Yesterday, this day's madness did prepare;
To - Morrow’s, silence, triumph, or despair.
Youth is easily deceived, because it is quick to hope.
Youth’s caprice breaks all the rules.
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
The present state of his works is like a complex equation that represents the precise relations of unknown quantities. As he described the emotional appeal from two unnamed children from war torn Burundi and Sierra Leone he posed the question: “When will the world ever be worthy of its children?”. The very next moment he saw a rogue plane hit the twin towers from a window in New York.
To have a world fit for children and for youth, all wars must cease, violence of every ilk, eradicated and new culturally sensitive models of education designed that better link to peace and appropriate socio-economic development. Education and digital technology must act as enablers and equalizers, by providing lifelong opportunities on how to learn, to adapt and take on new skills in the knowledge economy. The door for youth must be opened wide and the accomplishment of a well-fulfilled life must be brought within closer reach. However, when young people account for one third of the world’s 200 million unemployed population we have a long way to go! And what about the 250 million migrants and refugees that are easy prey to human smugglers and traffickers? International immigration is a catastrophe. Protection of the vulnerable is still a feeble currency and safe passage a figment of the imagination; migrant passage occurs to a background of violence and trauma. The Balkan corridor is a reminder of the powder keg metaphor for the Balkans. Women and children suffer more as government has its back up towards refugees and asylum seekers. By 2050, there will be up to 1 billion climate refugees in the world. What will be done then? The world body is in danger of losing one of its longstanding battles for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2030, an integral part of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Tomorrow, Youth will inherit the earth either as beneficiaries or as debtors and take up their position in society as winners and losers. Many will have a lower life expectancy and quality of life than their parents. Beyond their youth, they will carry a colossal weight left by the politics of past generations. Consequently, they must be given more room and a greater right to contribute to the future of the Balkan region, Europe and their future world. The international community and governments, high profile citizens and politicians and the older generations are failing.
Opportunity is mandatory and now! Opportunity can bring out a young person’s outer and inner smile. Education is a great booster. We know that not having an education or not being able to find a job is a bitter pill holding Youth back. Youth’s growing distrust of democracy and authority’s suppression of dignity puts additional pressure on the brake of development. We know that families dealing with sudden calamity can be destroyed. A child’s experience of deprivation can have life-long consequences. Children continue to work in dangerous conditions, shackled if they have psychosocial problems, often go hungry, fall sick and are deprived of learning. On cruel migration and refugee highways they are threatened with death by suffocation and by drowning as victims of profiteers. In addition to its enormous death toll the on-going global health crisis of COVID is already causing mass unemployment, disruption to food chain and is precipitating death and starvation. And it might mean that more than half of the global population can be living in poverty in the pandemic’s aftermath.
We do not know what forces propel youth forward. Only Youth has that key. Its current mindset of concern cries out that little time is left to look back and much greater effort is needed to reshape the future with alternative goals and different ways of living. The number of have-nots must be reduced, inappropriate influence on politics must be relinquished and youth must find a way. Just as economics can’t get domestic work into its developmental equations, politics has not yet found a way to include Youth in all correctional societal activities or to deploy Youth’s still untapped resources. Youth must take a firmer, a case of self-help to transform the lives of Youth and a means to protect the planet. These are essential ingredients for unity and sustainability and can give Youth more hope in lieu of hopelessness.
As tragic, widespread and despairing as COVID is, it will come and go while the growing existential threats facing humanity, global warming, global scale immigration and surveillance artificial intelligence if left in place as are they will exacerbate greater disaster. Much can be done including reactivation of the Earth Charter. But the worst of all and almost impossible to imagine is a nuclear war. Under such circumstances the impoverished and disenfranchised will never inherit one iota of the earth. The well to do, affluent and super rich can all go down too! Without ridding the world of nuclear weapons, ensuring peace and promoting social, economic and political support of Youth, young people will not write love poems or prove theorems and we your elders will lose our memories and stop writing. Yes all can be lost! To a background of such horrendous threat the illegal act of trespass into a restricted area by the Kings Bay Ploughshares 7 where lethal force is authorized should be seen as a most courageous act, a noble gesture and an overwhelmingly responsible action in the service for the preservation of mankind.
