This year, the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security took place in Jordan. Drawing around 500 participants from around the world, it focused on the critical role of the youth as peacebuilders in conflict-and insecurity-affected parts of the world.
The forum will draw attention to young people’s existing contributions to peace, and establish a common plan for supporting these efforts in the future.
The forum participants through Amman Youth Declaration appealed for youth involvement in global peace and security to be adopted as one of the United Nations (UN) resolutions at the upcoming UN Summit in late September. Jordan is the current president of the the United Nations Security Council, and thus had the leadership to take this forward.
Saiful Haque, founder of MOVE Foundation, was the only Bangladeshi to have been selected to participate in the Forum. His organisation MOVE conducts advocacy on deradicalisation and peace-building, teaches Qawmi Madrasa students about civic education, how institutions work, about their rights, their responsibility to state and vice versa.
How did you get involved in the Forum?
The United Nations, and civil society platforms like the United Network Of Youth (UNOY) and the Search For Common Ground were the co-organisers of the event which was hosted by the Crown Prince of Jordan. After a rigorous scrutiny, the organisers selected MOVE. They also asked me to speak in a panel titled “Inclusive Security: The Role of Young People in Strengthening the Security Sector.”
What was your contribution to the Forum?
My topic was “Youth Engagement in Community Security: the Bangladeshi perspective”. I discussed the Bangladeshi government’s success in counter-terrorism – in controlling and containing religious extremists, and in community policing.
Community policing is a very interesting success model of the Bangladesh government, and I highlighted their process in the panel – how it has helped us address and improve the law and order situation in many cases, and increase engagement of the local people with the police, and vice versa.
Tell us a bit more about this
The community policing project is an initiative of the Bangladeshi police force and the UN Development Programme, and began in 2004. There is a monthly event where local representatives, the youth, and security personnel, sit together to discuss community issues – anything ranging from crime, to human rights, to security issues, to extremism or violence against women – anything!
How has community policing contributed to our society?
With community policing, people finally had a shared platform to discuss crimes, and communal issues. People earlier used to be afraid of the police. But this system brought a change in those dynamics – now police themselves approached people, inviting them for the meetings, which takes place once in a month and is called a “Open House Day.”
For every Open House Day, the police invites every community to bring 10 new members to the meeting – and majority of this would be the youth from the community.
A big outcome of this was that since there was high engagement of the youth, the entire dynamics of the discussions changed. This helped many stigmatised issues come out – for example, when women were shy or afraid of asking a particular question, the younger members would be helpful by being vocal about these issues.
Another issue I discussed was transforming prisons and corrections system. About 40% of Bangladeshi prisoners are youth who have been arrested either on grounds of being part of extremists parties or for petty crimes. By the time they come out of the prison, they have been part of another radicalisation inside the prison – prison radicalization.
Prison radicalization has been recognised globally as a big challenge, but is not a part of the mainstream discussion yet. So I highlighted that, and discussed how we can bring upon reforms for prisoners here.
The youth are the victim because those going into the jails are mostly youth – so we need to save/rescue them. We can work on counseling them and providing them with proper assistance and access.
What’s the way forward?
The plan for the participants of the Forum is to come back to each of our countries and launch a countrywide campaign – it could be a dialogue, a conference, anything, involving other youths.
For the time being, on October 11, there will be a peace film festival at Jagannath University – they will be showing movies there with focus on issues of peace, security, and violence. We selected old Dhaka because that is where the violence meets peace – that’s where the violence is, the prison is, and that’s also where the courts are.