On 17 October in Istanbul, Democratic Progress Institute (DPI), in association with the Irish Embassy in Ankara and Istanbul Bilgi University Centre for Conflict Resolution Studies and Research (CCR), hosted a Peace Table discussion titled “Youth Voicing Peace.”
The event started with the screening of the film Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs, which chronicles the formation of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC) and its contribution to peacebuilding. The event’s keynote speaker was Monica McWilliams, co-founder of the NIWC and one of the two women who represented the NIWC at the multi-party peace talks. McWilliams shared her experiences and discussed the role of women and youth in peace processes as well as critical issues including inclusivity, pluralism, and mediation, which are crucial to the success of negotiation processes and persuasion of the political elites and various segments of society.
The meeting was important in the context of Turkey because the country has one of the youngest populations in Europe, with about 20 million people in the 15- 29 year old age range, constituting 23.2% of the country’s total population. Numerous generations have been affected by the conflict’s direct and indirect consequences since the 1980s. The Kurdish youth are often referred to as a “generation of war” and are positioned as being opposed to the idea of peace, while the Turkish youth’s viewpoint is assumed to be in accord with the mainstream Turkish perspective regarding the Kurdish issue. According to recent studies, it is observed that the trend towards radicalisation has decreased. There is a much higher interest in civic politics with an emphasis on identity.
This roundtable forms part of a larger series of activities planned in the context of the project Forging Pathways to Peace and Democracy in Turkey, supported by the Norwegian, Irish, and Swiss governments.