The United Nations was created to rein in the most powerful nations to protect those less powerful, to protect minorities and the most vulnerable against excesses of violence and brutality through its various institutions and by principles and standards. As Dag Hamersholdt said it can save humanity from hell, it will not take it to heaven. Six decades ago the United Nations approved a Declaration of the Earth Charter. It aimed at building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society based on ethics. In one bold move, past guilt for the planet’s demise was registered in parallel with a clear recognition of the present’s obligation to our children’s children and an undetermined future. It was a triumph of the international community, which is now silent. Since then minerals have been ripped, sucked and pumped out of its bowels.
Earth is our home, don't harm yourself! We are all here! (Acts 16:28). The Earth Charter was created by the independent Earth Charter Commission, which was convened as a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in order to produce a global consensus; a statement of values and principles for a sustainable future. The document was a decade in the development through an extensive process of international consultation, to which over five thousand people contributed. The Charter has been formally endorsed by thousands of organizations, including UNESCO and the IUCN (World Conservation Union). It is still a powerful instrument.
The ECPD emphasizes cultures for peace, religious tolerance, and respect for human rights and a society for all ages. It is promoting the implementation of the Road to Dignity by 2030 outlined by the UN Secretary-General as an alternative life approach to consumerism and materialism. The 8th ECPD International Youth Forum: Youth Power for our Common Future and Acting on the Earth Charter will take place in Belgrade, 24 - 25 October 20201. It will be devoted to learning and skills acquisition, peace building, cultural diversity and active citizenship. It will bring together young people, future leaders and decision-makers from many countries and several continents. Triumphant Youth!
Since 2013, the ECPD International Youth Forum has offered a firm spot to stand and an empowering fulcrum from where Youth can move their world in new directions. It happens just once per year. You are awaited in Belgrade to the 8th Youth Forum. The decision is yours! You can help make it a livelier event, a place for verse and mirth, a better space for learning, yearnings and for new starts - yours. You can have Belgrade blues and you can brighten the city.
The 4th ECPD Youth Forum was conducted in Pula, on the dock front, next to a Roman Acropolis and Coliseum, under a full moon. The 5th followed on from a rare solar summer eclipse that darkened a large part of the earth. The returning light became a metaphor for Youth. Yet, Youth’s efforts remain largely invisible, not yet recognized, even undermined due to a lack of adequate participatory and inclusive mechanisms for them to partner with decision-making bodies. We took the eclipse as an optimistic omen of a new day dawning, a rising moon of Youth nudging it up the socioeconomic agenda. The stars did not get it right. Opportunity for Youth is still limited.
Then came COVID-19 to upend our already upended world. Not to learn anything redemptive from so much pain and suffering would be another tragic waste. However, nothing can compare to the potential devastation posed by nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are used as a threat, the nuclear powers consider to develop new ones and non-nuclear countries have ambitions to acquire them. Should a button be pressed, by accident or intent, time will have run out on humanity as evolution unravels and human consciousness and culture disintegrate. In the shadow of a nuclear nightmare doing nothing is not an option.
Let’s resist the terrible things predicted to happen and hope the experts have got it all wrong. Instead, let’s think about a wonderful Youth Forum. and hope nothing goes wrong to prevent it. Now is the time for Youths’ voice to resonate. Youth Power of the 2020 8th ECPD International Youth Forum can propel humanity forward towards our Common Future. Clear your throats!
Let me follow up by saying we are extremely complex individuals and just as one example can be driven by a sense of the collective another can relate to individual need. Frequently, we (me) use examples, for example, Presidents such as Andrew Jackson who said every good citizen makes his country’s honor his own. But he held slaves, speculated in real estate and burnt down settlements. He signed the Indian Removal Act, which lead to mineral prospecting, land speculation and violence committed by nonnative settlers against Native Americans. This measure gave the president the authority to negotiate, some would say steal from Native American tribes for their fertile lands. Even the great Abe showed a dark side when he ordered the execution of Dakota Indians.
In the Balkans Andrija Štampar was dismissed for incompetence by non-other than the King, 1931. He fought quackery, condemned governments for being in the hands of gangsters and kidnappers and likened Balkan banditry to disease. He left Belgrade with much sorrow in his heart as he went into exile. Milan Jovanovic Batut wrote:
I am pleased to see that there are people who do not think that the world begins [and ends] with them… I cannot comfort you… being older  and more experienced I can tell you that time heals wounds… I commend to your heart all the questions of public health and health promotion… you have a stretch of time in front of you and two serious tasks, to bring up your lovely children and to finish up the work you started… let them be the main content of your life.
He went on to help launch the World Health Organization.
Petar Njegosh, the Montenegrin, poet, bishop, diplomat, remains eminently current. He wanted to call his Mountain Wreath (Gorski Viennes) the Unveiled Spark (Isri Iskra), but didn’t. It was too close to the powder keg representation of the Balkans. Today, he is taught in Montenegrin schools. His dichotomy and dilemma? Rooting out the converts of Islam, versus the wider role of Montenegro on the world stage. Njegosh just like Stampar came down on the side of internationalism.
With all its imperfections, the world is still a good place, with all its aches and pains, life is still beautiful and precious; it is worth working for, worth honoring and celebrating. Come to Belgrade and celebrate Youth with the ECPD. Today in 2020 and ever since the first exciting Youth Forum (Belgrade, 2013) to highlight peace in the region, reconciliation after ethnic cleansing and bombing of Belgrade and the need for tolerance the European Center for Peace and Development (ECPD), Belgrade, welcomes young people. It is a temporary Youth space, not the Promised Land or the Elysian plain, places of fair weather and soft winds, offering an easier life at the end of the world neither is it the new world of Columbus who sailed home from his second voyage with over a thousand captives bound for slave auctions in Cádiz. Living conditions in migrant-origin countries are typically difficult and harsh, and have worsened considerably in many regions due to climate change, environmental degradation and more recently the Coronavirus pandemic. Housing is typically substandard, educational opportunities are limited, health care is often lacking and many households struggle at subsistence levels.
Violence, armed conflict and human rights abuse also contribute to people’s desires to want out. Consequently, in addition to the large numbers of irregular migrants overstaying their visitors’ visa, many men, women and children lacking legal authorization to emigrate are willing to risk their lives to reach their desired destinations by any means, including crossing seas in flimsy boats, walking across deserts with limited provisions and hiding in poorly ventilated trucks, with some dying in their failed attempts.
One Side Line event I propose is a challenge for registered participants to have ready to read or for publication a poem in the tradition of a lamentation written in Nineveh. Shipwrecks are accident as old as history precipitated first by angry gods for human hubris-arrogance and disrespect. The lamentation referred to the sinking of a ship following an eclipse. The ship brought suffering as well as bread. It had a captain full of heart and soul but with no more power after the shipwreck. Shipwreck on an island has been a metaphor for sudden arrival into human existence where to be born is to be wrecked on an island. Shipwrecks provide inspiring stories of castaways and their return from hell, sometimes first-person accounts and metaphors for life and death and survival. It can take away homecoming or delays it. Its symbolism identifies water with baptism, the ship with a church, and sea storms with heresies or belief crises and salvation with the mast symbolizing the cross and guiding the vessel though the storm.
The wrecks suffered by Odysseus were caused by Poseidon’s wrath in response to the blinding of his son Cyclops who hurls rocks at Odysseus’ escaping ship. So the Ithacan’s journey home is troubled and delayed. Odysseus who has become No One turns down immortality when offered it by Calypso. It is an acceptance that life is finite with just two doors, of in and out. Odysseus refused immortality knowing that life is enjoyable because it is limited. Knowing that it can be suddenly lost makes things more precious.
Release your imagination! Our Belgrade poem can focus on the earth charter or man’s accumulated knowledge, which far outstrips his understanding of reality. Controlling this asymmetry with the crucial help of youth can reduce the ongoing active destruction of man’s habitat and his planet Earth, which undermines humanity’s survival; no more to marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the new moon and the splendor of the night sky; no more to hope of finding a bottle in some waterway with a new message for the world. Will it be the Danube or the Sava, some tributary of the Drina, a small stream or rivulet?
