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‘Peace begins with you’, youth activist tells UN forum

A youth choir from Brooklyn, New York, sings at the event.
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
A youth choir from Brooklyn, New York, sings at the event.

‘Peace begins with you’, youth activist tells UN forum


UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday reiterated his call to action for countries across the world to establish peace forged through sustainable development, human rights and a healthy environment.

Achieving peace is neither automatic nor a vision, Mr. Guterres said in a video message to a special event on youth for peace.

“Peace is the result of action. Let us commit to build, drive and sustain peace for all,” he emphasized.

The event showcased the actions and commitments of young people – in their communities, schools and countries – in boosting progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

‘Something special’

Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola, better known as DJ Cuppy, remarked that every young person has “something unique and special” that indicates they can make the world a better place.

“That is pretty epic,” she said.

She highlighted the importance of young people for improving engagement with the wider world and as a way of helping lift each other up.  

“I believe, as humans, we have to as much as we can for as long as we can […] and so can you – it’s about finding your gift and just getting started,” DJ Cuppy told UN News.

“Peace begins with you,” she added.

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‘Torch bearers’

Also speaking at the event, Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth recounted her own experience growing up in Sri Lanka during the civil war, wondering how the violence had become so brutal.

“I found that the root cause of the war was much deeper – it went down to discrimination, poverty and inequality,” she said, underscoring the need for dignity and development for peace.

“Youth are the torch bearers for peace, human rights and sustainable development.”

Stepping down

Ms. Wickramanayake also announced that Thursday marked the end of her tenure as Youth Envoy, ending six years of engagement with the UN.

“There is no better way to wrap up my mandate than to spend it with you,” she told the young people assembled.

Recalling her work over the years, Ms. Wickramanayake said she heard the powerful message from young people that peace goes beyond an absence of violence and strife.

It is “something bigger” she added, emphasizing that peace meant having the freedom to live your life the way you want.

‘Rescue the SDGs’

In conclusion, Ms. Wickramanayake echoed the Secretary-General’s call to rescue the SDGs.

“We need to rescue the SDGs, so through education, equal opportunities, better healthcare, decent living conditions, by addressing climate change, we can make the world more peaceful,” she said.

Actor Michael Douglas on the 2023 Youth Event for the International Day of Peace | United Nations

‘Enormous power’

Michael Douglas, Academy Award-winning actor and producer and UN Messenger of Peace, told participants that Earth is the only home that humanity has – and its resources are finite.

“It is the work of institutions, like the UN, and young people to nurture our small planet and everyone on it,” he said.

Mr. Douglas went on to note that society is changing at an incredible pace, and the young people are best placed to harness that change.

“You all hold enormous power to make this world a better place to live in.”