SDSN Youth
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SDSN Youth

Decolonizing the New Normal: Another Missing “Peace”

What does peace mean during a pandemic?

I dare say it is like an unfamiliar Pandora’s box.

Peace actors need to rethink prevention and protection in the midst of social distancing and overloaded health systems. One end of the game involves long-term investments at the crux of the matter, as the world gets excited over the announcement of a Russian vaccine, with others following suit. The other end involves active participation and partnerships. All eyes are on the next generation of tech-literates in this new battleground of online peacebuilding. What were once small cries against disinformation and data security are now a basic, universal problem for all. Even heads of state and diplomatic missions have had to learn new rules of engagement, as witnessed in the online show-offs at this year’s UN General Assembly. The digital divide between the margins of the Global North vis-à-vis the South could not be any more pronounced, with exacerbated gaps in SDG targets and indicators related to e-commerce and e-learning. With the rise of authoritarian regimes that respond to political dissents with securitized responses, human rights defenders are now trapped in what seems to be a paradoxical choice between life versus liberty.

In a post-COVID world, everybody wants to talk about rebuilding trust. But rebuilding trust requires understanding why it was lost, to whom, and how to risk-proof our future.

To ask why certain countries have weapons in the year 2020 is the more obvious question. As we dig deeper, one needs to realize that the demise of hard power only meant the birth of a multitude of soft, invisible hands. With a virus on the loose and a climate crisis looming ever closer, what remains of active civil or inter-state unrest are rotten fruits of colonial past.

The UN75 could not have been a better time to decolonize.

The world is no longer that of the white man. We are more than what we have been told about ourselves and the way we are supposed to do things, what we put on our tables, what heals us, what we teach to our kids, how we transact business, or even who we choose to love.

But when everything else fails, we now know what matters.

At a micro-level, in my own locality, I have witnessed a return to mindfulness, of reducing and recycling wastes, of confronting personal and domestic issues, and unlearning the biases against traditional medicine and growing food from home, during unfortunate, mindful lockdowns. We take stock of our shared humanity and diversity — the indigenous communities, refugees and displaced persons on the move, the urban and rural poor, the many exponential intersections of identities. Peoples of color also take the frontlines of leadership — a ripple waiting to cascade from the US Elections.

As is always the case, there is no one answer to the question I put forward earlier. But I conclude by proposing 4 lenses to challenge it:

  • Through a socio-economic lens — In Asia Pacific, LAC, MENA, Africa, peace and security is a lived experience. We are peoples with whom the first to last of the Global Goals (i.e. prosperity and peace) are essentially one and the same — there cannot be peace without justice, without addressing hunger, equal access to public health, gender equality, so on. Decolonizing peace means bringing the discussion down to the masses where prosperity is still part and parcel of just and lasting peace. A question on privilege.
  • Through a geo-political lens — In ASEAN, we confront the evolving definitions of “freedoms” as island peoples. We will always be sandwiched between Pacific superpowers, and the geo-politics of our waters continue to politicize, from who we vote into office to what we put on the table. Decolonizing aid is about the empowerment of civil society beyond mere instruments of international agenda. A question on the bottom-up approach.
  • Through an intergenerational lens: As gen Y/ millennials/ gen Z’s, we need to push ourselves to learn from our histories/ herstories, while building our own in the making. From the South to the North, indigenous peoples, written out of the history books, still struggle for #LandRightsNow while re-defining participation in an ever-globalized world. Decolonizing education is a genuine invitation to reconcile with historical and structural injustices. A question on the old meets the new.
Post a 1-minute video of your SDG16 projects and #FriendsforPeace #IYC4Peace to join the pilot phase.

Decolonize Peace

We find ourselves, going back to the basics, a New Normal that is more value-based.

We want to work together.

We want to co-create the norm.

We want to hear from you.

15 initiatives from the Global South that aim to decolonize peace, will undergo a series of mentorship and micro-grants in Asia-Pacific. Middle East and North Africa. Latin America and the Caribbean. Africa.

Watch our collective space, coming in March 2021:

For inquiries:

Brought to you by IYC4Peace, in coordination with Friends for Peace, Asian Youth Peace Network and Justice Call, with the patronage of The Shah Trust



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