India: Pledging to RiseUp4Peace, young people and educators work on promoting peace and lawfulness beyond classroom walls

New Delhi, India/30 April 2024: "I pledge to promote peace, justice and fairness in my school and beyond." In the bustling corridors of the Sarla Birla Gyan Jyoti school in northeast India’s Guwahati (Assam), over 1200 students stand shoulder to shoulder in the morning assembly, their voices echoing with a pledge for peace, justice, and inclusivity.

Among them is Khyati Baruah, a spirited 15-year-old with a passion for creating positive change.

“Being a part of the RiseUp4Peace project has enhanced my leadership skills to a new level,” says Khyati. “As a student leader in my school, I have been collaborating with students from different classes and feel a new spark of excitement in the students for SDG16.”

With UNODC's RiseUp4Peace initiative, Khyati and thousands of young minds like her are actively learning about--and advocating for--peace, justice, and inclusivity with education. This pioneering educational initiative, spearheaded by UNODC in collaboration with Kamla Nehru Public School (KNPS) Phagwara and educator partners across India and beyond, focuses on empowering young people and educators on creating a culture of peace, the rule of law and integrity.

With the support of dedicated educators, the initiative has evolved into a coalition of empowered 'Partners4Peace,' a network of networks dedicated to fostering a more just and inclusive society--—core elements of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16).

This month, RiseUp4Peace organized five interactive capacity-building dialogues, bringing together over 1,095 educators and young people. These dialogues aimed to demystify SDG 16 and related themes, encouraging the co-creation of student-led activities and fostering cross-learning among educators. The focus was on innovative classroom interventions to educate, engage, and empower young learners on peace, the rule of law, and integrity.

“With RiseUp4Peace, I am able to spread awareness about the impact we as students can make to build a just and peaceful world. This project has also  helped me to develop my leadership and communication skills,” says Lekisha Jain, aged 14. 

"Working for this cause has enabled me to harness digital tools for meaningful social impact. It's a journey that not only amplifies my voice but also deepens my understanding of the challenges surrounding SDG16," says 15-year-old Srishti Sen, a student of the Funlish online education platform.

At the core of the initiative is also an emphasis on capacity-building for educators and fostering cross-learning opportunities. Over 150 educators participated in the 5th monthly RiseUp4Peace capacity-boosting dialogue in April, where UNODC's youth mainstreaming specialist Paloma Munne presented the Youth Empowerment Accelerator (YEA) framework to promote youth mainstreaming. Educators from around the world shared practical ways to strengthen SDG 16 education, highlighting the importance of a “collaborative spirit."

"With this network, the idea is to foster cross-fertilisation of expertise and ideas between educators and educational institutions, and enable young people to sharpen their skills," said Ms. Paramjit Dhillon, Principal (Admin and Innovation), KNPS Phagwara.

Knowledge support was also provided to 316 educators, 5,100 young people and 12 educational institutions directly on SDG 16-related themes and youth mainstreaming on the rule of law. This resulted in the co-creation of a range of school-led initiatives engaging and empowering over 14,000 young people—including a students’ ‘Run4Peace’ campaign driven by the Little Kingdom School (Madhya Pradesh), virtual student assemblies on SDG16 conducted at the Funlish language school, setting up of a 'peace tree' with messages on SDG 16 at the Sri Seshaas International Public School Salem (Tamil Nadu), interactive dialogues held at the Schiller Institute (Uttar Pradesh) and other institutions, pledge drives, posters and artwork activities, among others.

"In today's interconnected world, the significance of SDG16 education cannot be overstated. RiseUp4Peace recognizes this urgency and provides a unique platform for educators and students to come together in dialogue and action,” says Samarth Pathak, UNODC Communications Officer for South Asia. 

"I have always wanted to make a difference in the society, but didn’t know where to start," says Anubhab Siddhanta, aged 13. "Engaging with UNODC has made me realise that small acts too can have a big impact.” With RiseUp4Peace paving the way, young people are not just dreaming of a better tomorrow—they're actively working towards it, one pledge and one action at a time.

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This activity contributes to SDG 4, SDG 5, SDG 16 and SDG 17: