It’s early on a Tuesday evening. The sun is going down across the sprawling Istanbul skyline and the dust is settling on the first ever World Humanitarian Summit. Yet tucked away in a dark room on the second floor of the conference centre remains a group of young people chatting away happily amongst themselves.
Young men and women from across the globe are sharing their views with one another, experiences from Jordan, the DRC, Ukraine and Yemen coming together. They’re not talking about where to have dinner that night, which bar in Taksim Square will be best to celebrate or even each other’s Instagram photos. They’re talking about youth, peace and security. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 to be precise.
While heads of state, UN representatives and summit staff all head home for a well deserved rest, young people still remain, wanting to learn from one another. They are discussing what barriers today’s youth face in achieving peace, what young women and men can do to bring lasting security and what changes we want the UN Security Council to make that will help achieve this goal. While all the cameras and attention have gone, these groups of young people are still here, sharing their ideas and creating new solutions to old problems.
After years of hard work from those involved that culminated in two full days of high level meetings, special sessions and side events, the World Humanitarian Summit is now over. What the lasting impact of this summit will be is still yet to be decided. Commitments made here in Istanbul from all stakeholders will be pieced together and formulated into one report by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, to be presented in September at the UN General Assembly. However, the true impact of this summit will be decided by the millions of young people and other humanitarian actors who are driving change and development forwards in their communities across the globe. From Sierra Leone to El Salvador, Nepal to Nicaragua, this summit has showcased that young people are already leaders in humanitarian action. If we are to view the World Humanitarian Summit as a success in the years to come, the world needs to recognise and support these young leaders.
“Treat youth not as objects, but as subjects,” said the UN Deputy Secretary-General at the closing ceremony, and our two Sierra Leone youth delegates here at the summit have shown us just why this is so true. Augusta and Princess not only led their communities in the fight against Ebola, but now they have taken this message, on behalf of the thousands of other young people in Sierra Leone who led the fightback, to heads of state and global decision makers at the highest level. Their message was clear; that young people are ready for the responsibility of leading, ready to bring power and resources back in the hands of communities and ready to right the wrongs of the past.
So as the sun sets in Istanbul on another global summit, and the 12,000 delegates who attended head back to their homes across the world, it’s becoming clear that one message is resonating from the World Humanitarian Summit. Let this day and this moment be a historic one. For the sake of all humanity, let’s not allow it to pass us by. Let peace be realised by those living through the atrocities of war, let hope triumph over fear and let young people drive us forward into this new world.