet, global popular culture, and easier communications and travel, which has made the world smaller, more connected, and more accessible.

MENA Youth role in the Arab Spring

GhidaAnani wrote:
Young people are the future the MENA region. Young people are the Movement’s driving force here and now, and are societies’ strongest confidence for real and lasting change in their communities and beyond. They are in no doubt the key drivers of social change. Despite considering this fact, proper policies focused on engaging young people in order to build a domestic constituency for international development that will create lasting connections. Young people have grown up exposed to internet, global popular culture, and easier communications and travel, which has made the world smaller, more connected, and more accessible.

Thanks a lot Ghida for this opening comment, it would be interesting to hear your assessment of the role MENA youth have played in the Arab Spring and the popular aprisings sweeping the Middle East, especially pertaining non-violent protesting and social organizing.

 

Youth at the time of transformation....

The youth in the MENA region played an unprecedented role in the events referred to as the Arab Spring, especially pertaining to non-violent protesting and social organizing. These were probably best ipitimized by the actions of youth in the Libyan and Egyptian revolutions. Youth gathered in masses to peacefully protest against regimes they believed to be dictatorial and antagonistic to their values and beliefs. The united stance of these youth and their unyielding diligence in the face of violent responses from the ruling parties were, ultimately, what gave heart and strength to their successful revolutions for change. Their dedication as agents of change through peaceful means are an inspiration and a valid model to build upon for future initiatives of active non-violence and civil disobedience in the MENA region.

Why are young people often a driving force for change?

I am not sure I know the response to this question but it is true that young people are often a driving force. Certainly in Nicaragua, young people were the ones who led the sandinista Revolutuon, a violent Revolution that pushed the dicatator out of power. I guess it has to do with young people´s dreams and strong ideals about the possibility of a better society, of equality and social justice. In Nicaragua the current adull generation was the one that took down the dicatorship with guns, and we haven´t learned to make social change with non-violent tools, and the majority of the young generation are not so enthusiastic about gettting involved in politics, because many of the revolutionary leaders became corrupted and authoritarian. This is why some of us left the old Sandinista party and found it a new party, and we are now trying to encourage young people to get involved in politics again. And, yes, there are groups of young people who have been active in civil society´s human rights, some of them using non-violent tools and some others continue to use hand-made mortars and other violent tools. So we are completely certain that we need to learn more about no-violent struggle, and we will organize study groups with both young and adults in non-violence struggle.

 

Involving youth into politics

Hola Ruben!

Thank you for this interesting insight.  I do not know Nicaragua, but from my experiences in Guatemala I am safe to say that this is no easy task. A lack of legitimacy, state violence and corruption has led a large majority of Guatemalan youth to lose all faith in their countries' official institutions; with good reason I would say. You say that you are trying to encourage young people to get involved into politics again, might I ask in what way you are trying to do this?

involving youth into politics

There are several ways we are trying to encourage young people get invoved in politics. For one thing, we join and support all the organizing efforts and demonstrations against human rights violations and state authoritarianism and violence as run by youth groups.

At Puntos de Encuentro, which is the NGO I work with, we are organizing Central American youth camps and short trainings to help youth groups to engage in dialogue and build alliances accross differences of sex, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, health an physical condition, etc, and to develop a common agenda for their organizing and activists efforts which also includes issues which are relavant to particular groups.  

Also with the Sandinista Renevation Movement, which is my political party, we are conducting trainings to help young people develop their leadership within the party. In this regard, one good thing is that the MRS National President is a young woman (age 34) and there are also several young people at the maximum level of leadership.

Youth's involvement in politics and young women as leader - how?

Ruben Reyes Jiron wrote:

Also with the Sandinista Renevation Movement, which is my political party, we are conducting trainings to help young people develop their leadership within the party. In this regard, one good thing is that the MRS National President is a young woman (age 34) and there are also several young people at the maximum level of leadership.

Hi Ruben!

Thanks for sharing, and happy to see you here! :-) . Usually , young people aren't really represented in political parties, unless it's the youth group of a specific political party. As it sounds, in your political party, young people are actively involved, and not only in a seperate group, I was wondering if 1) the youth feel their views are being seriously considered? and 2) what strategies have been used to get young people involved in this party? I'm also happy to know that the National President is a young woman! Could you please share with us if there were specific campaigns used to get her elected on this position? Thanks again and looking forward to hearing from you

Best wishes 

Jose

youth involvement in politics and young women as leader?

Yes, within the MRS women have organized their own network and they are doing their own organizing and promoting their leadership within the party, and they campaigned for this young woman to become our president, and, of course, this young woman had plenty of credentials to become the president, as she was already a very outstanding leader and organizer.   To get more young people involved we are organizing activities addressing young people´s particular needs such as youth camps and trainings. Also in the parties meetings, young people seem to feel at ease expressing their opinions and I´ve heard is a similar situation at the maximum level within the party. I know this situations sounds ideal,but It hasn´t always been like this. In fact, about three years ago we had started this effort of promoting young leaderships but this effort didn´t get as much support from the adult leadership back then. Nowadays, our adult leadership seem to be more convinced of the need to promote young leadership within the party and they really are supporting these new efforts.

thanks

Ruben Reyes Jiron wrote:

I know this situations sounds ideal,but It hasn´t always been like this. In fact, about three years ago we had started this effort of promoting young leaderships but this effort didn´t get as much support from the adult leadership back then. Nowadays, our adult leadership seem to be more convinced of the need to promote young leadership within the party and they really are supporting these new efforts.

That's amazing, yes it's a matter of time also before the understanding of the importance of this - thanks for sharing !

The youth are leaders today not tomorrow

The youth are driven by a desire to see things changing for the better in their lifetime. The search for a better future couple with the desire to correct the past is what drives them. Nelson Chamisa the Minister of Information, Communication, and Technology in Zimbabwe once said "the youth are not the leaders of tommorow they are leaders today" and this is a fact. the agenda and course of history is steered by the vibrancy of the youth. One I was at a retreat camp for young boys 15-18 years old who were working with me as young activists against gender based violence. as we were struggling to come up with theme for the next campaign against gedner based violence one of the young men said "lets have our theme as reeding the past and correcting the future" and true to his suggestion the youth have the power to stir the course of the future through non-violent activism

youth and MENA

Youth should be and indeed they are involve in NV activism, but there is a majore problem with the new form of activism i believe.  In ME like any other place in the wrold "powers" control the media and internet.  however controling intrenet in ME by the GOV easlly can criple the movement.  The majority of people are depend on internet which is controled or disconect by government.  what should be the activists tactic then? 

The majority of people are

Leila Zand wrote:

The majority of people are depend on internet which is controled or disconect by government.  what should be the activists tactic then? 

This a very important question Leila, and thanks a lot for posing it! It be differently useful to hear from folks here about their perception of it in the challenges facing youth work section of this dialogue. I found this report from the Berkman Center of Internet and Society at Harvard University on internet security in the Middle East and North Africa to be useful.

