Achaleke Christian, 26 years old, Young person of the Year for the Commonwealth.
Q: In Banjul+10 we heard a lot about the challenge to peace and security being faced by the world, why did you join the movement to promote peace?
A: I have been in civil society activities for nine years now. I grew up in one of the most violent communities and seeing challenges of insecurity and conflict, seeing myself and young people engaging in violence. I decided I needed to correct wrongs which I and young people have done. I started using theatre, as I realised I am a great actor, to talk about the community evils such as issues of HIV, malaria, child abuse and I decided to focus on peacebuilding as my background and history. So far, it has been a success.
Q: UNSC Resolution 2250 – what are your thoughts?
A: UNSC 2250 is a dream come true. It sets a record for young people as we are recognised as peace builders. There is a continuous perception that young people are agents of violence. The Resolution brings a different perspective, that is that youth are trapped in a cycle of violence because of unemployment, exclusion and inequality but evident that young people are engaging in community development and the Resolution for peace and security is a testimony to that. The Resolution makes a call on all stakeholders to give young people the support, recognition and to engage as active peace builders and fight against violence, especially in time when talking about sustainability.
I was privileged to be involved in the process. In New York GA I was part of the advocacy team, met with members with the Security Council. We had a meeting with the women in peacebuilding and how they managed to lobby for women in peace and security. We were asked,” what are young people actually been doing to give young people a space?” So I shared stories to let them know that young people are major actors. The Republic of Jordan was fully engaged then the SC resolution came into being but now major challenge how do we start to implementation?
Q: Achaleke you are also the Africa and Europe regional rep for the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network (CYPAN), what is your goal for the region?
As Africa and Europe regional coordinator, CYPAN was recently reorganised, modified and innovated. The innovation is that we will not been limiting membership to people in the Commonwealth, others can join. First thing I want to achieve is to mobilise as many young people to stand for peace and use their energy for peace. We are taking an interdisciplinary approach so we are inviting entrepreneurs, actors and cartoonists to use their energy to support the peacebuilding in Africa. I know the energy we have. We are welcoming young people from all walks of life as everyone has a role to play. It is the lack of development amenities that caused people to be radicalised so we must all join hands together and fight for peace.
Q: So you are speaking to us from the United States, what have you been up to there?
I’ve been in the US for the fourth week now for the International Visitors Leadership programme under the theme: youth and community conflict management. IVLP is US based programme for expats and young professionals to exchange ideas with organisations and institutions. I was engaging with other young people from all over the world. We are all interested in peace and work in that field. I was youngest amongst them. The programme started in Washington DC – we worked on refugee issues and met with organisations such as the Global Peace Alliance. Then we travelled to Nevada – very violent State in the US – we shared with local organisations and created strong bonds. We then travelled to California, LA – we met with organisations working with gun issues and sharing stories of changed persons. The last stop was New Orleans where we met with the Mayor and shared success programmes to end the number of killings in young people especially in the African American community.
I also recently flew to Istanbul to the World Humanitarian Conference to discuss UNSC 2250. Now I am back in the US preparing for a session with the World Bank on the 15th June on the youth forum on the role of young people in peace building, peace and security issues. On the 29th May to 3rd June I’ll be flying to Djibouti will be speaking on the 31st May to talk about work we have been doing and perspective we can bring to fight against violent extremism. Then I’ll be starting an internship with Search for Common Ground, a major inspiration behind my work, in the US.
Then I’ll be returning to Cameroon and return to my project– Creative skills for peace – major breakthrough as a peace building initiatives. We are working with young people to give them alternative skills and preparing them to counteract violent extremist groups as they often prey on young people with a past of violence.
We are collecting powerful testimonies from the project. Thanks to the financial grants from the Commonwealth Youth Award I have invested the same money in the project as I believe it has the power to change lives.
Check out the video below!