Last month we celebrated World Youth at the fifth annual youth conference Jashtar Camp 2013, which brought together more than 1,000 young people from across Kyrgyzstan to discuss technology and peace.
Jashtar Camp (meaning “youth camp” in the Kyrgyz language) 2013, supported by UNDP in Kyrgyzstan among other partners, was held in four locations across the country, including southern Kyrgyzstan’s Osh State University.
Using technology for building peace
The goal of JashtarCamp is to encourage civic engagement among youth and to provide young people with an opportunity to exchange and present innovative ideas.
The day at Osh was structured into a number of sessions hosted by various speakers, covering topics such as access to and improvements in government services, entrepreneurship, social media, and human rights protection.
One session was led by Helena Puig Larrauri, an international expert on using information and communications technologies (ICT) as a tool for peace. During Ms. Larrauri’s presentation, she described how communication technologies can be used to prevent conflicts.
Through prevention-and-response technology, data can be collected that will be useful for peace-building efforts, including information about incidents and the tensions that trigger them. These data can then be used to help develop an appropriate and effective response.
The Uwiano Platform for Peace is an excellent example of this. Uwiano is an online platform that enhances conflict management coordination and information sharing locally and nationally, among both organizations and governments.
Sharing information via technology is critical in preventing conflicts – even at a very local level. Sending a text message to an at-risk family member on the possible consequences of gang activity is just one example of how we can have an impact on peace at an individual level.
Gaming is another great way to help young people understand conflicts and develop conflict resolution skills. PeaceMaker, an award-winning videogame, was discussed at this year’s JashtarCamp. The game challenges you to succeed as a leader where others have failed, testing your knowledge and challenging your assumptions along the way.
“Peace is freedom with no harm to society”
Another session of JashtarCamp 2013 was devoted to using technology for peace in Kyrgyzstan. Workshop participants exchanged opinions on conflicts in the country and brainstormed technological solutions to these problems.
Each participant was also given the chance to define their idea of peace. For most, peace was associated with progress, stability, and understanding. One fantastic definition was that peace is “freedom with no harm to society.”
Throughout the day, participants were asked to identify what they see as the major problems people are facing in Kyrgyzstan today.
These were later grouped within the following categories:
- Gender inequality
- Intergroup conflict
- Access to, and quality of, education
- Publication of biased material in the media
- Quality of public services
Working in groups, participants then discussed possible solutions to these issues using communication technologies. Many great ideas were brought up, including creating websites to monitor conflict situations, organizing online discussions to counsel those in need, training young people on healthy lifestyles, and promoting positive messages among youth to prevent conflicts.
JashtarCamp 2013 was just a first step at getting young people involved, giving voice to their opinions, ideas and concerns, and starting to brainstorm about how online tools can help their solutions come to life.
Next steps will include turning these ideas into projects and connecting these young people with potential donors that can support their projects.