PeaceJam Belgium Conference 2020

On 7 and 8 March 2020, 287 students between the ages of 14 and 23, from all over Belgium, gathered in Brussels for the annual PeaceJam Youth Leadership Conference with a focus on Social Justice and Sustainable Development.

The conference organised in partnership with the universities KU LeuvenVUBULBUCL  as well as Education pour la Paix and the European Peer Training Organisation, offered an opportunity for youngsters to meet the Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum. A human rights activist from Guatemala, Rigoberta Menchú, won the prize in 1992, for her continuing commitment to the rights of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), and for internationally promoting the rights of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala.

The conference kicked off with high energy from the youngsters and teachers in response to Rigoberta Menchú’s speech at the Opening Ceremony, which focused on peace within ourselves, our environments and our communities, setting the tone for a weekend full of inspiration. PeaceJam mentor, Junaid Ashraf, shared Rigoberta’s words on twitter: “We need to take care of our health beyond physical, there’s also an emotional disease, spiritual disease to protect ourselves from. For Mayans our life is nature.”

A section of the programme on Saturday was dedicated to the “Act of Peace”, which is an important part of every Peace Jam Conference. The session was led by Paulina Rios Maya and Loyle Campbell, who shared their project Correctional Integrity, a capacity-building toolkit that tackles corruption in institutions through integrity and transparency. In fitting with the focus of the conference, they brought the question of “Climate Corruption: What is it and how to fix it”, aiming to create a critical awareness of an often overlooked angle of the climate debate. The students discussed corruption and transparency and more specifically climate corruption and how to tackle this. The groups were then asked to design a poster which they then presented. The winning team included some of the youngest participants at the Conference, the future’s looking bright!
The “Act of Peace” will be added to the Billion Acts of Peace platform, which already has over 60 million thoughtful actions that spread more peace in communities, schools, businesses or organizations.

With the 8th of March being International Women’s Day, many of the dedications during the Ceremony of Inspiration were dedicated to courageous women, mothers, aunts, grandmothers… The openness of the participants to share their stories and the compassion and support their follow students showed to them during these moments was incredibly moving.

Participants then presented the project ideas that they had worked on with their schools and youth groups to the plenary which ranged from ideas on refugee integration, climate solutions, diversity, islamophobia and non-violence.
Mes Mots by the Association de la Jeunesse Molenbeekoise – AJM, which tackled labelling, prejudices, being a young Muslim woman and Islamophobia, received a standing ovation from the other participants.

Students had the chance to join a range of colourful workshops on Sunday afternoon, these included:

The 2020 conference was one of a series of annual conferences that take place in countries currently participating in the PeaceJam Programme. The event is part of the PeaceJam project “Nobel Peace Prize Laureates mentoring Youth to build an Inclusive Europe”, supported by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.

To see more photos from the conference visit the PeaceJam Belgium facebook page. A video of the conference will be available to watch in the near future, so stay tuned…

View the official photos of the conference by the VUB

The conference was also featured in the following media outlets:

With the support of the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union, PeaceJam Belgium and its European partners aim to replicate the success of the PeaceJam experience specifically for the European reality, by strengthening the relevance of the “Compassion in Action” educational curriculum in schools and youth organizations across Europe. PeaceJam Belgium has already successfully organized national conferences in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.