I strongly feels like it's up

I strongly feels like it's up to the situation. I've seen, here in Israel-Palestine good and successful struggles led by both young people and by older activists. In Israel-palestine, at least in the Israeli-Jewish activists community i'm a part of, that the younger ones are the one that have more hope and energy to change what they believe to be injustice. The older activists are often more tired, hopeless in the change they can bring and seems like a lot of them stayed activists only because they felt that doing nothing is the same as doing - what they believe to be a non-working activism.

on top of that, I tend to believe that young people have more often the ability and courage to get out of the box and try to develop new, and at times more effective, tactics. While at the same time, I see(again, at least in my community) that the older activists tend to stick to the tactics they are familiar with.

Noam

Youth tactics in Israel/Palestine

Gnoam wrote:

While at the same time, I see(again, at least in my community) that the older activists tend to stick to the tactics they are familiar with.

Thanks a lot Noam for sharing this with us, it would definitely be interesting to hear from you about successful tactics that youth have used in Israel/Palestine and if you have any resources to share in both the tools and resources sections of this dialogue.

Is nonviolent action multi-generational?

Dear Noam,

Thank you for your important comments and putting a spotlight on the impact how age can affect activism. My comments tend to be in the context of New Profile (www.newprofile.org/english) and how we, as a movement, also believe that we should live and practice our vision. 

I agree with you that there often is a momentum of "tiredness" amongst more seasoned activists. I often think of this state of mind as despair, or a degree of despair. It is exhausting to always hold your head up high and stay true to your ideals, especially when it seems  like you are walking uphill backwards as it often seems we do here in the Middle East.

That said I am not sure whether it is a matter of energy levels or that ability to focus on what is doable, what I can do as an individual and what can be done as a collective. This raises questions, in our case for example, how can Israeli-Jewish activists be the most effective in ending occupation of Palestine? Does this mean, for example, that we focus on joining  weekly demonstrations in the Palestinian villlages and show our support for them and ending occupation through empathy or our numbers? Or does this mean that we should find ways to turn to Israelis, and try to change their militaristic mindset that promotes occupation, by engaging them in discussion and sharing a different perspective? It is hard to know what could be more effective because the need is so great.

As you know New Profile is a multi-generational movement of men and women between the ages 18-85. I think that one of the reasons that this works so well for me is our emphasis on equality and our ability to share the power. Every voicie carries the same weight regardless of age or seniority. This offers us opportunity to not only create safe spaces for discussion and shared learning, but also allows opportunity for  input, reflection, and new ideas for actions.

A few years ago one of our members created a project called "Listening for Peace"., and he was joined by at least  12 other members of various ages. The project was based on the strong realization that most Israelis are very scared and angry with the present situation. They need an opportunity to voice their opinions and to share how they feel. They need someone to listen to them.

The “Listeners” chose Tel Aviv as their pilot city and stood in a central square with a sign that reads “How do you think we can end the conflict?” and invite passersby to stop and talk.

We believe that by creating a situation where individuals can voice their thoughts and opinions, they are also given a chance to think things out afresh. This project focuses on creating space to think about the present situation and at the same time allows for an opportunity to be listened to and show feelings, including hate, anger and despair. By using listening tools, we believe that we can build new possibilities and create new hope.

Thanks again and all the best

Ruth Hiller

Twitter @hillerruth

Listening & giving a voice to society to build new possibilities

Ruth Hiller wrote:

A few years ago one of our members created a project called "Listening for Peace"., and he was joined by at least  12 other members of various ages. The project was based on the strong realization that most Israelis are very scared and angry with the present situation. They need an opportunity to voice their opinions and to share how they feel. They need someone to listen to them.

The “Listeners” chose Tel Aviv as their pilot city and stood in a central square with a sign that reads “How do you think we can end the conflict?” and invite passersby to stop and talk.

We believe that by creating a situation where individuals can voice their thoughts and opinions, they are also given a chance to think things out afresh. This project focuses on creating space to think about the present situation and at the same time allows for an opportunity to be listened to and show feelings, including hate, anger and despair. By using listening tools, we believe that we can build new possibilities and create new hope.

What an interesting tactic, Ruth! Thanks for sharing. Listening, and being heard, is certainly a powerful act in the midst of a long, ongoing conflict. It would be great to learn more about the impact of the "Listening for Peace" project. This is a bit off-topic from engaging youth, but I wonder what the next steps could be...

New Tactics has documented a case study called Society as Mediator for Conflict Resolution which is about how Elkarri, a group based in the Basque Region, has used a form of dialogue they call social mediation to encourage the broadest possible participation from all arenas of society to discuss solutions to the conflict. Community members were given a broad choice of ways to get involved: from signing a petition to becoming a member to participating in and organizing discussion groups. But however people chose to participate, they learned that they had a role to play in mediating the conflict that affected their lives and created pressure on the groups in conflict to make steps toward seeking peaceful resolution.

The tactic you describe above reminded me of this case study because both tactics are focused on giving a voice to the people that are stuck in the middle of conflict. Maybe this case study could spark some new ideas for tactics.

Youth Being Heard and Outspoken in Israel-Palestine

Dear Ruth Hiller and Noam, 

I was very interested by your outlook on the role of youth in activism in Israel -Palestine. As a member of a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization primarily working with youth in a triangle framework (Palestinians inside/citizens of Israel, Jewish-Israelis, Palestinians from the OpT) we indeed focus on the issues Ruth mentioned such as the importance of speaking and being heard. One of our core programmatic methodologies is to give continuous time and space to each of our Single Identity Groups while they engage in bi-national discussions.Our experience showed that there was (especially recently) a much greater need to engage youth in their own communities first, and after they have had time to first look critically at themselves and their own community do they become ready to engage in deeper and comprehensive conversations with "their enemy". In essence, our SIG framework enables youth to gain critical views which enables them to be open to new information and ideas. The process of sharing in the small group builds personal confidence and practices the important tool of active listening and respectful conversations. This becomes the foundation of how they later engage with their peers from the other groups. This provides the important need of being listened to and also provides the space for acknowledgement of other peoples feelings and emotions. Throughout their process of meeting with each other the youth begin to recognize inconsistencies in their own information, and thus become curious and motivated to learn more. This is a huge part of what we do, we find that youth will become active only when they deeply understand what it means to them, to their society and to the shared future of Israel-Palestine. Our work is founded in our belief that we must be the 'change we wish to see' so our model of a joint-team and our joint youth programs are in our view, very much a part of our activism. Our youth and team are active on the streets as well, but we believe that by merely working together in our conflict is a mode of activism and resistance to the occupation which serves to alienate and segregate Palestinains and Israelis. 

I also was reminded of the importance of Role playing by your comment. I urge you to look at a recent video of one of our graduates which shows the people of sdorot role playing as Palestinians. 

http://972mag.com/watch-israelis-from-sderot-play-palestinians-under-the...

(sorry for some reason hyperlink wasnt working for me) 

 

Let me know what you think!

 

In peace, 

Melanie 

Re: Youth Being Heard and Outspoken in Israel-Palestine

Hi Melanie,

Thanks for your comments and questions. I am an admirer of Windows and what you have achieved in the most difficult of circumstances.

