Your Country Counts On You”: UNESCO Country Director Tells South Sudanese Youth

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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The UNESCO Country Director Salah Khaled empathetically reminded the South Sudanese Youth that their country squarely counts on them; thus they should know that only through their collective true commitment to peace-building and reconciliation will they be able to drive peace and development forward.

“Your Country heavily counts on you. It is a matter of preparations for effective leadership on governance. Education for livelihoods which eventually help you overcome insecurity in the country at large,” he emphasises.

The  UNESCO director was addressing 18 Eastern Equatoria State youth leaders, selected by the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI), as Trainers of Trainers (TOTS).

The UNESCO country boss said it’s a golden opportunity for the young men and women of South Sudan to rise up to learn new ways of how best they could settle conflicts among their communities.

He notes that the youth must utilise the present chance to learning new approaches offered by the WPDI for bringing peace and development in the country saying that using violent ways as options to resolving conflicts peacefully won’t help at all.

The 18 Eastern Equatoria State youth for Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) project which led to a five-Day intensive training on transformative peace building held in Torit from 1st-5th September 2014.

The Deputy Governor Jerome Gama Surur, on behalf of the state government, registers thanks to the WPDI through UNESCO support, for the tangible commitment to the Country’s youth capacity building initiatives.

He added that the commenced project is highly welcomed by his government and is prioritizing it. He said insecurity affects development efforts in the state.

The WPDI founder and CEO, Forest Whitaker, told the 18 youth: “Your actions create today’s reality, your intentions change tomorrow, the future of the world is created by what you believe, live your life expressing it!”

He told them that he was grateful to see the number of youth peacemaker network committed to make peace and reconciliation a concrete dream for South Sudan.

Quoting St. Augustine, Whitaker, who is also the UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador, echoed, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe,”  as he added, “Make sure that through your successes  and failures, through all your noise and chaos of the world around you, your story is the one you want to be writing.”

The Friday’s concluded training showed the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN)  tips of technology as they really are experiencing the power of technology to connect and share knowledge and skills/experiences.

The state Youth and Sport Minister Mark Akio Ukinbul, thanked the WPDI with its partners supporting the project, notably UNESCO, for funding. These include Zain and Ericsson Telecom companies.

The state health minister Dr. Margaret Itto Leonardo urged the participants to keenly concentrate in learning what’s being taught to them so they would implement what they have learnt to the letter and spirit. She noted that the youth of today are placed in better position to learn new skills and knowledge to bringing peace about.

The state Gender and Social Development minister, Pasta Hifita Oduho, also appreciated the support from the WPDI for the on-going initiative. She assured her ministry’s support to the state youth, saying the welfare of the youth comes first because they constitute a higher percentage of the country’s population. Being such a big percentage requires government attention so that the youth can positively contribute towards effective building of peace and development.

In his public message directed at the youth and posted on a private digital platform for the participants of the Youth Peacemaker Network, with interactive discussions and educational tools, Forest Whitaker addressed, “Dear Youth Peacemakers, I hope that each and every one of you is doing well and making great progress in your community projects and studies, whether you are in South Sudan, Uganda or Mexico! The future is in your hands, and the world needs youth, like you, to carry out the important work of peace-building.”

“The more you can inspire others to follow your footsteps, the more stability and peace we can bring to our world. On that note, I would like to ask you to post on this network messages on peace that inspire you over the course of the next month.”

His message continues, “Specifically, I would like you to collect as many inspiring photos, messages stories, pieces of art work, and quotes about peace as you can and post them on this Youth Peacemaker Network from now until September 21st. 21st September is a significant day for two reasons. Firstly, it marks the International Day of Peace – an annual world-wide observance of the importance of world peace, which first started in 1982.”

“Secondly, September 21st of this year becomes Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative’s second year anniversary since our founding in 2012! I am so excited to begin our second year together with you, and I welcome you to post all of your inspirational messages and art works so that we can see what peace means to you. Your messages and photos will surely inspire me to take greater leaps forward as we enter the 2nd year of the organization. I will select some of your contributions and post some on my social media and WPDI website.”

He concludes, “Thank you for being a part of the peace movement. In a time when the world is facing difficult challenges, inspirational messages of hope from youth like you can demonstrate that we can transform our world for the better. I look forward to seeing all of your postings over the course of the next month.”

Together with the state Government, the WPDI launched the YPN in June 2014 and it is expected to run for three years.

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