United World Colleges (UWC) is a movement that aims to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
Since 2001, their Initiative for Peace campaign has empowered young people from conflict affected regions, including Kashmir, Timor Leste, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, to become active agents of change through youth-led conferences.
UWC students are trained in peace-building theory and skills. The young trainees then plan and facilitate a week-long peace conference for youth from an area affected by conflict, tension or even domestic or gang related violence. They spend six months training to become peace-builders and facilitators and then five months planning the conferences, doing everything from sending applications out and selecting participants to planning the conference programme and finding guest speakers.
Staff take the position of coaches, teaching the students vital skills such as peace and conflict theory, project management, digital literacy, planning, communication, active listening, facilitation and teamwork. Empowered with this new knowledge and understanding, the facilitators run the conferences. This means every conference is run by youth, for youth.
Conferences are residential and young people take part in activities, learn, eat and share dormitories together in order to build real connections with people from many different backgrounds, all in the name of peace. Delegates are asked to bring items that represent their culture and they put on a cultural show during the conference. This gives students the opportunity to showcase their cultures and experience the cultures of others, leading to some powerful learning.
There is also a service day, where delegates take what they have learnt and do something active with it, such as planting trees. The week is finished with action planning, where the delegates discuss what it is they have learned at conference and what they plan to take away for the future.