“He aha te nui mea o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.” A Maori Saying (Translation: “What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, the people, the people.”)

If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world. -Chinese Proverb

The Twentieth Century will be remembered as a century of wars. Despite opportunities such as the end of the Cold War between the US and the former USSR, human beings have moved further away from creating a world where they can live in harmony with one another and all life on Earth. Such a world is possible, but it requires active participation and cooperation from every individual to respect life and take action to create such a world.

Peace begins with the individual. We must realize that, as individuals, we are not powerless and that the power of one can make a difference. As individuals we must accept the responsibility to end the scourge of war and culminate a culture of peace. We must realize that peace is more than the absence of war. War is a drain on both human and financial resources and as history proves, is not an effective means of resolving conflict. Peace involves a process of individual and communal participation. It requires justice, equal rights and equal opportunities.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Stated, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”. We must be cognizant of the inter-relatedness of all communities and peoples. Though cultures and traditions may vary, and though we are all individually unique, we are united by our humanity. We are all brothers and sisters of one human family and we must learn to live with each other and respect our differences. We must keep our impoverished brothers and sisters who live in the developing world in our conscience. Everyone is entitled to Human Rights, not just those who live in industrialized or developed nations. On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly declared Resolution 217, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The preamble begins, “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…” The Universal Declaration further establishes human rights by stating that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (Article 1), that ” Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person” (Article 3) and that ” All are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law” (Article 7).

In a world that has become so globalized, with advanced technologies that bring us the internet and mass global communication, with news available to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we are responsible to remain aware of what is going on in our communities, in our country and in our world. We must maintain a global conscience and think before we make decisions that affect our families, our communities, our environment, and those all around the world. We live in a consumer-oriented world that capitalizes on a need for “things”. We must ask ourselves, “how does each purchase I make affect others?”

I believe that young people have a tremendous responsibility to effectuate the change needed to create a world where human beings live in harmony with one another and all life on earth. Peace and security are age-old issues that have been around since the advent of war. The existence of war, nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction evidence our insecurity and our inability to understand how our actions affect others. As human beings, we desire to be secure, yet we have some how deemed it in our nature to live in fear of each other and therefore we try to justify our urge to resolve conflicts through violent means.

Knowledge may give individuals power, but it also obligates responsibility. As young people we are responsible to share what we know about peace and security issues with our friends, our families, our communities and all those with whom we come in contact. We must realize that as individuals, the knowledge we have gives us the power to make a difference and we must not be afraid to stand up and be a voice for positive change. As Mahatmas Ghandi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Learning about an issue is the first step to realizing the responsibility we have as young people, but knowing is simply not enough. We must also actively work to achieve the secure and peaceful world we envision.

We are the given an inalienable right when we are born into this world and that is the right of choice and will. The right of governments to govern is based on the will of the people. It must be our will as individuals to achieve peace and we must hold our governments responsible to ensure the maintenance of peace for all peoples.

Simple actions that individuals can take now include: -Maintaining a global awareness and conscience by educating self and others -Writing to elected officials and governmental representatives and holding them responsible for making the right decisions on issues -Becoming involved in local and international peace efforts. – Only purchasing goods of whose origins one is certain. One can write to vendors to find out where products are made or simply ask a store clerk in order to ensure that goods made by child laborers or by laborers paid unfair wages are not purchased.

As individuals, we must learn to respect all life on the planet and fundamentally redefine security in terms of human and environmental needs. Security can no longer be defined by military superiority because it enshrines a structure of perpetual violence, promoting war and weapons as the principle means of solving conflict. By changing how we define security, it will create conditions leading to a world where conflicts can be solved non-violently, where humans can live with dignity and in harmony with each other and the Earth. It is very easy to be apathetic to peace and security issues as, unfortunately, many young people are, but even taking the smallest action will make a world of difference. As youth, we have the greatest challenge, but also the greatest potential to create a world that is just and secure for all.