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Youth as Agents of Peace: Report Features Yale Faculty in Global Workshop to Invest in Youth for a More Peaceful World

June 27, 2016
by Neha Anand and N. Shemrah Fallon

Bringing a New Solution to the World — The Science of Early Childhood as a Pathway to Peace

An awaited report featuring key roles of Yale faculty who attended the March 2016 workshop, “Investing in Young Children for Peaceful Societies: Individual and Structural Transformation,” was released last week. The three-day workshop, held in Amman, Jordan, was hosted by the Forum in Investing in Young Children Globally (iYCG) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report, "Investing in Young Children for Peaceful Societies", highlights the work of global experts including faculty members, Pia Rebello Britto, Assistant Professor Adjunct in the Child Study Center (CSC), Rima Salah, Assistant Clinical Professor (CSC), and Kaveh Khoshnood, Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health. The event aimed to explore how investment in young children could lead to more peaceful societies by changing the tide of violence that is marking our world today.

Workshop Purpose

The workshop met in the context of a record high 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, the worst refugee crisis since World War II, largely driven by the Syrian conflict where fifty percent of refugees are children. Participating public health representatives held a spotlight on the plight of this displaced youth, living in dire situations that force them to function as adults as a means of survival. These children, placed at multidimensional risk, may also suffer a bleak future if effective and sustained interventions are not implemented. However, at the brighter spectrum, scientific experts including representatives from Yale, highlighted innovative efforts "to bring a new solution to the world", anchored in the science of early childhood that points the way to accelerated change, away from conflict and toward sustainable peace.

Forum partners included UNICEF and King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID). Under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Raina Al Abdullah of Jordan, the workshop, attended by multisectoral experts from across the globe, including youth participants, sought to meet the following goals:

  1. Highlight the science of early childhood development (ECD)
  2. Present examples of investing in ECD to reduce violence and promote peace
  3. Show the effects of conflict on young children’s health, safety, education, and nutrition
  4. Examine effective models of ECD interventions that sustain peace, such as through dialogue and conflict resolution
  5. Discuss opportunities to contribute to the World Humanitarian Summit

Pia Rebello Britto, PhD: Linking Science of Early Childhood Development (ECD) with Peace

Pia Rebello Britto, who also is Global Chief and Senior Advisor for Early Childhood Development at UNICEF, drew on scientific evidence to explain how conflict impacts child development. She discussed the fast rate at which a child’s brain develops and how toxic materials affect brain development. She emphasized the paradigm shift of using the science of ECD as an accelerator for peace in societies. Dr. Britto also recognized the important role Jordan has had in investing in youth to bring about peace and the innovative solutions of the partnership between the Early Childhood Peace Consortium and UNICEF.

Rima Salah, PhD: Policies for Peacebuilding

Rima Salah, after stating the power of women and children as agents of peace, asked policy-based questions to several speakers at the workshop. The questions included the topics of strengthening families and communities, incorporating women and children as agents of peace in policies, linking mental health and peacebuilding, and the U.N.’s shift to include social services as part of peacebuilding. The speakers responses’ included protecting sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in conflict, using data to back interventions and policies, adding emergency mental health to basic needs, bringing different ethnic groups together to promote peace, and more.

Kaveh Khoshnood, PhD, MPH: Engaging Youth to Promote Peace

Kaveh Khoshnood led the final discussion of the workshop with youth leaders from the Arab youth volunteer network, Jeel 962. The youth leaders expressed the need to have an influence on their generation and the ones to follow. They emphasized education as a priority and stated education should be a right. However, they pointed out that many children affected by conflict do not have access to education “that should not be a dream, but rather a right.”

At the end of the workshop, all three Yale faculty members pointed to youth leader engagement as the way to create lasting global change and a more peaceful world. Dr. Salah urged the participating youth “to consider what their message would be to the Special Envoy to deliver to the Humanitarian Summit.” Dr. Britto advocated for “youth to be champions of the youngest people in the world, which would in turn bring lasting change globally.”

Report Review

Scientific experts, including representatives from Yale, highlighted innovative efforts 'to bring a new solution to the world', anchored in the science of early childhood that points the way to accelerated change, away from conflict and toward sustainable peace.

Report iYCG

Special mention is awarded to Yale team partner, Ghassan Issa, MD, Coordinator of the Arab Resource Collective (ARC), Beirut, Lebanon, who served as one of three in assuring that this report met institutional standards for quality and objectivity. He is site investigator on a current Yale project in Lebanon, a parenting intervention with Palestinian refugees.

Submitted by Nancy Shemrah Fallon on June 27, 2016