I think you have raised very relevant issues with regards to where first discussions should take place. As you many know New Profile, as policy, focuses on Israeli society because that is where we feel we need to make the change. That does not mean we don't network with Palestinian organizations from Palestine. We do have collaborations over the border in specific frameworks.

Basically the outgrowth of our belief is that there is a need to question the deep-seated influence of militarism on Israeli society first; making the aim of our organization: to change the Profile (which in Israeli military slang also means army classification) of Israeli society from a militarized society of war and might, to an actively peacemaking community in which the rights of all its citizens are protected and promoted equally, and the human rights of all people residing inside and outside Israeli borders are respected. Additionally we believe that there's a broad draft resistance movement among young people in Israel today. Conscientious objection is a visible, but only a small part of that movement. We also believe that by raising awareness amongst youth we provide them with new understanding that participating in the military is a choice, and that it is also possible to choose not to participate. (I gave a broad description of our work with youth in an earlier thread that I think you will find interesting.)

Your methodology of creating active listening and respectful conversations sounds very similar to how we work. It can be a very long process, I agree, but also I believe it is the only way to gain true understanding of others and a vision of what can to be done. At the same time my question to you is how do you, as an organization, promote equality amongst so many sides, each with its particular point of view? I would argue that Israelis have the advantage of power over the Palestinians, those that live in Israel and those that live in Palestine. Do you encourage discussion regarding refusal, and if not could this be one of the discussion that we can share with your Israeli participants? I know that this might be a sensitive question. But I am asking it anyway.

Thank you for sharing the +972 clip with me. There is nothing like visuals to bring home a point. Now I would like to share something with you. This is a link to our digital exhibit Making Militarism Visible. This is one of the tools that we use to show how militarism has permeated into our everyday lives and to create discussion. We also have a roving exhibit in Hebrew. You are invited to take a look and also share this with others.

http://www.newprofile.org/english/?cat=11 

Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you, (perhaps even after this week?). 

All the best,

Youth being heard and outspoken in Israel/Palestine

Dear Ruth, 


Thank you for your response and for sharing the New Profile material with me. In response to your question regarding how to promote equality while each group maintains its own view, meanwhile around us the imbalance of power in favor of the Israelis is apparent. 


This is of course a very difficult issue that we deal with. I mentioned earlier the importance of acknowledgement and recognition. Thus, part of the process of recognition is recognizing the imbalance of power, as Israelis and as Palestinians. Again like the motivation to become active, our youth discover what this imbalance of power means via their own experiences and their discussions with one another. In our preparation processes, the youth have to encounter the issues of class, race, religion, gender etc within their own group. THis provides an initial tool of analysis for understanding what imbalances of power mean and look like. When the groups then engage in bi-national discussions they are able to present their own realities and experiences and then they must analyze these experiences and create their own conflict tree map. This includes a process of sharing family histories as well. Throughout this the youth are beginning to see the hints and information that presents the imbalance of power and then they are able to analyze the conflict with an understanding of what imbalances of power means and looks like. 


Once there is a personal and then identity group level recognition of the imbalances of power we have to focus on overcoming feelings of guilt and victimhood and recognizing that together WE can create OUR relations based on equality and justice and respect etc. the idea is that in windows we have understood one another in a way that our societies do not, and thus while we may in windows build true equal partnerships we understand that this is not the reality around us. But the empowerment of knowing you have real partners in this struggle makes the endeavor that much more hopeful for th youth. 


I hope that answers your questions. In response to your question about refusal it is something we do deal with but as an apolitical organization we do not push the youth in one direction or another. Rather we encourage the youth to understand all the factors facing them and to make a critically informed decision. For example one of our recent graduates attended a new profile session during her process of decision making. I spoke with our program director who suggested that this could definitely be something of interest to incorporate new tactics into this conversation with our youth. Furthermore, I very much appreciated the information you sent and believe it is very helpful for local and international audiences. 


I would be happy to meet when I return to Israel as I am currently in Romania, I return dec 9, let's definitely be in touch! 

Re: Youth Being Heard and Outspoken in Israel-Palestine

Dear Melanie,

Thank you for your response. 

I believe that organizations, like New Profile and Windows, touch young people who are willing to question what is going on around them, and in by doing so may isolate themselves even further from friends and loved ones. That is why the safe space our orgs have created are so important. I think that we are providing a platform for a growing circle of new activists who are willing to refuse, willing to put their lives on the line in the weekly demos in the West Bank, and dare to openly oppose Israel's present day policises.

I am sure that we both would benifit from a brainstorm session together. I look forward to meeting you when you return to Israel.

 

 

youth within New Profile

Ruth Hiller wrote:

As you know New Profile is a multi-generational movement of men and women between the ages 18-85. I think that one of the reasons that this works so well for me is our emphasis on equality and our ability to share the power. Every voicie carries the same weight regardless of age or seniority. This offers us opportunity to not only create safe spaces for discussion and shared learning, but also allows opportunity for  input, reflection, and new ideas for actions.

Hi Ruth!

Thanks for sharing, I think New Profile is doing amazing and very important work. I agree that it's so extremely important to put an emphasis on equality and sharing power. From my experience in terms of partnership building between women's and men's activist groups, I have noticed that unconscious ways of thinking can be barriers to true equality and sharing of power. Quite often men's voices are taken more seriously than women's - sometimes unnoticed (e.g. the amount of time given for speaking during a meeting) and it takes a conscious effort to challenge this. I was wondering how within New Profile you ensure that every voicie carries the same weight regardless of age or seniority - have there been specific strategies for this? It would be great to hear more on this, I would love to learn more on this. 

Thanks!

Peace Jose

Power sharing within New Profile

Hi Jose,

Per your query regarding how members of New Profile strive to maintain equality and power sharing, I would like to emphasize that most of our membership participates on a voluntary basis, largely without remuneration, in the non-hierarchically defined activities to which they feel they can contribute best. Paid functions or work on specific projects are taken by rotation, offering everyone a chance to earn a paycheck at some point if they so desire. Activists are encouraged to broaden their range of activity and, for that purpose, receive support and empowerment from co-members. Our model for shared work is part of our stategy. We do not have an office or employ staff. Our supposition for this is that if we did employ staff, it would lower our ability to involve volunteers.  

Our monthly plenary meetings chaired by two different members each time. These work meetings, held monthly since New Profile’s foundation in 1998, serve as the movement’s main decision-making forum. Facilitation (in pairs) is rotated among members and the facilitators set the meeting agenda in dialogue with all active members.  Our meetings are open to all, including potential new members.

The monthly meetings serve as an opportunity for reflection on aspects of our organizational functioning as an ongoing process. This includes issues like intergenerational working relations within the movement, or modes of non-violent, gender conscious communication, inside New Profile and in our encounters with others.Older members, with more seniority or even age, and younger and newer members have equal say, and are provided with equal time to share or express an opinion.

From time to time we will devote a plenary to a particular subject or project. This provides a wonderful opportunity for shared learning, and usually involves one of the teams preparing the discussion. We try to maintain a proportionate amount of learning in our activism so as to create a balance. Sometimes we will also hold study days and invite experts in different areas to share their work and research with us.

