Programs

"The young people who do this work are amazingly courageous and passionate. Standing witness and taking action helps shine light on issues and problems that need urgent change. We want to be part of the solution and demonstrate to the world that there are alternatives that work , and work well."

--Jennifer Kloes, Executive Director Emeritus

The Need for Our Work
Memorials scattered across the Rwandan landscape provide a grim reminder of how the egregious violation of human rights can lead down a dangerous path to genocide.  The bones and remnants of clothing laid out for display prompt us to ask how it was possible that the Rwandan government was able to rally neighbor to turn against neighbor.  They bear testimony to how the international community has time and again failed to meet its obligations to uphold the standards enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Genocide Convention and other agreements.

Unfortunately, Rwanda is not an isolated case.  Similar stories and testimony can be found in other former zones of conflict around the world – from the streets of Sarajevo to the killing fields of Cambodia, from the rural areas of Nepal to the indigenous highlands of Guatemala.  Today we are urgently confronting unspeakable atrocities in Darfur, sectarian violence and foreign occupation in Iraq, ethnically motivated killings in Kenya and severe authoritarian repression in Burma, to name but a few notable cases.  Furthermore, in communities across the world, rampant social and economic injustices, including discrimination, poverty, exploitation, the destruction of entire cultures, and ethnic and religious intolerance, are creating an increasingly where new conflicts and wars may be far too easily ignited.

There is an urgent need to better understand why war, mass violence and genocide occur.  More importantly, there is a clear need to invest in strategic solutions that aim to prevent such atrocities from occurring in the future.  There is also a need to ensure that this knowledge is passed on to the next generation of human rights leaders.

In considering strategic approaches to breaking the cycle of conflict it is particularly important to recognize that -- in Rwanda and elsewhere where lives have been touched by mass violence -- young people have been particularly vulnerable to human rights violations.  This is largely due to the fact that youth typically lack the knowledge, skills or opportunities to take action for social change or to stand up against intolerance, discrimination and oppression.  Insufficient resources are being invested to provide young people with the knowledge necessary to defend their human rights and the rights of others in their communities.  Without such support, young people can become disempowered, frustrated, disengaged, and vulnerable as the injustices pile up around them.  They are also more likely to be victimized or join in the violence (just like many young Rwandans who took up machetes). 

There is a clear need to direct more energy towards informing young people of their rights in tandem with providing them tools for taking action.  Youth must feel confident in their ability be part of the solution by standing up to racism, violence, poverty, genocide, torture and other tough human rights problems, preferably doing so before they escalate into widespread violence.  Although some schools and organizations are doing great work to jumpstart youth engagement in human rights activism, there is significant need to create additional opportunities to enable youth to develop and strengthen their activism skills, expand their knowledge on current and past human rights crises, exchange ideas with others and take action to test their ideas and see the immediate results of their efforts.  If we don’t empower them now and direct their energies to promoting non-violent social change, we will continue to feed the global cycle of violence, oppression and injustice for generations to come. 

Additionally, among those young people who are already taking a stand for change, we must provide additional support.  Young frontline activists generally lack sufficient opportunities for training and their work and efforts are largely undervalued.  There is a need to help them generate new ideas, connections and strategies that will help them provide the breakthroughs necessary to transform problems that now seem intractable.  Investing in youth who are already leaders in their communities, especially those who are working with other youth, also makes sense since they are best poised to share what they’ve learned with many other people, creating a ripple effect.  Rather than spreading resources thin by trying to reach every single young person, working with youth leaders is an extremely wise strategy to ensure maximum impact of limited resources.

Motivations and Inspirations
A deep-rooted desire to help put an end to the dehumanization and devastation of genocide and mass violence inspires the work of Global Youth Connect. We believe that investing in youth and enabling them to serve as active bystanders to promote and protect human rights is a critical strategy to help prevent and minimize the escalation of conflict as well as heal divided and traumatized communities seeking to rebuild after conflict. Based on our experience, we believe that the concepts and strategies of human rights education offer today’s youth the most powerful tools of understanding and motivation to take action.

Who We Serve
Our programs serve a global community of youth and young adults, ages 14-30.  We support youth who are already established leaders in their community and who are looking for ways to strengthen their skills, expand their understanding, deepen the impact of social justice projects and build a network of supportive allies.

We also serve youth who are at an earlier stage in their activism to enable them to better understand how to use their unique talents to advance human rights.  As a global organization with programs in a variety of countries around the world, the youth we work with come from all backgrounds – from the poorest communities to the wealthiest, from the “developed” world to the “underdeveloped” world, and from a wide range of ethnic, national, and religious backgrounds.

Goals and Objectives

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Increase understanding among youth of both the theoretical and practical context of the human rights framework

-->Build the skills, knowledge and confidence of youth to raise awareness, take action and work collaboratively on projects to promote and defend human rights;

-->Facilitate meaningful dialogue, enable critical thinking and analysis of complex issues and encourage joint problem solving to address shared human rights concerns;

-->Foster personal and emotional growth by testing boundaries and limitations, reflecting critically on our own lives and cultures, exploring how the choices we make affect others;

-->Build strong personal connections and community among youth activists;

-->Provide positive outlets and opportunities for youth to work to promote human rights; and

-->Create, inspire and nurture both new and existing youth-led projects aimed at promoting and protecting human rights.

Human Rights Framework
It is no coincidence that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was agreed upon on the heels of the Nazi holocaust. In 1948, the UDHR was proclaimed as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations,” directing all humans to “strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms.”

We believe that the human rights enshrined in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights provide us with a guide for action. We also believe that it is critical to embrace the entire spectrum of human rights – the economic, cultural and social as much as the political and civil with a consideration for both individual and collective rights – in order to work towards implementation of the ideals offered by the UDHR.

The promotion and protection of human rights needs to be at the forefront of any youth movement dedicated to peace building, reconciliation and violence prevention. At the same time, we also seek to explore the complexity and interconnectedness of human rights challenges as experienced in the real world. And we aim to identify the ways in which nations, institutions, individuals as well as ourselves must take responsibility to act in order to ensure human rights and dignity for all.

Educational Methodology

Our educational methodology is drawn from a mixture of techniques and strategies used by the popular education movement. Our programs are highly interactive and experiential. We promote a “whole person” approach to leadership development as well as understand the importance of providing experiences for participants to connect with others in to engage in meaningful shared work. Our goal is to help young leaders learn about the ideas, concepts and strategies of human rights through engaging in meaningful dialogue, promoting critical analysis, encouraging self-reflection and fostering action. Emotional and psychological development and community-building are just as important to us as intellectual content.


WHERE WE WORK


International

Bhutanese Refugees

Bosnia

Cambodia

El Salvador

Global

Guatemala

Jordan

Nepal

Rwanda
Venezuela
 

United States
Hudson Valley - New York


GYC : P.O. Box 1342, NY, NY 10159 : (845) 657 - 3273 : contact@globalyouthconnect.org