Messengers of Peace (MOP) Liberia in partnership with the City Government of Monrovia launched a two-day ‘Youth Peace Talks’ with several stakeholders including senatorial aspirants, youth-wing leaders from political parties, civil society organizations educational and youth-based organizations in preparation for the special senatorial elections in Liberia, held December 8, 2020. Youth Peace Talks 2020 Liberia became one of the central highlights of Messengers of Peace known as MOP, an organization devoted to mediation and peacebuilding, embodying the significance young voices have in the local, national, regional, and international arena. Gwendolyn is the founder of MOP and proudly states, “we are an organization that is managing up to a thousand people to serve as young volunteer peace messages and community mediators.” In fact, recently MOP has trained 50 of these young community mediators.

MOP also has a cohort of peace writers to engage young people in writing on topics relevant to peacebuilding. She stated,On the web, they report and put up different peace messages on matters happening in their communities. We call this dialogue among young peace messengers.” They also facilitate dialogue processes in communities and at their Institute for Peace Dialogue (IPD) and conduct trainings during their Annual Youth Peace Summer Camps where over 300 young people have participated. One major aspect of MOP is to mentor and coach young people on a daily basis. In fact, they run the program, “mentor talk.” 

Youth Peace Talks 2020, was organized by MOP in Liberia. She said,It started on the 28th of November, and ended on the 2nd of December.” The Peace Talk had several themes but central to sustainability for peace with a focused environment in partnership with the City Government. Gwendolyn was central to the development of these projects, and highlighted, “it is important because all the protocols, and resolutions are not going to be implemented if the political will is not there.” Thus, these sorts of initiatives bring resolutions into action. She went on to further state, this peace talk is a perfect example of how member states can form these peace talks in their own respective contexts. The resolution is nothing if it is not translated into action. For the City Government to partner with MOP, it is a major milestone especially for a post-conflict country like Liberia.” Youth Peace Talks in this case brought the 2250 agenda on youth, peace, and security into action.  

She highlighted that Youth Peace Talks 2020 consisted of support at all levels. The city government provided resources and funding. She said, “They were not there to interfere. It is not possible to talk about violence, and elections separately. Therefore, this partnership was helpful. The city government asked us to come up with a project and this is how peace talks 2020 came about. Approximately, 100 young people from 10 youth organizations (The Liberia National Students’ Union ( LINSU, Mano River Union Youth Parliament – Liberia Chapter (MRUYP -LC), Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), I- EARN – Liberia, Innovative and Visionary Volunteers of Liberia (IVVL), Give a Girl a Hand International, Campus – Liberia, Youth, United for Sustainable Development, Potential Leaders for Sustainable Future and Liberia Youth Action Network for Sustainable Development) were brought to clean the city and made sure to take on peace messages in this process. While cleaning, we had different messages of peace-promoting non-violence in the electoral process and used this medium to communicate that. 

She went on to state that the Mayor of the City of Monrovia, His Lordship, Hon. Jefferson T. Koijee joined the event which demonstrated his leadership and trust in MOP. Towards the end of this event, they were able to support 500 young people to participate in these Youth Peace Talks from different locations in Montserrado County. She stated, “we signed different communiqués with the youth wing executives and the Montserrado County Incumbent Senator (now Senator of Montserrado), Hon. Abraham Darius Dillon (CPP), MacDella Cooper, Political Leader of the Movement for One Liberia (MOL), Mulbah Morlu, Chairman of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), serving as a proxy for Aspirant Thomas Fallah, and Aspirant Phil Tarpeh Dixon, represented by his proxy, Otis B. Kruah, Campaign Team Secretary, and we were able to work together. These young leaders gathered for two days and demonstrated their commitment fully, and this election was very special to Liberia.” 

Afterward, there were also other stakeholders who joined and signed on the 1st and 2nd of December. These stakeholders included key representatives who were then brought to the Monrovia City Hall to engage in a dialogue-driven conversation with over 500 young people on Liberia’s peace process and sustainability plans. As the elections were coming up, a big focus in these dialogue opportunities also consisted of following the rule of law despite election results, seeking a  balance. Ideas and notions of leadership in the political arena and holding them accountable for their acts and efforts were also brought to the larger discussions.

The Role of MBBI

In this process and throughout the Youth Peace Talks 2020, MBBI played a central role. In fact, the CEO of MBBI sent an official endorsement message, which was played at the official ceremony. The remarks were displayed on the screen and on MOP’s social media platforms. Gwendolyn stated,with an official endorsement, and an emphasis on that we, felt like we were not alone in this.” There were also other partnerships(The Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security and The Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (CSPPS) in The Hague) that in conjunction with MBBI demonstrated their support. For Gwendolyn, “all of the global partners, and messages of peace and advocacy showed the maximum support to this peace process initiative. This gave us leverage. We needed the backing of the international community, and having all these endorsement messages was key. This showed that the Peace Talks had a very international high level of recognition.” Liberia had the elections on the 8th of December, and the Peace Talks 2020 played an instrumental role for the outcomes seen that day. She stated, “it is important to show these kinds of practical examples of other peacebuilding practices that other countries can use. Translating resolutions on peace is hard if they are not translated into action.” 

The work of Gwendolyn and her philosophy is rooted in her faith and her childhood experiences growing up in Liberia. As a young girl, she had supportive parents but grew up in a time where she saw young people used for violence. She stated, “if these young people could be used for violence, they can also be used to make pace and contribute to the peacebuilding process. This passion got me involved in peacebuilding.” In her eyes, young people could be beneficial, and this is what led to the establishment of MOP. Throughout this process, she has shared that mentorship is a central component to achieving the aims and mission of MOP. She stated,as long as we are on this journey together, we will get the desired results that we want. If you do not prepare the mindset, then nothing is there. It applies to mediation as well. The people we are training requires time and it is hard. Even young people we train, I follow them and mentor them. In fact, a mentor needs to be ready to go all the way. It is a struggle because not a lot of people have the patience and time to do that. A lot of people have their own issues. Therefore, it is sacrifice and you cannot do it if your heart is not in there.” 

She hopes MOP grows internationally, not just in Liberia. She stated, I know that my advocacy is global but as an institution, it is not just me. As an organization, it is less about me. As founder and director, I understand this. I do a lot of advocacy at the level of the African Union, the UN, and global levels.  I am there and as an organization, I look forward to messengers of peace leading the peace process as well as other negotiations. This is a big vision we see coming forward in five to ten years. There are amazing young people who have been trained and mentored and we’re on a mission to show to the world that they are qualified and competent as well to lead peace processes and serve. I know this will continue.” 

Overall, she is looking forward to more young people, especially young women in the field of mediation with a special focus on bringing in more people into this work at the community level. In her closing remarks, she stressed that it is a completely different process to witness young people mediating among young people. The methods and strategies there are different when you have young people at the heart of the mediation. It is a different approach. Therefore, it is important to do the work for them to come on board. She stated, we are moving away from just resolving conflict, but preventing conflict.” 

Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer