The UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) concluded the first-ever World Youth Conference on Kindness at the Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi today, on the theme ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: Gandhi for the Contemporary World: Celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’. The conference was inaugurated by the Honourable President of the Republic of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind and saw participation from approximately 1,000 youth representing over 27 countries such as Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe.
On this occasion, the tenth edition of UNESCO MGIEPs’ flagship publication, The Blue Dot was unveiled. The latest edition focuses on the Institute’s main area of work, primarily in social and emotional learning.
The conference is a collaborative quest to actualize, the youth of today, the Gandhi eulogized by the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, during his address at the University of Chile, “For me, he was the ‘experimental Gandhi’, defying class and race boundaries. A ‘creative Gandhi’, who transformed salt into a powerful symbol of a mass movement. And the ‘determined Gandhi’, who with his frail body walked through the villages of India with a lamp of truth amid the all-pervading darkness of violence that marked our independence.”
The conference included a Special Address by the Union Minister, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’; Chair, Governing Board, UNESCO MGIEP, J S Rajput; Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, R. Subrahmanyam; Nobel Peace Laureate, Founder- Kailash Satyarthi’s Children’s Foundation, Kailash Satyarthi and Founder, Myna Mahila Foundation, Suhani Jalota.
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, in commemoration of his 150th birth anniversary celebration, the World Youth Conference on Kindness aimed to provide global youth and policymakers an innovative, engaging and inspiring platform to come together and strive to discover ground-breaking pathways to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Commenting on celebrating 150 years of Gandhi, Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO MGIEP said, “As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s life, the pertinent question we must is how can we move beyond simply having an intellectual exercise of Gandhi’s ideas – especially for the 21stcentury youth who are diverse, tech-savvy, aware of their rights and demanding agency and change? If real societal change is to be achieved, Gandhi’s learnings, which he meticulously imbibed through his experiments, need to be built into our education systems and exemplified in our daily lives. The World Youth Conference for Kindness is a step towards our goal of creating a movement of inspired and empowered youth through kindness to transform themselves and build long-lasting peace in their communities. The need for resilient and adaptive individuals for rapidly changing environments is becoming increasingly important. Research has demonstrated that students need to be “socially aware” and “emotionally-connected” to learn effectively and for societies to flourish.”
Grammy Award winner & UNESCO MGIEP’s global ambassador for Kindness, Ricky Kej created and produced a special anthem on Kindness. “Shine Your Light”, which was also launched at the conference. The anthem is about showcasing simple acts of kindness in our everyday lives, and how these acts can help solve our problems. The anthem features musicians from 4 continents, including Grammy Award-winning flute virtuoso, Wouter Kellerman, Grammy Award-winning singer, Laura Dickinson, the Mzanzi Youth Choir and Grammy nominee and co-author of the song, Lonnie.
The plenary topics at the World Youth Conference for Kindness included ‘The Art and Science of Peace’; ‘Talking Across Generations on Education: Can Kindness Prevent Violent Extremism?’ and Youth Agency: Scaling Up Acts of Kindness.
The panelists at the conference included eminent speakers such as Founder & President, Metta Center for Non-Violence, Michael N Nagler; Director and Actor, Nandita Das; Neuroscientist, UNESCO MGIEP, Nandini Chatterjee; Executive Director, The Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, O.P. Jindal
Global University, Ramin Jahanbegloo; Doctoral Fellow, Neuroscience and Psychology of Giving, University of Sussex, Jo Cutler; State Minister of Education, Maldives, Abdulla Rasheed; Motivational speaker and author of My Life After Hate, Arno Michaelis; Secretary, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, Upma Chawdhry; Six Youth Delegates; Reporter, public speaker , author of ‘Tale of Tala’ and ‘The Confessions of a War Child’ trilogy, Chaker Khazaal; Founding Vice-Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University, C. Raj Kumar; Founder-chancellor, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) and Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), Achyuta Samantha.
The World Youth Conference on Kindness culminated with the adoption and release of the ‘New Delhi Declaration on Kindness for the SDGs’. The Delhi Declaration is a synthesis of 1,300+ submissions by young applicants from 117 countries; the meticulous work of the 60 youth from 27 countries who traveled and attended the intensive workshops organized by UNESCO MGIEP and Life University at O.P. Jindal University, Sonipat.
The conference aims to impart critical competencies (i.e. empathy, compassion, mindfulness, and critical inquiry) in global youth to inspire, empower and enable them to transform themselves and build long-lasting peace in their communities. The conference started with a three-day training workshop at O.P. Jindal University, Sonipat, Haryana from August 20-22 on ‘Compassionate Integrity Training’(CIT). UNESCO MGIEP organized the CIT training in partnership with the Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics at Life University in the US to build Social and Emotional Learning skills for 60 global youth.
Commenting on the partnership, Associate Director of the Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics and co-creator of CIT, Dr. Michael Karlin, said, “UNESCO MGIEP and Life University will develop the SEL capacities of youth through the partners of global YESPeace network in India, Pakistan, South Africa and Tanzania and the twenty-seven countries represented by youth in the conference”
Speaking on the occasion, Prof. (Dr.) C Raj Kumar, Founding Vice-Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University said, “O.P. Jindal Global University is privileged to extend the platform in association with UNESCO MGIEP at the opportune 150thanniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. India accounts for the largest section of youth, and to see them engage and articulate at this platform fills me with contentment. Each one, especially the youth, at large, is going to be more compassionate towards others in society. There should prevail a sense of inclusivity as it roots from Kindness. The conference’s ultimate aim was to channelize this young energy help achieve the SDGs through innovation and engagement.”
Last year, UNESCO MGIEP launched the #KindnessMatters for the SDGs campaign on the International Day of Non-Violence or the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, October 2. The goal of this campaign is to mobilize the world’s youth to achieve the 17 SDGs through transformative acts of kindness. Thus far, through the campaign, close to 5,000 transformative acts of kindness have been generated from over 50 countries. The Campaign aims to be the foundational step towards the ultimate request (backed by 250, 000 transformative stories of kindness by global youth) for the Member States of the United Nations to declare a Decade of Kindness for the Sustainable Development Goals – 2020 to 2030. Earlier this month, UNESCO MGIEP launched a social media mass campaign #VirtualGandhiMarch on the International Youth Day (August 12th ), which will culminate on Gandhi Jayanti and International Day for Non-Violence (October 2nd). All the stories are being submitted here. More information can be found here.
The Digital version of the Blue Dot issue can be downloaded here.
About UNESCO MGIEP
The UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) is UNESCO’s category 1 Research Institute that focuses on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7 towards education for building peaceful and sustainable societies across the world. In line with its vision of ‘Transforming Education for Humanity’, the institute’s programs are designed to mainstream Social and Emotional Learning in education systems, innovate digital pedagogies and to put youth as global citizens at the center of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. For more information, please visit the website.