Speech by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio
Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Closing session of the Youth Peace Camp
Strasbourg, 8 July 2011
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I am very pleased to address you here at the European Youth Centre to close this Youth Peace Camp.
The peace camp is an instrument for building Europe together with the Council of Europe and young aspiring leaders.
I am equally pleased to welcome here the participants of the Caucasus Peace Camp which is taking place at Europa Park.
And let me take this opportunity to thank Mr Mack, Council of Europe goodwill ambassador, for his unwavering support and commitment to peace work with young people by hosting the Caucasus Peace Camp at Europa Park.
I hope that we can continue this co-operation in the years to come. Peace needs all of us and all of us need peace: this means learning and practising dialogue.
Europe is full of contrasts.
Never in history have European societies enjoyed such a similar level of democracy and human rights protection. The Council of Europe brings together virtually all the countries in Europe, and promotes the fundamental principles and values of European integration: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Never in history has the level of political and economic integration been as deep as it is today. The European Union unites 27 countries; soon there will be 28 when Croatia joins.
And yet there is a growing concern about the rise of nationalism and populism, as the group of Eminent Persons stated in their recent report – Combining diversity and freedom in the 21st century - Europe is troubled by malaise and fear. We know, and many of you know it much better than us, that nationalism is not an answer; it leads to dead-ends. Exclusion is not an answer. No peace can be built without respect for all groups and for human rights.
There are many unresolved conflicts on the European continent. Every time we let arms speak, we deny the human rights that unite us. Unresolved conflicts are fuel for fear and phobias.
In the 21st Century, dialogue must solve conflicts and fuel peace. But peace is more than the absence of war. Peace is the result of a “deeper security”, where human rights, democracy and the rule of law are practiced in all areas of society.
The Council of Europe wishes to play a more significant role in building trust, dialogue and peace between conflicting states and communities. Young people are key to this process: your presence here testifies that.
Most of the time, young people become involved in armed conflicts against their own will, and they are often among the first victims. It is therefore your right to demand to be part of the prevention and resolution of the conflicts by dialogue, trust-building, co-operation and the finding of common ground. This is what you have been doing here this week, and it is also what you must carry on doing once you get back home.
Earlier this year, on a proposal from the Advisory Council on Youth, the Council of Europe initiated a new project – the Youth Peace Ambassadors – to further support and involve youth leaders in peace-building in communities affected by violence and conflict.
Those “Ambassadors” are first of all ambassadors for the values which unite us. They are also Ambassadors by their personal examples in the projects they initiate, in the organisations which they lead, and in the alliances which they create.
I hope that all of you see yourself as future Youth Peace Ambassadors.
The British statesman Benjamin Disraeli once said that almost everything great in life is being done by the youth. I am reminded of this when I thank each and everyone of you for engaging yourself in a quest for peace and dialogue. To engage in dialogue may seem more difficult than replicating hatred, prejudice and rejection. But dialogue is much more rewarding, and infinitely more sustainable, than conflict and hatred. And it is a great thing to do, because it’s the first step towards peace, to talk with one another.
I hope that you will go from here with positive experiences to share with your families and friends, and that the memories of the peace camp will remain alive for a long time. You are the multipliers for other young people in your countries.
I would like to conclude by re-assuring you that we will remain in contact with you and that you can count on our support in your future projects. We hope to enlarge the networks of peace-builders and Ambassadors by continuing and expanding the peace camps in 2012 and 2013.
Peace-building requires small and big projects and great vision, but it also calls for specific actions. And most of all, peace needs people because peace is made by people.
You have a very important role to play.