It is far too often that young people are mistakenly seen through a lens of fear and insecurity: as contributors to conditions of unrest, as sources of conflict, and as drivers of instability. And it is far too rare that youth are seen as partners for peace.
Recognizing that the powerful stories of young people combating extremism, empowering voice, and building peace are not often celebrated or lifted up for the world to see, the U.S. Department of State has launched its inaugural “Emerging Young Leaders Award” — both in the hopes of sharing the powerful stories of young people leading notable efforts around the globe and reshaping the lens through which the world views youth — as partners for peace rather than drivers of instability.
On April 20th, the Department of State will hold a ceremony to present the inaugural “Emerging Young Leaders Award” to ten dynamic young global leaders between the ages of 16-24. The awards will be presented by the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Richard Stengel and the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Evan Ryan.
Each of these awardees represents the power of young people to positively impact today’s pressing challenges. Whether they are working to promote interfaith dialogue in France post Paris attacks; promoting entrepreneurship as an antidote to violent extremism in Tunisia; creating opportunities for at-risk youth vulnerable to gangs in Honduras; combating intolerance in Burma; or empowering female voices from minority communities in Kenya, each of these young leaders have a powerful story to share that showcases their roles as partners for peace. I had the opportunity to spend some time with these young leaders over the past few days, and I can confidently say that this inaugural class of “Emerging Young Leaders” deserves to be recognized and engaged.
Through this award and exchange program, the ten awardees will have the opportunity to participate in a professional exchange program within the United States. They’ll connect with American counterparts and leaders in their areas of expertise to share best practices, scale up their efforts, and further their goals of empowering youth voices and building more inclusive societies.
The U.S. Government, under the leadership of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry has been a champion of recognizing the role of global youth as partners for peace. This “Emerging Young Leaders Award and Exchange Program” builds upon past efforts such as the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security (the first ever of its kind) in December 2015 and the “Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism” hosted by the U.S. government on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September 2015. We hope you’ll tune in to the Awards Ceremony and join us in celebrating youth as partners for peace rather than drivers of conflict.
About the Author: Andy Rabens serves as the Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues at the U.S. Department of State in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.