The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted billions of people across the globe, including young people whose daily routine of school, extracurricular activities, and time with friends has been interrupted by the spread of the virus.
To provide a safe space for its 54 million global members and connect young people from around the world during these challenging times, the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) put on a special edition of its Jamboree on the Internet — known by its acronym JOTI — from 3-5 April 2020. Over 44,000 scouts participated.
The Dialogue for Peace team and the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) joined JOTI, offering 19 webinars centered around the theme of dialogue to more than 4,000 young people.
Attendees, from countries as far and wide as Algeria and the Philippines, Mauritius and Macedonia, could choose between a suite of activities aimed at connecting youth and equipping them with new skills and friendships from the comfort of their homes.
Opening the event, Craig Turpie, chairman of the World Scout Committee, the main executive body of WOSM, said that in such unprecedented times “the world needs scouting more than ever.” He encouraged participants to get involved locally and globally and “turn this challenging time into an opportunity to connect with people from around the world.”
As part of its active promotion of dialogue for conflict prevention and resolution among youth, KAICIID developed the Dialogue for Peace (DfP) programme in close cooperation with WOSM. The programme equips participants with the necessary skills and knowledge to develop dialogue-related projects in their communities, which has also contributed to the mainstreaming and institutionalisation of dialogue within WOSM and other organizations. From 2015 to date, over 9000 young people from all around the world have been exposed to the programme, 22 DfP Scout trainers have been accredited and over 25 are preparing for accreditation.
At the online Jamboree, KAICIID DfP trainers discussed how to cope with COVID-19 at the first ever Dialogue Café. Other sessions encouraged participants to stay productive and how to produce results, even from home. A presentation in Arabic by Maya Sukar focused on how to create relevant content and activities for social media. Attendees also got the chance to play Dialogo!, a game designed by KAICIID to help youth leaders and peace builders to develop their dialogue skills, capacity for teamwork, and social emotional learning.
Dialogue in times of COVID-19
University of Montreal professor and KAICIID Senior Adviser Patrice Brodeur highlighted the importance of dialogue even, and especially, in a time of crisis.
While Brodeur admitted that those actively engaged on the frontlines of relief work may not be able to prioritise dialogue, he emphasised how for those in isolation, “dialogue may be, in fact, a wonderful way of actually socialising online and increasing solidarity and empowerment of each other.”
The increased insecurities of the present crisis, Brodeur said, offer an opportunity for “agents of peace” like scouts to “become more resilient and learn the skills of dialogue in order to move ourselves in ways that can actually create peace.”
To that end, Brodeur offered an overview of certain essential elements of dialogue included in the WOSM-KAICIID DfP Programme online manual, Building Bridges: Guide for Dialogue Ambassadors.
Pointing to the programme’s empowerment of youth through knowledge, greater compassion, and service, Brodeur recognised the important role that young people play in contributing to the strengthening of social cohesion and peaceful coexistence, especially in a time of global crisis.
Echoing Turpie’s sentiments at the start of JOTI, Brodeur said, “we need to stick together and help each other.”
Looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Brodeur foresaw the ongoing impact of the partnership between KAICIID and WOSM. He said the special edition JOTI over the weekend demonstrated, “the potential for the long term impact of a whole new generation of dialoguers across the movement worldwide.”