After months of preparations, the seventeen participants of the YPI 2014 conference arrived in The Hague. In order to get acquainted with one another, the YPI held a welcome dinner at the boulevard of Scheveningen.
After the morning briefing, the participants of the YPI 2014 conference made their way from The Hague to Rotterdam to take part in a workshop that was intended to break down the communication barriers between the different groups present. Within the local theatre in Rotterdam, each YPI participant was part of the participatory drama exercises.
On Sunday evening, the participants had dinner with the Israeli ambassador Mr. Divon, the head of the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands, Mr. Abuznaid, and their wives. In addition, Mr. Ten Broeke (VVD), member of the Dutch Parliament, was present. In the cosy atmosphere of a private lounge on the 40th floor of the building, stimulated lively talks. During the dinner, Mr. Divon, Mr. Abuznaid and Mr. Ten Broeke briefly addressed the participants. They stressed the importance of youth involvement in conflict resolution and emphasized that they had enjoyed talking to the participants.
On Monday, the YPI wished to thank the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its embassies in Tel Aviv and Washington D.C. and its Delegation in Ramallah for their support. The foundation greatly appreciated that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Frans Timmermans, was willing to receive the participants at the beginning of their week. Unfortunately, the Minister had to cancel his engagement due to being urgently needed in Brussels. Instead, the participants were welcomed by Ms. Tazelaar (Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), who was willing to share her experience of serving in the Israel-Palestine region.
After short introductions by the participants, Ms. Tazelaar elaborated on the role of the Dutch government and the European Union in bringing the Israeli and Palestinian parties together to find a just solution to the conflict. Following this explanation, Ms. Tazelaar introduced the participants to an interesting experiment. One participant each from the Israeli and Palestinian delegates was asked to take a moment and put him or herself into the situation of the other. Then both participants were asked to give their introductory statements again, not as themselves but rather as a member of the opposite group. This thought experiment led the participants to a passionate discussion, which revealed the personal aspects of the conflict to participants present.
The Municipality of Amsterdam was kind enough to host a boat tour through the city’s canals. In the idyllic atmosphere of the narrow streets, brick houses and busy bikers, the YPI participants had a chance to talk to each other outside the workshops and dialogues.
The special meeting with the Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs was chaired by Mr. Van Bommel (SP) and was also attended by Mr. Van der Linden (PvdA), Mr. Sjoerdsma (D66), Mr. Servaes (PdvA) and Ms. De Caluwé (VVD). All members stressed the importance of dialogue and negotiations within conflict regions as well as the outstanding and sometimes unrecognised role of the youth in this process. By taking the initiative, the new generation shows not only their willingness and motivation to take responsibility for their shared future, but their capability to work in cooperation towards the realisation of sustainable peace.
The need for inter-societal dialogue and the way in which both nations should respect each other in order to restart the dialogue were both brought to the table. The session closed with a concluding statement by the chair to encourage the delegates to remain motivated and hopeful.
On Monday evening, the YPI and the JASON Institute (Institute of Peace and Security Studies) hosted a discussion evening for university students in co-operation with The Hague Institute for Global Justice. Over 140 students and professionals from all over the world attended and participated in the discussions on finding solutions for conflicts in the world’s conflict regions while learning lessons from various historical and modern-day conflicts. The evening was enriched by contributions from prominent figures such as Dr. Abiodun Williams (President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice) and Prof. Nico Schrijver (Academic Director of the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies and member of the Dutch Senate). The evening’s chair, Prof. Schrijver, opened this evening by sharing his personal involvement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a legal point of view.
Dr. Williams, who has been an aide to the UN Secretary Generals Kofi Annan and Ban Ki Moon, spoke about his personal experiences in the UN peacekeeping missions to Macedonia, Bosnia, and Haiti. “Some countries have more history than they can digest. They and us need to remember the past but should not be held captive by it,” he stated, and continued that “progress is not inevitable in the field of international politics, as it is in the field of science and technology. Each generation has to carry on in building a world of order and justice.” A more detailed summary of Prof. Williams’s speech can be found in the appendix of the Annual Report of 2014 (p.36).
The evening continued with passionate discussions between the audience and selected representatives of the YPI delegates. The questions posed by the audience focused on leadership, education, legal agreements and the power of words. Throughout the lively back and forth, the notion was sustained that although parallels between former and ongoing conflicts could be drawn, each on-going conflict was still very unique in its character. This realisation itself recognised the complexity of finding possible solutions for the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. One recurring theme was noticeable throughout the evening: the effect of solutions brought forth by those who can show true leadership.
The evening concluded with one certainty among all the discussion and exchange of ideas: peace is a process that grows from trust and understanding.
Early on Tuesday morning, the YPI participants gathered at the Peace Palace to meet with high school students from in and around The Hague. The well-received opening speech by Mr. Steven van Hoogstraten (Managing Director of the Carnegie Foundation) was followed by an inspiring speech by Mr. Jan Pronk (former Minister in several Dutch cabinets and former Deputy Secretary General of UNCTAD).
Mr. Pronk emphasised the need to recognise the failure of his own generation in the peace-making process. He then encouraged the present generation to engage their leaders in acknowledging the importance and interests of the young stakeholders. He shared 11 valuable lessons he learned from working many years in conflict regions. A more detailed summary of Mr. Pronk’s speech can be found in the appendix of the Annual Report of 2014 (p.37).