Most of our work is done on teams of 2, 3, or more, depending on the activity or project. Some of the projects, like our youth groups, are long term. Others such, such as preparation for a demonstration, may be short term. But each of us volunteers to contribute in what he/she feels the most comfortable with, and you can often find that many of us work on a few teams and projects at the same time.

I hope that I was able to answer your questions.

All the best,

 

-

thank you very much, it's very clear. It sounds like a very well thought-out structure and there's a lot to learn from it. 

Thanks

Thanks a lot Ruth for sharing

Thanks a lot Ruth for sharing this "Listening for Peace" indeed seems like a fantastic tactic. I was wondering if there is any online presence for this initiative any link or anyone I can talk to to find out more?

Thanks a lot again for your active participation.

Best,

Mohammad

The decision to take a stand

Hi,

I will start from the experience of War Resisters' International and its work supporting conscientious objectors to military service. In many countries conscientious objection is an entry point to political life for young people, as they are confronted with the fact that they have to do something about their military service. If you don't want to do military service you can either try to get out but without taking a stand on why you don't want to join the military or you can make your options a political one. Usually for young people who don't want to join the military they start from a human rights perspective that it is my right to choose not to learn how to kill others, which  comes more from an individual position. This is the crucial moment when if there is no way to channel this stand it can simply just end there after you managed to avoid doing military service. But if there is a way to channel this stand, being that you have other friends that are in the same position or there is an organisation working on these issues, it is possible that your decision will not end there and you will go on to start making connections realted to your decision of not joining the military, for example on the role that militarism plays in society. This can also take you to look at how your means connect with your ends, meaning that if you want to live in a society without militarism then your actions to get there have to be without the use of violence, which can take you to explore the use of nonviolent action.

So as a starting point, many young people at certain age are confronted with specific situations which is afffecting their society,  at that moment you can either think that the problem is too big for you to do something. However, if this is socialised with others that also think that you can do something about it, it can mean that you start organising to try to do something to change the situation, and if this is channeled by having or forming a group working on theses issues it can mean the start of your political engagement.That's why it is important to see what are the issues young people are confronted with and how they can see that they are not alone facing these problems and that there is something possible to do - take action!

 

Why are young people so often the drivers of social change?

I personally believe that, while youth are quite often the drivers of social change movements, this does not happen often enough and there seems to be a sort of apathy at times, particularly in contexts where there is no immediate urgency or open, violent conflict that needs to be addressed (and here I am referring in particular too the Romanian context). And this is where I would like to hear your opinions on the possible causes of this apathy, if you've witnessed it in other contexts as well.

Now, getting back to the cases where youth do become active and involved, I believe that the main factor that drives them is the desire of having a say in the way their future will look like and believing that their actions will have an influence on how this future will look like. This, in turn, stems from youth being more and more exposed to multiple pieces of information from all over the world, including stories about nonviolent movements and strategies, and also countless articles and publications that also teach young people how to implement nonviolent actions, such as Gene Sharp's 198 Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion, to mention only one. 

Additionally, youth have the major advantage of being technologically savy. In other words, they have the means to mobilize their peers, they have access to countless networks and platforms, and all the social media venues like Twitter and Facebook, that makes them permanently connected with the pulse of the world and the society they live in. I'm not saying that adults are not catching up with these technological advances, but youth are getting more and more creative in using them

 

 

 

Apathy among youth

I am currently in Strasbourg at a conference on the European Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights, and among other things, we discussed the issue of what a speaker called passive citizenship or what you Iulia call apathy. Her point was that social change happens not when everything is going great in a society nor when a society is going through severe crisis, but when people feel the risk of societal crisis - that this is the best possible breeding ground for change as people are feeling threatened, but at the same time can function in a somewhat stable context. I think there is some level of truth in this, but at the same time I am convinced that active citizenship can be fostered also in a stable and well-functioning soceity, as long as young people see the possibility of influencing their context. I think apathy comes about when you see no possibilities of influencing the society around you. 

I think young people's activism has a lot to do with them being less established in society, and thus with them having less to lose. If you have no mortage, kids or even job you have way more to gain from positive social change I think - and you also have more to invest  - for instance time. 

Greets, 

Matilda Flemming

International Secretariat and Outreach Coordinator

UNOY Peacebuilders - www.unoy.org 

 

Apathy among youth

United Network of Young Peacebuilders wrote:

Her point was that social change happens not when everything is going great in a society nor when a society is going through severe crisis, but when people feel the risk of societal crisis - that this is the best possible breeding ground for change as people are feeling threatened, but at the same time can function in a somewhat stable context. I think there is some level of truth in this, but at the same time I am convinced that active citizenship can be fostered also in a stable and well-functioning soceity, as long as young people see the possibility of influencing their context. I think apathy comes about when you see no possibilities of influencing the society around you. 

Hi, Matilda! 

I would just like to add that I absolutely agree with the fact that active citizenship CAN be fostered also in a stable and well-functioning society. At the same time, the concrete example of Romania where youth activism is practically missing from the social scene, made me ask myself why, however, there are cases where this doesn't happen. It might have to do, as you rightly point out, with seeing no possibility of changing the society around. 

Hi Iulia, I guess you got a

Hi Iulia,

I guess you got a good point there. I think in Europe we do see at the moment a youth which is disillusioned by politics. I am not familiar with Romania, but I see a similar developement in other Western European countries that young people often feel that they have no say in the current political system, that no space is given to them although politicians (as well as older activists sometimes) constantly state how important the youth is, while on the other hand they are ignored or not taken serious. 

Additionally, the current economic crisis hits the youth harder, they are often the first to loose their jobs and will have difficulties finding a new one since they compete with a growing number of people who have more work experience. In that sense they are just busy finding a place in society, surviving, often without the feeling they can change the whole system they are caught up in. Why in some countries this situation leads to youth being passive while the same situation in other countries will trigger the youth to go onto the streets would be interesting to investigate. 

 

Youth apathy

Merle Gosewinkel Women Peacemakers Program wrote:

Why in some countries this situation leads to youth being passive while the same situation in other countries will trigger the youth to go onto the streets would be interesting to investigate. 

 

Thank you for your additions, Merle! I also agree that this issue deserves further discussion, and I would like to point out to the issue of education and education for active citizenship. Is this maybe not done enough to stimulate a response in young people? Could it also be that, in general, young people do not know what are the "strings they can pull", so to say, to make their voices, do not know that they can and should act for change, that there are ways they can lobby/advocate for issues that are affecting them and the society they live in? And then, there is also the question of envisioning a different kind of society, of envisioning a better future? Maybe creativity and critical thinking are not stimulated enough to encourage this kind of activism. I'm just raising some questions, because I don't have the answers either :)

Hi Merle, Iulia and

Hi Merle, Iulia and all, 

Merle, you were saying that young people are not given political space. To my mind, we need to realize that we need to concur this political space ourselves - no one is going to offer us it on a silver plate. 

