Climate change, poverty, inequalities and other issues affecting our world cannot be solved by government officials alone — we all need to play a part in creating a sustainable future. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations provide a clear vision of what is needed to achieve the world we yearn for, and Peace Boat US is active in promoting the goals by creating opportunities for young people to learn about and become involved in helping to fulfill them.
From June 24 – July 5, 2016, Peace Boat US held a study program entitled “Peace Education and the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Latin America” during Peace Boat’s 91st Global Voyage. Part of the program was held on land in Panama, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and another part was held onboard the Peace Boat as it sailed through the Central American region. Six university students serving as interns for Peace Boat US and 12 members of Global Kids, a non-profit educational organization that fosters youth leadership and global citizenship, joined the study program along with civil society members and guest educators. Throughout the program, participants exchanged ideas, discussed collaborative initiatives for sustainable development, learned about diverse cultural heritages, and met with United Nations officials and local communities to discuss the SDGs.
Peace Boat US participants gave a workshop about the Sustainable Development Goals to members of the Kuna indigenous community in Arraijan, Panama. The workshop examined all seventeen goals and indicated the importance of the implementation of the goals and targets. The main objective was to communicate the meaning of the goals to the members of the indigenous community and analyze the issues within the community that require improvement. The workshop was translated into Spanish and the Kuna local indigenous language to facilitate interaction between the participants.
Program participants and community members designed the SDGs logos together by combining the SDG icons created by the United Nations with traditional Kuna mola designs. The designs were used to paint a mural on the wall of a community center in the village. The mural depicts the integral nature of an international agenda on a local level and helps to raise awareness of the SDGs amongst the Kuna community, which can foster the incorporation of the global goals into political processes for the Kuna people.
Fair Trade Project with Kuna indigenous women (SDG 5) June 26, 2016
Peace Boat US continues to support the Kuna indigenous women in Panama to advance a fair trade project by donating sewing machines, cloth and materials for their workshop. Kuna women run the fair trade project and play a significant role in the local economy of the community by making traditional clothing and selling it to the local market. Thus, Peace Boat US support helps the implementation of gender equality and economic growth goals in the community, SDG number 5.
Donating school supplies to the Kuna indigenous community (Goal 4 /Arraijan, Panama, June 26)
Program participants collected school supplies in New York and donated them to the local elementary school in the Kuna indigenous community. The donations were made upon the request from the community due to Peace Boat’s policy of delivering aid only in close consultation with local partners about their precise needs. Members of the community gave testimonies about the importance of education in the lives of the marginalized. Their stories represented the necessity to implement SDG 4 – quality education.
Exchange with youth from the Relief & Resilience, Education, Transition (RET) Council (Goals 4, 10, 17/ Casco Viejo, Panama, June 26)
Many urban refugee-related problems stem from the lack of education and awareness about the lives and conditions of refugees amongst institutions. As a result, these institutions often lack the understanding and empathy needed to help integrate refugees into society. Consequently, refugees are more often criminalized and discriminated against by police, teachers, and citizens. Challenges they face range from access to quality education (Goal 4), equality (Goal 10), and interaction with strong institutions (Goal 17). In Panama, the Peace Boat US participants met with a diverse group of youth from the non-profit organization Relief & Resilience, Education, Transition (RET), a non-governmental that works towards the protection of vulnerable youth and refugees through education. The team had an invaluable exchange with RET youth volunteers who shared stories about their advocacy for education and thoughts to improve human rights in conflict zones.
Visit to the Panama City Mayor’s office (Goals 9, 11, 16 / Panama City, Panama, June 27)
In Panama, the Peace Boat US participants also had the opportunity to visit governmental offices and institutions. The group met the Director of the newly established Youth Violence Prevention program in the Mayor’s office and learned about their specific initiatives, youth campaigns, and activities. The establishment of peace must begin with peace building efforts at a young age in order to promote a safe and healthy society. Goal #16 concerns peace and security, and the participants were able to see efforts in pursuit of this goal in the local government of Panama City. The youth violence prevention program succeeded in building infrastructure for the citizens such as safe outdoor recreational spaces and the youth community house. The main objective of the newly erected community houses is to engage youth in the life of the community. Panama City mayor’s office works on the SDG numbers 9 and 11, demonstrating the impact of infrastructure on the safety of the community and its sustainability.