Creativity can lead to an infinite set of possibilities so that if you do not want to be poetical your contribution could be to write a letter in the time of COVID or structure a Declaration of Sentiments for the young. Pick up the gauntlet! I hope you will! It’s up to you! Leading up to the Forum many of you may be inspired to make an attempt! You will find it fun! You can find fun in scribbles! You may scribble a nonsense line that goes viral.
Should each participant write a poem we can have a book, or maybe each group will write a collective lyric. There are no in advance expectations for individuals or for groups. You can work individually or in a group. We suggest individual work in advance, group during the forum. An individual may take a leading role and encourage the creativity of the group. Will the 80/20 rule apply? 80% of the effort is made by 20% of the Group. Content is more relevant than shear volume. Sometimes a message is expressed in a few words... it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive or in one couplet of a longer poem. You swallowed everything, like distance. Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank! Or in silence, man by man, they reach out. For cup, for arrow or for sword. It’s up to YOU, each male AND each female to put pen to paper or finger to pad; blank verse or rhyming couplets... one page... on two... group and individual… it can be another version of brain storming. Tell me where you are and I will bring you pen and paper, thread and needle, bread and oil and a drop of water.
Life and its purpose must be imagined and seen through the prism of what in ancient Greece was the concept of a well fulfilled life; wisdom, reason, morality, responsibility and obligation encapsulated in classical philosophy. We know that life should have nothing sweeter than its springtime. So there is a prize... the applause of fellow participants, a sincere handshake, sorry ruled out by COVID, a pat on the back... publication certainly in the Youth Forum Proceedings of the ECPD... possibly a separate publication... 20 years on from now the Nobel Prize for literature.
That's just to begin with! Think no small thoughts. Think big. Think for the whole world in Belgrade. Don’t delay sailing towards the sun, towards wellbeing and to recover your lives that the older generation is wrecking on the rocks, while paying lip service to fair sailing. We have great naval architects and we have rock throwers.
75 years ago this month two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Several physicists protested in advance. A decade later the Russell-Einstein Manifesto and more recently the Erice Statement by Paul Dirac, Piotr Kapitza, and Antonino Zichichi called for nuclear disarmament. The latter was signed by Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Deng Xiaoping and other world leaders as well as more than 90,000 scientists. It is a show of wisdom emerging from initiative of the knowledgeable. The words from the Manifesto, 1955 are much more relevant today as then:
We appeal as human beings to human beings: remember your humanity, and forget the rest.
And most recently a Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons. And now we have the book The Button (William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina) advocated by President Clinton who bombed the Balkans and with a cover telling us the President has the power to end the world. Right now no one can stop him.
Even if the enormous threat from existential issues is understood by the power elite little and less than nothing is being done to ensure the viability of future generations. Treaties are failing. While the world’s educated citizenry has competences to recognize the scientifically informed horrendous messages emanating from existential issues find them difficult to handle. One result is that we are giving up on change with little effort, which leaves it to dynamic Youth.
You might think of glancing at Poetry in Unlikely Places, and A Voice for the Voiceless by Charles Simic an American poet laureate from the Belgrade. He says, that the American poet Levine could not bear living, thinking that man’s need to oppress, hate, kill, will never change. He goes on to say that if more young people had read Levine they might have thought twice before voting as they did, in the last American election.
From Greta Thunberg's Travel Diary: Six Months on a Planet in Crisis: I urge them to listen to the science and act now before it’s too late. They say that they think it’s so amazing that I’m so active and committed and that when I grow up I too can become a politician and make a real difference in the world. I then explain that when I’ve grown up and finished my education it will be too late to act if we are to stay below the 1.5 °C – or even 2 °C – target. After that I talk through some of the figures and numbers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 °C report. Then they laugh nervously and start talking about something else.
1 European Center for Peace and Development (ECPD), University for Peace established by the United Nations.