I think the best way of learning active citizenship is through practicing it from an as early age as possible. Having my roots in the school student movement I really belive that school democracy plays a key role here. A recent report from the European Commission on Citizenship Education in Europe concludes that even if student councils or other forms of democratic institutions involving students in the decision making of their schools are common in Europe today, the large majority of these student bodies only have consultative status, with very few actually having real decision making power. I think more decision making power to students could be a good way of fighting apathy among youth and of giving young people the opportunity to see that they actually can influence things. 

Another thought is lowering the voting age to 16 as has been done in Austria, with quite some positive results with reagrds to active societal youth participation.

Cheers, 

Matilda

UNOY Peacebuilders

Considering young women and men

Hello all, 

I am glad to read the enthusiasm and the interesting comments. 

First, I would like to touch on one of Matilda's points: that youth's activism has to do with them being less established in society. I think she is right. Youth often find themselves in a little bit of awkward position. They are no longer children, nor are they adults. Similarly, they are less dependent on adults, parents or care takers; yet, they often lack the means or opportunities to act out the role of adults. Simply put, youth often find themselves in a state of limbo.

I enjoyed reading Ruth’s example of the "Listening for Peace" project. I think this example shows that youth want to be listened to and that when given the chance they will be more than happy to speak up and share their experiences and stories. Moreover, I think that if you offer youth a little, they will give back so much more. Reading the comment, however, I was wondering what happened after the pilot.

Lastly, referring to the comment posted by Ruben, I agree with your stated reasons for why youth engage in activism (young people’s dreams and strong ideals about the possibility of a better society, of equality and social justice). However, I would like to suggest these reasons for activism are not new, nor is youth non-violent activism. Youth actively push boundaries and thus become agents of change, though I think that the intensity of action has increased and the nature of activism has shifted.

One of the dangers of homogenizing a group is that much and many are left out. For example, it is important to note and to be aware of the fact that young women experience situations differently from young men and that often, as Jose noted, young women’s voices go unnoticed and that young women are left out of decision-making processes. I was wondering if anybody could share a story about young women’s vs. young men’s involvement in non-violent activism. Are young men supportive of young women participating in non-violent activism and if so, to which degree?

young men/young women

LisePaaskesen wrote:

 I was wondering if anybody could share a story about young women’s vs. young men’s involvement in non-violent activism. Are young men supportive of young women participating in non-violent activism and if so, to which degree?

Dear Lise, 

Living in Palestine I observe that both men and women play a very important role in nonviolent activism. In the more visible activism like demonstrations, men are often the majority, although many women take part in demonstrations and sit-ins as well. But the 'sumud' (steadfastness) of the women, the active participation in volunteerism in the community plays a very important role in the Palestinian nonviolent activism. You asked for stories so here are a couple of examples:

Palestinian women shared their personal stories of life under occupation. These stories were printed on huge posters and exhibited on the Wall (a project by the Arabic Educational Institute). Hundreds of women from villages all over the West Bank are participating in a Nonlinear Leadership Training given by Holy Land Trust. During this training they learn how to 'make the impossible possible'. The majority of our trainees participating in the MwB music&nonviolence leadership training are women. Working on the land that is occupied, continuing to pick olives although the trees are threatened by a nearby settlement, are examples of nonviolent activism in which women play a very big role.

About your question if young men are supportive:

The participants of our rap and samba leadership programs are mostly young men. But when they work with teenagers, they always make sure that at least half of them are girls. Although a girls playing samba percussion is not accepted everywhere, the young men of the samba groups have been looking for girls willing to join. In on samba group in an isolated village the two young men leading the group even made sure that their samba group was always 50/50 men and women. 

young men/young women

Dear Fabienne, 

Thank you for sharing these stories! It is great to read that although young men are often in the majority, young women are not discouraged to participate. Also amazing to read that the young men of the samba groups activley look for young women to participate! 

Good luck with these great projects and initiatives!

Why are young people are so often the drivers of social change m

I think its simlpy because ,youths are the future leaders of tomorrow.So if they dont get involved in social change movements, how then can they rule in a society where the decisions belong to the older generations.

The Economy, Occupation and youth activsm in Israel-Palestine

I wanted to respond particularly to the question posed at the outset focusing on how the economic crisis has impacted youth activism. IWhat I have seen recently with our youth and in society that the economy has become a very divisive factor, something that is fairly new to Israel.In Israel, class lines were blurred for many years as a result of the mainly socialist founders of Israel, at the least class issues were  left unspoken. However the summer protests of last year has sparked a new discourse on the influence of classism and the role of neo-liberal capitalism in Israel. While we are fighting wars, many Israelis continue to live in painful situations both physically via poor housing and via being severely indebted because their income is not enough to support their life. Several of our youth are active in the opposition movements who are formulating their new political campaigns on the role of the economy. The concept as one recent graduate explained, is that rather than trying to focus on the Occupation, which inherently sets you aside as a 'traitor' they believe the best way to unify the Israeli society is against the tycoons and large capitalist interests running the country. This is a result also of their own experiences of being unable to progress because of the current economic situation. 
On the flip side in Palestine, our youth and various activist organizations focus on the fact that the lack of a well functioning economy and occupation are one in the same. In the past few months we saw youth organized demonstrations regarding the economy in the West Bank, although aimed at the PA, it became clear that neither the PA or the Occupation will stand in their way of demanding a fair economy in which they can participate in the global markets as well.  What I have also seen is the lack of youth employment opportunities has resulted in greater participation of youth in activism (particularly Hebron) as it is perceived as their own hope to make a difference. 
In summary, I find it interesting how each side will relate the economy and the occupation. Israeli activists using the economy as a starting point to energizing Israeli society for a change from the status quo which ideally will open up a conversation down the line about the occupation. Where as, in Palestine youth are very much aware of the interconnectedness of their poor economy and the occupation and see their activism as their only solution to their economic difficulties. Rather than being driven away by the economic crisis i would argue that both Israelis and Palestinians have utilized it as a tool to expand and further their activism. 

The economy - Chilean student movement

Dear Melaine,

Thanks for bringing the economy issue up.

I would like to shortly share the experience of the student movement in Chile (country where I am from). Last year the student movement was as strong as I can remember it. Students in Chile have been one of the main driving forces for social change, for example protesting against Pinochet's dictatorship, students regularly took to the streets to protests (Link to Actores Secundarios a very good film in Spanish about student protest against Pinochet). The movement then got weaker with the end of the dictatorship and without having such a clear opponent. Also there was hope that things will get better now in "democracy". It is true that things did change it terms of human rights. However the economic model implemented during the Pinochet years was continued in democracy, with destructive neo-liberal policies. So after years and years of students seeing their rights and possibilities to access good educations weaken, last year movements came stronger than for a long time to the streets, demanding good and free education. The movement first focused on the inequality in the Chilean education, and the fact that people are getting rich by running education institutions. The movement had wide support within the Chilean society as they saw it as a reflexion of what was happening at all levels of Chilean society, where there are extremely high levels of inquealities, most services are privatised and people are in huge debt to try to live to what Chilean society standards try to impose.