Lectures about the SDGs at the United Nations Development Program Regional office in Panama (Goals 1-17/ City of Knowledge, Panama, June 27)
The United Nations Development Programme’s regional offices in Latin America are located in the “City of Knowledge” in Panama. The Peace Boat US participants visited the office to listen to presentations given by a Regional Policy Adviser on Poverty, SDGs and Human Development, Mr. Gonzalo Pizarro and Regional Cluster Leader, Governance and Peacebuilding, Mr. Pablo Ruíz. The speakers introduced the Sustainable Development Goals and contributed to the understanding of the importance of the goals in different regions and opened up a conversation about challenges such as data gathering and measurement of nation-wide progress. A specialist on Peace and Citizen Security, Ms. Romeral Ortiz, introduced the UN Volunteer program to the participants and talked about youth empowerment through volunteering opportunities with the United Nations worldwide.
Traveling on Peace Boat for partnerships (SDGs 4, 17)
Peace Boat participants embarked the ship on June 27th. While sailing, Peace Boat provides various educational programs on human rights, gender equality, peace, and sustainability. Guest speakers give lectures and organize workshops on board; thus, the Peace Boat ship becomes a vessel for partnerships and a vehicle for education, bringing diverse cultures and ages together. Through such educational programs, participants learn more about various social, cultural, and political issues in the countries that Peace Boat visits. Promotion of SDG 4, quality of education, and SDG 17, partnerships for the goals, is an important part of Peace Boat’s mission.
Crossing the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean (SGD 9)
After embarkation, Peace Boat’s ship passed through the Panama Canal. The original Canal was constructed one hundred years ago as a gateway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and opening the Americas up for international trade. Participants watched the opening of the Panama Canal gates and reflected on the role of the canal in international trade. The Canal is the opening point of importance for infrastructure within society – Goal 9. International news media came to cover the construction of the new canal which opened in June, 2016 and its importance in boosting transportation and international trade.
Onboard presentation about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, June 29 (SDGs 4, 1-17)
To raise awareness amongst the civil society members traveling on the Peace Boat, participants gave a one hour presentation onboard the ship about the SDGs called “Peace Education and the Sustainable Development Goals in Latin America,” exemplifying Goal #4, quality education. The seventeen goals were divided among Peace Boat US interns and Global Kids participants according to their areas of interest. Each person made a brief introduction of the chosen goal, elaborating on the idea of how it relates to sustainable development. Spreading awareness of the SDGs is important because citizens of all member States are stakeholders in the implementation of the goals, and should take part in the transformation of the world for a better future.
Collecting data for the United Nations My World Global Survey for a Better World, June – July, 2016
In order to assess which issues and goals are particularly important to participants from various countries, participants helped to distribute and collect data about the SDGs via the My World UN Global Survey for a better world. The goal of the questionnaire was to collect country-specific information and data on the most pressing issues that people face living in different parts of the world. Due to the diverse background of people traveling on the ship, Peace Boat US was able to successfully collect data from multiple countries and provide broad outreach, including nations such as Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, and Venezuela. By participating in the presentation, the youth set an example for the current generation of how to work towards the implementation of the SDGs. Every person makes a difference and can contribute to the transformation of the world by raising awareness and sharing information with others.
Workshop on Peace Education, June 30, 2016 (SDGs 4, 16)
On June 30, 2016, the Peace Boat US participants took part in a workshop led by Dr. Daniel Yalowitz, the former Dean of the Graduate Institute of the School for International Training (SIT). The workshop was entitled “Playing for Peace: Play as a Forum for Community-Building and Peacebuilding,” with the main objective being to build a peaceful environment and a community based on trust through group activities. The workshop is associated with the SDGs number 4 “Quality of Education” and number 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions,” showing various methods for peace-making and trust-building in diverse settings. The experiences of the workshop can be applied to real-world communities and the issues people face every day. Peace within a community fosters the emergence of peace and justice institutions.
Learning about climate change and ecotourism in Guatemala, July 1, 2016 (SGDs 8, 13-15)
In Guatemala, Peace Boat US participants learned about environmental sustainability and global climate change. The team examined SDG 13 “climate action,” SDG 14 “life below water,” and SDG 15 called “life on land.” On July 1, 2016, the participants visited a family farm in Guatemala that preserves iguanas affected by global climate change. Afterward, the youth went to see mangroves, small trees that grow in coastal saline and brackish water that are also affected by climate change. Preserving wild animals and native trees is important for ecosystems and biological life cycles. Furthermore, thousands of tourists visit Guatemala in order to see mangroves every year; thus, the economy of the region is directly linked to the preservation of the trees that not only provide natural beauty, but also a flow of tourists. Thus, the youth had a chance to reflect on SDGs 8, “Good Jobs and Economic Growth.” Ecotourism increases the economy of the country and provides jobs. However, in order to continue the successful preservation of nature, it is important to take action on climate change, goal number 13.