The YPI Board was delighted to introduce their 17 international participants to over 230 enthusiastic students from 11 different high schools. The high schools that represented the youth of The Hague included the Rijswijks Lyceum, Wolfert van Borselen School Aloysius College, Zandvliet College, The Hague International School, the British School, the American School of The Hague, Gymansium Novum, the Johan de Witt School, the Edith Stein College and the Erasmus College. The high school students had been preparing possible solutions for the IsraeliPalestinian conflict since the beginning of this academic year, and they shared them here in the form of poster presentations.
The representing students from each high school formed working groups and presented their proposals, ideas on the history of the conflict, and most importantly their thoughts on its future and its possible solutions. The Israeli and Palestinian participants gave feedback on the poster presentations, which led to meaningful dialogue and discussion with the high school students. Serious yet informal discussions reached their climax at a plenary session in the Academy Hall next to the library, in which the most creative and inspiring solutions were brought together. Here all high school students had a chance to comment on, argue with and question the proposed solutions with the presenters. Notable were the common ideas on grassroots politics, mutual understanding, the need for dialogue in even the direst of circumstances and especially the participation of young people in the peace process.
The discussions culminated in the symbolic release of hundreds of white balloons from the terrace in front of the Peace Palace, with the YPI logo and a personal peace message from all participants. Perhaps one balloon will find its way to Jerusalem and bring its message of peace to both nations.
The workshop, which revolved around the question of dialogue and trust building between parties, was led by Mr. Scheltens and Mr. Dol, both of whom are Programme Managers at the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy. Reconciliation, negotiation and dialogue were the core approaches on which the workshop focused in the first half. In the second half, the workshop explored what conditions are needed in order to have a productive dialogue.
Both of these lessons were later applied by the participants to two different case studies. In both cases, the participants had to develop recommendations that the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy could have given for each situation. While one group focused on the implications of the anti-LGBT policies in Uganda, the other group was confronted with the complicated and unstable situation that Sudan and South Sudan faced in the recent past. The exercise did not only concentrate on the recommendations the participants had to give, but also on the task of achieving this within the group (without anybody greatly opposing it).
With the structured approach provided by the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, the participants were slowly transitioning in their approach to conflict resolution. It is crucial that they do understand the techniques of a constructive dialogue before they can begin with the negotiations for their own peace plan.
The workshop itself fit neatly into the structure of the week, since the group had already experienced several discussions with university and high school students and were now engaging in the technical and theoretical aspects of conflict resolution. The Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy did not only expand the YPI participants’ existing perspective on conflict resolution, but also stressed the importance of a constructive dialogue.
In this regard, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy marked the turning point of the week. While the first few days focused on expressing oneself in workshops, discussions and storytelling, the workshop at the Humanity House concentrated on a structured approach to conflict resolution. It therefore paved the way for the coming days at the Clingendael Institute, where the YPI participants fully engaged in negotiations.
The negotiations were guided by a skilful team of the Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael, as well as a team of Result ADR, a conflinft management company. Wednesday morning began with an introduction lecture about negotiation methods and a constructive attitude during discussions. Then each of the YPI participants had a chance to describe his or her personal motivation for taking part in this dialogue. The common interest for peace was emphasized, as well as the willingness of personal involvement in actively contributing to the peace process. Before the break, a useful simulation game engaged the participants in their first real negotiation. The fictive ethical subject of the negotiation simulation game made clear how negotiation technicalities work in practice, but also how difficult it is to convince others of one’s personal motivation and to arrive at a common position.
After the lunch break, the participants split into smaller groups and thought about the formulation of a priority list of basic needs to focus on in the shared future perspective for 2025. After presenting lists of needs and requirements to the group, these needs were passionately discussed. The environment of trust and confidence created during the first few days ensured that the delegates worked in a setting characterised by willingness to understand each other needs and interests.
On Thursday, the negotiations continued with intense discussions about main points of (dis) agreement. The afternoon was used to discuss the future of the YPI and to put forth practical ideas that could help the Israeli and Palestinian delegates in implementing the points of agreement in their respective regions. In the meantime, the delegates from (post-)conflict areas discussed what their future contribution to the process could possibly be. During their final hours at Clingendael, the group started with the negotiations on the final document ‘Our Common Future’.
In the evening, a small group with members from the Israeli, Palestinian and international delegates continued the final negotiations. Intensive discussions about the exact formulation of the document took place in a constructive atmosphere. At around 2:30 a.m. on Friday, 17 October 2014, the small group of negotiators announced with satisfaction the final document to the group.
After an intense week of workshops, dialogues and negotiations, the participants presented ‘Our Common Future’ to the Israeli Ambassador to The Hague, Mr. Divon, and the Palestinian Representative to The Hague, Mr. Abuznaid.
The final event of the week was a well-attended reception for the YPI participants, offered by the Municipality of The Hague . The many guests had a chance to discuss the conference and its final document with the participants. The speech given by Mayor van Aartsen can be found in the beginning of this report. The YPI is very grateful to the Municipality for hosting the event and thus concluding the conference.