So people at all levels could empathise with the student movement as their struggle was everyones struggle. So even though the demands were mostly education demands, it reflected a wider demand for systemic change in Chilean society. This wouldn't have been possible without all the really inspiring actions carried by students.  Some of the best examples where when the student movement organised weekend demonstrations inviting the whole family, which were extremely successful. So actions by youth can be really good as many sectors in society can empathise with them. 

Javier Garate

@javitejavier

 

The Economy

Javier Garate wrote:

The movement had wide support within the Chilean society as they saw it as a reflexion of what was happening at all levels of Chilean society, where there are extremely high levels of inquealities, most services are privatised and people are in huge debt to try to live to what Chilean society standards try to impose.

So people at all levels could empathise with the student movement as their struggle was everyones struggle. So even though the demands were mostly education demands, it reflected a wider demand for systemic change in Chilean society. This wouldn't have been possible without all the really inspiring actions carried by students.  Some of the best examples where when the student movement organised weekend demonstrations inviting the whole family, which were extremely successful. So actions by youth can be really good as many sectors in society can empathise with them. 

 

Dear Javier, 

Thanks for your informative response about the economy and the issues in Chile. I am fairly familiar with what has happened but it was interesting to learn how the student movement became the leading voice for society. I am interested to know more about whether this has continued and if the society has rallied behind the students in the face of growing government control, or have the students remained the main actors on these issues? If society has been more active, in what ways have they been active? How has the student movement tried to engage the society around them? Has it been only in street demonstrations? Or are there other actions they have done? 

I am very interested to learn more about how the student movement has tried to mobilize their society and whether you feel it was successful. 

 

Thank you!

Melanie 

perception of failure

Dear Melanie,

Thanks for your question. This year (2012) the student movement had a lot of pressure to repeat the levels of movilisation and presence in the mainstream media. Every year the student leadership changes, which has an impact on the style how the message is communicated. Many of the 2011 student leaders, have moved to more traditional politics, some of them even running next year for congress, mostly as the political parties see them as having very strong credentials within the Chilean society.

During the summer break (January and February) the student had long evaluation sessions about what had happened during last year. One evaluation was that there were too many demonstrations and that what was needed for the upcoming year (2012) was to try to reach out to other movement and sector of Chilean society.

This was a good idea in principle, as they had already the attention of Chilean society now was the time of building stronger alliances with other movements. But in reality it meant a drop in the momentum of the movement as the presence in the street was less and in the street is where the movement showed its strength.  The question is how many marches can you have in a year and try to continue gaining momentum. It is clear that other tactics need to be implemented. Still the movement is strong and very creative.

In 2011 there were different forms to engage the wider public. For example there was a self organised referendum organised by the movement asking if if you were in favour or against profiteering in education. For this referendum there were polling stations all over the country and you could also vote online. So for people who usually don't join demonstrations, this was a very easy way of showing support to the movement.

The use of art as usual was very important. Marches were very colourful and with music to try to have a positive dimenstion to counter the message coming from government and the mainstram media that the student movement was violent.  A very famous action was a flash mob: "thriller for education". 

In 2012 the movement had less impact but still it carried some of the momentum from 2011. And now when other sector of society want to movilise, it is crucial for them to reach out to students. The question of the movement cooptation from political parties, is an important one. Last month there were local elections and there was a wide spectrum of positions within the student movements. Some calling to boycott the elections, while other former leaders were running in the elections or actively campaigning.

The events of 2011 shaked social movements in Chile and students know they are a force that can set topics in the political agenda and can put really pressure to the powerholders.  For me a very useful model to analyse a movement like the student movement in Chile is the Movement Action Plan, by Bill Moyer. In this model there are 8 stages a movement is likely to go through. I think by the end of 2012 the movement could feel in stage 7 (winning over the majority) Which means until now, the movement has focused on protest; now it is important to offer solutions. I think in 2012 is possible that the movement went back to stage 6 (perception of failure) this is enhanced by decreasing participation in movement events and negative media coverage. But this perception of failure can quickly change as the movement has done the ground work and quickly can get momentum again. 

2013 is an election year in Chile, with presidential and congress elections. From many sides they will make offers to the student movement, so it will be a crucial year to see what is the strenght of the movement and use this opportunity to bring about real change.

Javier Garate

WRI

@javitejavier

 

 

 

Similarities in the movments in Israel and Chile

Dear Javier


This was a very interesting model you shared and I would like to continue to draw upon some of the similarities in our movements. First off negative media has certainly been an issue, while the majority may be interested in the changes in society, the media is mainly influenced by the government which obviously opposes any change in the status quo. You mentioned co-optation of the movement by political parties, while this is not totally descriptive of the situation what we have seen is that the current government using its media influence has tried to redirect the conversation back to security so that people will be too afraid to focus on the economy.


 On this issue I would like to ask, what kind of media tactics has the student movement been utilizing to combat the negative mainstream media? Twitter, facebook, advertising campaigns? Also, have any journalists taken on the challenge of entering into politics?(This is something increasingly common in Israeli politics)


Secondly the issue of elections is also relevent for us as by February we are also facing a new Israeli election. The issues we are facing in this election are similar to what you described but not quite the same. We are seeing the young/student leaders of the movement jeapordizing their values in order to fit the model of the 'establishment of Israeli politics'. For example, newcomer and movement leader Stav Shaffir recently ranked in the top ten in the Labor party but a lot of analysis and even her friends have suggested that she had to bend on a lot of her ideals to get there. Therefore, we are fearful that although the movement leaders may reach some positions of power, they will have to make large concessions to get and stay there. 


Is this concession of values to reach political power something you have seen in the students who have chosen to participate in the elections? If so, how have the leaders themselves responded to this issue and also how has their constituency responded to these issues?


I was very interested in the movement plan you shared as well. It was interesting to try and see where our issues fall on that map. What I felt after reading is that we too are in a place where there is perceived failure and a loss of momentum (especially now that security has become a very hard to ignore issue due to the recent war with Hamas/Gaza). I believe that move to the political realm will provide some newfound hope but the goal of creating participatory democracy has yet to be fulfilled. What I found interesting was the description of actors in the movement. As members of a joint-Israeli-Palestinian organization we are most often cast-out as 'tratiors', in the terms of the terminology you provided, we could be considered 'the rebels', the fringe, while saying the same things that others might agree with, our solidarity with Palestinians will set us aside from the mainstream. At the same time however, our youth programs aim to develop agents of change. We also utilize this term as it is our goal ,to educate youth who go on to educate their communities and societies and we aim to create a long-term network of grassroots Israeli-Palestinian activists. Thus our youth who do become active in the internal Israeli politics often have to avoid discussing their views on these other key issues, a very difficult thing for them to do. 


You mentioned in your post that the movement has become dvidied on how to move forward, how are they coping with this? 


I was very interested by the flashmob and the self-organized referendum, i plan to share these with our team and youth as interesting options for activism. 


Sorry for such a lengthy response!


In peace,


Melanie 

Division or Diversity

Dear Melanie,

Thanks for your message and making the connections between the Israeli - Palestinian and the Chilean situation.

