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Young Med Voices leads debate on digitally-enabled peacebuilding at European Development Days 2018

Brussels, 6 June 2018 - A Young Mediterranean Voices (YMV) Lab Debate was featured today at the 2018 European Development Days (EDDs) on the theme of “Women, dialogue and digitally-enabled peace-building”. Co-organised by the Anna Lindh Foundation and the British Council, the YMV Debate focused on how innovative technologies provide new opportunities to connect young women as dialogue actors and reach those who are most likely to be left behind. The debate lab was an opportunity to share first-hand the methodology of the Young Mediterranean Voices programme in terms of its debate format and intercultural dialogue.

The session provided evidence-based insights on ways to promote young women's participation and inclusion through innovative online tools such as the pilot Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange, and consolidated concrete policy actions on the debated theme. The event coincided with the new research on “Digitally-enabled Peace and Security” being finalised by SecDev Foundation and supported by the Foundation for the UN Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security (UN SCR2250), which provided a strong contents basis for the debate.

The young debaters from Algeria, Spain, Tunisia, the UK and Egypt explored how, on the one hand, innovative technologies provide new opportunities to connect young women and promote their socio-cultural and political participation and, on the other hand, how social media is not necessarily the best tool for youth and women-led peacebuilding and therefore its dangers should not be underestimated.

The Anna Lindh Foundation and the British Council management spoke at the end of the session to underline their commitment to the programme expansion and investment in new monitoring and evaluation and communication strategies to expand the programme's methodology and contribute to enhancing the Africa-EU cooperation.

Key points emerged during the debate include:

  • Both the existing and emerging digital spaces offer platforms for political dialogue, but social media has its dangers and limitations.
  • Traditional community-based dialogue offers a way of reaching out and bridging over differences.
  • As internet-based tools are exploited by extremist groups, building the capacity of young people to think critically is crucial for safety online.
  • Digitally-enabled communication is a given for those who have grown up using Internet-based tools. Even though digital initiatives are important, they do not represent the only way of mobilising young people, as traditional rallying still creates political spaces.
  • Low-income groups are lagging behind in access to the Internet, as are women who go online less than men in African countries.
  • The digitalisation of local communities is progressing, but is still limited by gender and income. However, change is very fast with the number of Internet users picking up, thus furthering social inclusion.

Young Mediterranean Voices builds on the successful precursor programme “Young Arab Voices” (YAV) launched in Alexandria in 2011 by the Anna Lindh Foundation and the British Council in response to the uprisings in the Arab region, and it is now expanding to open up more spaces for policy voice with co-partnerships with the Centre for Mediterranean Integration (CMI), Friends of Europe, the World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid, MEDAC and Soliya. YMV is funded through an Action Grant of the European Commission (DG NEAR), and co-financed by the Government of Finland and World Bank Group.

Check the photo album of the EDDs 2018: YMV at EDD18