To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) and to highlight the central role of youth in policy-development and decision-making, the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) organized the second World Youth Conference on Kindness on the theme ‘Kindness for Peaceful and Sustainable Co-existence’. The Conference was held virtually and saw debates on critical issues involving the youth such as UN Multilateralism and Kindness for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A key outcome of the Conference was the adoption of a declaration led by the youth – calling upon governments to declare the UN International Day of Kindness for Humanity.
The Conference provided global youth leaders and policymakers with an innovative, and engaging platform to discover innovative pathways for achieving the UN SDG, build the social and emotional capacities in the youth, and enhance the momentum for a new UN International Day of Kindness for Humanity. The Global Youth Alliance for Kindness, created as a key outcome of the first World Youth Conference on Kindness in August 2019, presented a new 2020 Global Youth Declaration on Kindness (GYDK) calling on governments to give them more opportunities to achieve the SDGs.
The event was addressed by youth leaders such as Ms. Maria Toorpakai Wazir, peace, education and gender rights activist and world ranked Squash player from Pakistan, Ms. Natasha Wang Mwansa, journalist, a powerful and influential 18-year old Zambian girl who is the youngest recipient of the Global Health Leaders Award, as well as senior policymakers such as Ms. Leslee Udwin, Human Rights Advocate and Activist, Ms. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Ms. Renata Lok-Dessallien, UN Resident Co-ordinator India, H.E. Mr. Vishal Sharma, Ambassador of India to UNESCO, amongst many others.
The first day saw an electrifying panel discussion between young changemakers who critically questioned senior decisionmakers on the UN’s role in an increasingly globalized world, plagued with extraordinary kinds of social, economic and environmental issues. Responding to a question on the relevance of UN in the future, Ms. Lok-Dessallien spoke of the UN’s role in facilitating global governance and the importance of improving decision-making at all levels, including at the level of intergovernmental organization.
Day 2 saw a stirring keynote on Youth and Kindness by Ms. Toorpakai Wazir who expressed the importance of kindness in her very inspiring but trying journey on becoming a sportsperson. She expressed how a world champion squash player from Canada, Jonathan Power, reached out to her, recognising her unique capabilities as a sportsperson and offered to help. The rest as they say is history and as a result of that one act of kindness – today Ms. Toorpakai Wazir is recognized as one of greatest ever Pakistani female squash player turned professionals.
Further, the Conference saw the launch of the Compassionate Integrity Training (CIT) course, an online course which cultivates skills such as empathy, mindfulness, and compassion so youth are well-equipped to deal with the day-to-day issues that they face as well as contribute to developing more peaceful and sustainable societies. So far, over 4,000 learners from more than 125 countries have registered for the course – which is live on MGIEP’s indigenously developed learning platform, FramerSpace.
Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO MGIEP elaborated on the necessity for individuals to go beyond just the “I” to the “US” and discussed the research findings that demonstrate how education can help propagate pro-social behaviours especially among the youth. He stressed that “2020 has created a plethora of challenges for humankind. Humanity’s blue dot is getting endangered with wildlife populations falling drastically as their habitats are destroyed. In effect, peacefulness is deteriorating at an alarmingly fast rate leading to hatred, racism, xenophobia, border conflicts, and inequities forcing people to traverse deadly seas to become refugees. The on-going Covid-19 pandemic has alerted humanity of how fragile it is and why collaboration and compassion for each other is necessary to overcome such global disasters that do not discriminate across race, religion, gender, and socio-economic status. In recent times, we see a crisis in civilization like never before where for its own sake and the sake of all living beings, humanity needs to unite and contemplate on how to achieve a more sustainable peaceful and kind future.
Kindness, a selfless and helpful action motivated by the desire to help another person without the expectation of any reward or even an avoidance of punishment in return is actually a natural instinct in humans, which if practiced through Social and Emotional Learning can help create a society where peace and compassion takes centre stage. It is through practicing these Gandhian principles of selflessness and non-violence, that society can create a space of sustainable co-existence. This is the predicament that informs the framing of the second World Youth Conference: Kindness for Peaceful and Sustainable Co-existence.” He finished by challenging each of the 1.8 billion youth all over the world to do one act of kindness every day to produce 657 billion acts of kindness before the 3rd world Conference on Kindness in 2021.
Over the course of the two-day event, the Conference saw attendance by thousands of young people across the world, who supported adoption of a declaration calling upon governments to declare an International Day of Kindness for Humanity.
UNESCO MGIEP will commence facilitating the process of institutionalizing the International Day of Kindness for Humanity by taking these youth voices to Member States of the UN and requesting for their support to table the declaration at the 2021 UNESCO General Conference to be held in the second half of 2021.