Meeting with Rebecca Peters of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) – partnership for goals, peace and justice. July 3, 2016, Antigua, Guatemala (SDGs 1, 16)
The issue of gun violence is a serious problem in Guatemala that deprives citizens of a safe and peaceful life. In order to gain a better understanding of the problem, the Peace Boat US participants met with Rebecca Peters, a representative of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). The team learned about the effects of gun violence on the economic stability of the region. According to IANSA, young men in Guatemala are affected by gun violence the most, which undermines the economic stability of family members dependent on them. Murdered or wounded family members are unable to support families, which increases the chances of falling into poverty. The issue of gun violence, therefore, should also be taken into account when working toward SDG 1, the elimination of poverty. Gun violence is a huge obstacle on the way to peacebuilding, sustainability, and establishing safe communities. As a member of IANSA, Peace Boat US is raising awareness of Target 16.4, which focuses on reducing the flow of illicit arms, and is joining IANSA in raising awareness of the need for countries to do more about gun violence.
Discussion with Ricardo Navarro (Friends of Earth) and Anna Francis Gongora (Goals 5, 10/El Salvador, July 3)
Shortly after arriving in El Salvador, the Peace Boat US participants met with two guest speakers to discuss environmental sustainability and women’s rights. One of the speakers was a member of Friends of the Earth, Ricardo Navarro, who gave a talk about the protection of human rights in Central America. Ana Francis Gongora, a consultant on women’s issues, spoke to the participants about her activism for gender equality and peacebuilding in the region. The house the participants stayed in belongs to Ms. Gongora and serves as a venue for lectures on gender equality and women’s rights and as a temporary housing for visiting activists. She raised important issues of modern society and clearly explained human rights issues in El Salvador.
Panel discussion at Don Bosco University on the peace processes in Latin America (July 4, San Salvador, El Salvador)
Representatives of Don Bosco University met with the Peace Boat US participants to discuss the peace accords that were signed in Colombia and El Salvador. Throughout the discussion, the youth learned about the steps of peacebuilding and various challenges that countries in Latin America are facing. The discussion related to all of the SDGs because there is no peace and sustainability when war prevails. One of the panelists was Hugo Angulo, a former representative of permanent mission of El Salvador to the United Nations and a longstanding partner of Peace Boat US. The team had an opportunity to work on partnerships, SDG number 17, in El Salvador through Mr. Angulo, in order to promote a culture of peace and to gain knowledge relevant to other regions still struggling with conflict.
Visiting the community of San Julian to learn about infrastructure, sustainable cities, and communities (July 4, San Julian, El Salvador)
During the last day of the program in Latin America, participants visited the community of San Julian, the hometown of Peace Boat friend and partner Mr. Hugo Angulo, former representative of the Permanent Mission of El Salvador in the UN. Mr. Angulo organized an event with the Mayor of this city where local citizens and representatives of Peace Boat US could share their perspectives on world peace and experience how sustainable tourism can support peacebuilding in local communities.
Peace Boat US participates in the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations, July 2016
Peace Boat is an international NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council at the UN, which allows the organization to participate in conferences related to peace-building, disarmament education, sustainability, and human rights, sharing their experiences and contributing to international conferences. Upon returning to New York, the Peace Boat US participants gave a presentation in a side event at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on the SDGs entitled: “Empowering Youth through Partnerships.” Speakers included members of Peace Boat US, Global Kids, the Dutch Youth Council, and the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. In the spirit of SDG 17, “partnership for the goals,” the side event itself became an example of the effective partnership amongst organizations for youth empowerment and work towards all the SDGs. At the side event, the Director of Peace Boat US, interns, and Global Kids members presented the outcomes of our summer program and reflected on the experience in the context of the SDGs in Latin America.
Peace Boat US also presented its Ecoship project, which will bring to the world the first environmentally sustainable cruise ship. The Ecoship is planned to run on solar and wind power that will reduce carbon emissions by 40%. The main purposes of the Ecoship are to minimize environmental impact and promote sustainability all around the world through educational lectures and workshops onboard about human rights, gender equality, conflict resolution, and sustainability. The Ecoship project plan is to work on renewable energy, sustainable cities and communities, and climate change, representing SDGs 7, 11, and 13. Partnerships and cooperative work are needed to create a sustainable future in which all people have rights and are entitled to peace and justice. The Ecoship aims to sail in 2020 as a Flagship for the SDGs.