First I would like to answer to the question of division in the movement.  For me the issue and this doesn't only applies to the Chilean case, but is when do we talk about division and when we talk about diversity.  I think what is important is that for the outside world the movement appears as united as possible - as there is a common opponent - and in many ways this is the case in Chile, as whenever there are calls for a demonstration, students from all sectors take to the streets. The problem is when there are groups that go against the very nature of the demonstration, for example - and going back to the media presenting the demonstration as violent - the organisers call for a peaceful demonstration and groups join the demonstration and are happy to act violently. I know that many times the police are the ones that provoque the violence, but that's exactly what they want, to provoque a reaction that then can be used to delegitimise the protest. What the Chilean student movement has done is to actively engage with the violent end of the protest, making the case that it actually goes against the goals of the demonstration. This has had different levels of success, but at least the powerholders can not say that the leadership of the movement is violent.

The student movement is very diverse, for years it had a strong presence of the comunist party but recently a more independent left has had more protagonism.

So if you look at the movement  from inside it  can be seen as if there are strong divisions. For examples on what tactics to use or how to engage with political parties. But at the same time through coming out to the streets together they can still create a sense of unity which is very important. The important point is how to build strength from the diversity and not divisions and this relates to the isse of the different roles metioned the Movement Action Plan. That not everyone has to play the same role in a movement or that there is only one role that will bring social change. What is important is having communication channels between the different roles.

On the issue of participating or not in the election process and the impact this has. So far in Chile, it has been important that student leaders while they are leaders of the movement try to engage as little as posible in election politics, as if not they stop being seen as representing a movement but a party or other interests. The students have come out very clearly saying that their movement is ont only to change education but for a change of the whole system.  Some see that to bring about this change you need to engage with electoral politics, as to change it from inside, however,  other think that's impossible. At the last elections there was the lowest turn out to vote for many years, in many ways following the call of students to boycot it. So more at a movement level I think there is a majority that sees social change coming from the movement and not through election, this doesn't mean that many student also vote and some actively campaign. But as soon as student leader are seen very close to a specific political party they seem to lose their stronger movement credentials and are seen as some new and fresh faces which might  bring a bit of new energy but within the same political system.

Finally on the issue of media: Of course social media has played a very important role. But also as the movement got bigger and the mainstram media could no longer ignore it, then it was important to make use as much as possible of this media. For example through interviews and debates. The debates where students debated with politicians, university directors, etc, were in many ways the most effective ones, as you could challenge the powerholders directly and the public could see the difference of ideas. For this it was very important that the student leaders were very well informed, so they could constrat all information and bring in arguments backed with research.

I think I will stop here as it is already a long answer.

Thanks

Javier

 

 

 

 

Common enemy unites

Hi Javier, thanks a lot for the  elaborate picture of the situation in Chile. You write about the youth or students as if they are very much united, which could of course be the fact that they have "common enemy", the old system. I was wondering how you see this, since you talk about how they are working for social change, but often the change one group envisions is not the same as the one of the other group. I do not know the situation in Chile, but it let me think of a political experiment recently seen in Germany. The socalled Pirate party, predominantly consisting of young people, students, Internet and new media experts, won in several of the federal states of Germany, also being voted by almost exclusively young people. Hopes were high and promises made sounded wonderful: flat hierarchy, more transparency, more real democracy by using the Internet to discuss the standpoint of the party with the people on the basis. Unfortunately once they got into the governments of th different federal states, the problems began: since thy started as a party with not much content apart from demanding more transparency in politics, hey struggled to find a consens on how to relate to other political issues. The common enemy, the old political system bad bound them together, but once they had conquered that, they clear vision of hat change to bring was more difficult to ocercome. To me it shows that is is vital to already work on clear strategies long time in advance, this goes of course not just for any youth movement, but for everyone.

 

Building alliances

Hi Merle,

Thanks for your comment. I agree on the importance of having a long term strategy, and working on the alternatives o what in nonviolence language we called constructive programme. Many times the powerholders argument is: so what is the alternative you propose.

It is true that within the Chilean student movement there is a wide range of political positions when it comes to what kind of society you envision, so when looking at the big picture there are some differences. However,  there was a strong unity on the diagnosis, being clear that the problems in education are a systemic problem so there needs to be a change in the system.  Now when coming up with a solution there are some difference but when it came to the specific issue of education, I have to say - especially in 2011 -the movement was very good at showing that there are alternatives, and making concrete proposals. A very important moment was when the student leaders went to a session in Congress of the education commission to make their proposal, this was shown live on television and was very clear that most of the student leaders knew more about education and the different options that the politicians. The proposals were on free and quality education. So when it came to the specific issue of education there was also a broad agreement on what was the alternative. 

It is not that easy when the movement started getting involved in other issues beyond education, and here there was a much wider diversity and not so clear proposals. And yes, as some of the leaders are members of political parties, as soon as it was not related to education it was seen as if they were simply representing their party's line. I already mentioned the last local elections, and one good example was some of the student leaders supporting independent candidates, some of these candidates actually got elected and the support of the student leaders was crucial on this, but again this was inside the traditional electoral politics.

So the big challenge is how a movement which becomes strong and has a lot of impact in society but is connected to one specific issue, can move to a broader discourse of social transformation. I think here you come back to the importance of alliance building, which as I mentioned earlier was one of the goals of the Chilean student movement for 2012, which I think was not really achieved. When we talk about movement building, building alliances is a key factor. How different movements can find a common ground to work together, which doesn't mean that you have to agree on everything. You need to identify what is that you have in common. For example I think the economic crisis is a big opportunity for different groups to come together under a common problem. For example WRI as an antimilitarist and nonviolence network has made the connection between the economic crisis and military spending, and some of WRI's members have worked closely with different occupy groups making this connection.

I'm not sure if I answered the question. But I think what is important is for movement to keep their independence as much as possible and find common grounds for alliance building, knowing that you can not agree on everything and that some compromises will need to happen, but without losing your indentity.

Thanks

Javier

WRI

 

Similarities in the movments in Israel and Chile

Dear Javier


This was a very interesting model you shared and I would like to continue to draw upon some of the similarities in our movements. First off negative media has certainly been an issue, while the majority may be interested in the changes in society, the media is mainly influenced by the government which obviously opposes any change in the status quo. You mentioned co-optation of the movement by political parties, while this is not totally descriptive of the situation what we have seen is that the current government using its media influence has tried to redirect the conversation back to security so that people will be too afraid to focus on the economy.


 On this issue I would like to ask, what kind of media tactics has the student movement been utilizing to combat the negative mainstream media? Twitter, facebook, advertising campaigns? Also, have any journalists taken on the challenge of entering into politics?(This is something increasingly common in Israeli politics)


Secondly the issue of elections is also relevent for us as by February we are also facing a new Israeli election. The issues we are facing in this election are similar to what you described but not quite the same. We are seeing the young/student leaders of the movement jeapordizing their values in order to fit the model of the 'establishment of Israeli politics'. For example, newcomer and movement leader Stav Shaffir recently ranked in the top ten in the Labor party but a lot of analysis and even her friends have suggested that she had to bend on a lot of her ideals to get there. Therefore, we are fearful that although the movement leaders may reach some positions of power, they will have to make large concessions to get and stay there. 


