Connecting the Dots
By Communications Task Force Blogger Janina Pescinski
What do sustainability, the green economy, and volunteerism have to do with genocide prevention? I wondered last week as I headed to the 64th Annual United Nations Department of Public Information Non-Governmental Organization Conference in Bonn, Germany. These topics and many others were discussed at the conference with the idea of connecting the dots, which made me consider how genocide fits into this picture.
Every year the UN has a conference for NGOs to discuss and strategize around a topic of international importance. This year the conference was held around the theme “sustainable societies, responsive citizens”. I got an inside look at the conference as a youth representative of Rutgers University and as a member of the Youth Subcommittee responsible for planning youth events and mobilizing young people to have maximum impact at the conference.
I have no background in sustainability or the environment since I’ve always focused on human rights. But the fields are clearly linked, and these themes have far-reaching implications. At the conference we considered everything from population dynamics to agriculture to education, all of which integrate human rights and sustainability. And although genocide and mass atrocities were not discussed explicitly, I began connecting these dots myself.
Mass atrocities occur in societies that aren’t sustainable, whether due to a lack of environmental, economic, or political sustainability. Because of this insustainability, these societies cannot continue on their current path, various groups are marginalized, and if preventative measures are not taken atrocities may be committed. To rectify this, volunteerism is one strategy that can be used to build sustainable communities through citizen participation in addition to government policy objectives. But government policy regarding mass atrocities also has to be sustainable, and this is a step we are beginning to take. For example, look at the recent Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities: it creates a framework intended to provide sustainable solutions for preventing genocide.
The most inspiring part of the conference was the impact youth were able to have when we organized amongst ourselves. Each afternoon the youth met to discuss the outcomes document being drafted with policy proposals from the conference. We assembled our own policy objectives on behalf of the youth and were able to integrate them into the declaration that will be presented to the UN. The declaration highlights the need for youth empowerment and “recommends promotion of youth volunteering strategies which engage young people as agents for sustainable development and peace”. This is proof that the international community is taking our efforts as youth volunteers and activists seriously and is making a commitment to further promote youth engagement.
This conference taught me to keep in mind the power we have as youth as well as the importance of connecting the dots between genocide and other international issues. Doing so opens a whole host of possibilities for new partnerships, and ultimately the solutions we achieve will be more successful because they will be more comprehensive!