Is this concession of values to reach political power something you have seen in the students who have chosen to participate in the elections? If so, how have the leaders themselves responded to this issue and also how has their constituency responded to these issues?


I was very interested in the movement plan you shared as well. It was interesting to try and see where our issues fall on that map. What I felt after reading is that we too are in a place where there is perceived failure and a loss of momentum (especially now that security has become a very hard to ignore issue due to the recent war with Hamas/Gaza). I believe that move to the political realm will provide some newfound hope but the goal of creating participatory democracy has yet to be fulfilled. What I found interesting was the description of actors in the movement. As members of a joint-Israeli-Palestinian organization we are most often cast-out as 'tratiors', in the terms of the terminology you provided, we could be considered 'the rebels', the fringe, while saying the same things that others might agree with, our solidarity with Palestinians will set us aside from the mainstream. At the same time however, our youth programs aim to develop agents of change. We also utilize this term as it is our goal ,to educate youth who go on to educate their communities and societies and we aim to create a long-term network of grassroots Israeli-Palestinian activists. Thus our youth who do become active in the internal Israeli politics often have to avoid discussing their views on these other key issues, a very difficult thing for them to do. 


You mentioned in your post that the movement has become dvidied on how to move forward, how are they coping with this? 


I was very interested by the flashmob and the self-organized referendum, i plan to share these with our team and youth as interesting options for activism. 


Sorry for such a lengthy response!


In peace,


Melanie 

reflecting on ourselves as (young) activists

Hi everyone,

Reading through the contributions, I noticed that the issue of young activists entering mainstream power structures, trying to fit its values and jeopardizing their principles while doing so has come up several times. 

I think it is an important observation, one which not concerns young people but everyone, and one we should be discussing more openly as civil society when we have our meetings or organize our trainings. Do I walk the talk all the time? Do our words match our actions as an organization? These can be uncomfortable questions, also for civil society.

Once you become a voice of influence as an activist organization, doors start to open and people will approach you - with different motives and agendas. Some genuine, some not. As nonviolent activists, it will always be important to reach out to as many people as possible (the power of numbers); to be open to joining hands with new players (even the not-so-usual suspects); but how to do this without entering a domain where you start to dilute what you stand for? 

I guess something is going wrong when the collaboration/actions turns out to be more beneficial for the specific person or organization than for the cause one is supposed to be fighting.

It is important to recognize that power games are not only happening "out there" (in Politics with the big "P"), politics is also happening within civil society. I remember a discussion we had with activists recently - we were discussing the importance of networking in the MENA region -  and the honest reflections that came forward from the group. People shared about the devastating competition between NGOs, the undermining effect of lack of trust between NGOs, the fact that setting up networks in the region had become a donor trend resulting in the bottom-up networks (originating from and sustained by activists' commitments) being undermined by donor-initiated/supported new flashy networks. People spoke about being torn between needing all their time and limited resources to do the work on the ground (their reason for existence) and feeling they also needed to show their face at all the network meetings/ donor events/ endless conferences in order to be "seen" and considered "still relevant" as organization. 

I felt priviliged to be part of this discussion as it felt liberating to talk openly about this.  It is a reality that not only exists in the MENA region but everywhere, and it is a painful one. As civil society we know we can expect power games from the establishment at one point, but the ones that come from within are the ones that hurt the most. "Divide and conquer" is affecting us all and makes many civil society organizations - whether consciously or not - get caught up in a game of survival. Which is not serving anyone in the end.

It is something we do not talk about often as activists, though perhaps by opening up and admitting that this reality exists we would be able to find better ways to deal with it. It means we need to consiously create space to reflect critically on ourselves and our work - is what we are doing still serving what we stand for? We also need to discuss what happens to ourselves when we enter arenas of power, and how to deal with the contradications that emerge from this. And we need to learn how to say "no" when the cause is no longer being served - even if this means we are the only one speaking up, and might be risking our organization/ personal position by doing so. 

In our recent WPP publication on this topic, one of the interviewees mentions that often the younger activists are more daring and more confronting as they have less to loose - they usually do not have a social status or well-established organization to defend. His words reminded me of a fairytale that left a big impression on me when I was a kid: The Emperor's New Clothes. Perhaps this is the challenge for all of us as activists - to remain connected to the daring spirit inside who has nothing to loose.

 

Why are young people are so often the drivers of social change m

The Kenyan experience shows that young people are the most affected with the high unemployment rate and so many times they are at a point where they need to make crucial decisions in their life. The decisions dictates which directioin they will take in life. A number of things are likely to happen at this point but I will point two main ones. They may decide to be serious criminals or go to the other extreme and look at their challenges critically and become serious drivers of change.

Again the Kenyan experience, part of the reason why these young people go missing ones change has been achieved is that most of them enter the struggle with narrow visions and stand the danger of being swallowed into corrupt systems or worse still end up being compromised. The greatest risk then is that the desired change is never fully achieved.

Youths and Politics

Our young people for many years have enjoyed being foot soldiers of seasoned politicians besides not being able to marshall resources to outdo veteran politicians. To that level even the few who succeed in getting their don't find the political playing field level mainly because of finances. The veteran politicians enjoy calling the shots and the few young people are never noticed and eventually begin behaving like old politicians. The difference then becomes the same.

Why are young people are so often the drivers of social change m

Youth is the symbol of energy and deep belief in  idealistic themes. This is what makes them the main drivers of social changes.They believe and they act accordingly.
After few years, many family and professional responsibilities, this ideal becomes a memory of another life.
One needs to believe deep enough in something to fight for it. Few years ago, in France, high school students who were not even old enough to vote were on the streets, everywhere in the country,  to ask the civil society to wake up and go to vote unless they wanted the party of Le Pen (very racist)  to win.
It worked, these kids make it happen, they save the society.

Why are young people often the drivers of social change movts

In Uganda, it is because of the unemployment rate; this is two-fold; the twenty universities in Uganda have an average of 3000 graduates a year and none of this can find gainful employment. They look at government has being insolent about it because of the many pensioners still working. For example the average in Uganda's cabinet is 60. Then there is another group of unemployed youth because they did not go far in studies for various reasons i.e. lack of tuition, being orphaned etc. This is one of the reasons that the youth of Uganda have become actively engaged in social change movements. They feel government has let them down and that government has overstayed (27 years in power) and believe it’s time for change
Another reason is because of access to information and social media. They can see what youth in other countries are doing e.g. Egypt, Syria etc.They therefore say-"if they can, why can’t we"

Walk to work protests

There are currently walk-to-work protests over the high standard of living. A good number of youth take part in these walks and are often teargassed and imprisoned. Some of them take advantage of this walks to riot and loot. However some of them feel used because when they are arrested, the organisers of the protests are not there to help them out e.g. bail

walk to work protests

one of the links on the walk to work protests

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/04/201142831330647345.html

 

 

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