On 9 November 2022, Coventry Lord Mayor’s Committee for Peace and Reconciliation in partnership with Coventry Prevent Team, Coventry Cathedral and the RISING Global Peace Forum offered schools in Coventry the opportunity to attend a 6th Form Conference on the theme of ‘Rethinking Security and Peace’.
Coventry holds an international reputation as the UK’s only City of Peace and Reconciliation; however, locally this reputation often goes ignored. The theme of Peace & Reconciliation has relevance and potential for the whole area given its historical roots, links to faith and the Cathedral. It also comes with the challenge of making it meaningful and relevant for Coventry’s diverse communities today and in the future, translating its international reputation into a reality.
The aim of the conference was to:
- To give 6th formers the opportunity to discuss issues of security and how they could take steps to promote peace and understand issues that concerned them. These included the environment, health, inequality and emotional security;
- Informing participants so they can take action and have their voices heard and help to build more peaceful societies;
- Raise awareness of the RISING annual event, which is organised by Coventry University;
- Encourage schools to collaborate on peace related initiatives.
In all 35 young people attended the conference and 20 adults. Booking was made via Eventbrite and this process worked very well. Apologies were received from three secondary schools with the commitment that they would be interested in such a conference if it was run again next year. The subgroup organising the conference have decided to make this an annual event, working with Coventry University so that it is including within the RISING programme.
There was also representation of students from Coventry University, Pax Christi, Cllr Kindy Sandhu UN Coventry Branch and members of the LMPC. Merchandise for participants was provided from Coventry Against Racism and Fascism (CARF), Pax Christie and the Coventry Prevent Team.
The conference keynote speech was delivered by Joanna Frew, Outreach Coordinator for Rethinking Security which is a network of organisations, academics and activists working together for security based on justice, cooperation, and sustainability. She is also an activist and researcher who has been involved in global economic justice, climate justice and anti-militarism. Jo delivered a presentation and discussed the issues of security within a wider context within society.
The participants were then tasked in groups to develop a Human Security Manifesto. Each group presented their thoughts, ideas and action points to the rest of the audience. Elements of this activity will be fed back to the current Lord Mayor to inform the One Coventry Plan 2022 – 2030. This is a plan which focuses on the needs and hopes of our communities here in the city, the views of young people are to be included within this consultation.
Three priority areas which the conference outcomes align with are:
- Increasing the economic prosperity of the city and the region
- Improving outcomes and tackling inequalities within our communities
- Tackling the causes and consequences of climate change
Participants were also asked what their future worries were, and the following issues were raised:
- Climate change and the government’s action towards it. Also, the impact on those not causing it
- The cost-of-living crisis – fuel and food prices, bills
- The increase in poverty and growth of hunger
- Military spending on war/s escalating
- More time to be spent on issues like poverty and housing etc
- Tuition fees for university
- History repeating itself
- Issues of inequality, intolerance and racism
- Misogyny – not being taught about consent
- Corrupt government policies and agenda
- Rich getting richer
- Representation at government (the 1%)
- The effect of violence on young people
- Keeping communities and young people safe
- Nuclear disarmament
- Sharing the real reasons for inflation to all the public
- Investment in community building
- Encouraging companies to change policies re climate action so as to benefit the average person
In essence these issues can be summed up as, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear and Freedom to Live in Dignity.
Eniola Adekunle One of the Youth Commissioners for Coventry and is currently a sixth form student at a Coventry School. Eniola talked powerfully about her journey into activism and what young people can do to make an impact.
Richard Dickson who responsible for the RISING Global Peace Forum, a three-way partnership between Coventry University, Coventry Cathedral and Coventry City Council. The annual RISING Global Peace Forum is an event that shares ideas and inspiration about building and sustaining peaceful and secure communities.
Cllr Kindy Sandhu, Cabinet member for Education and Skills, talked about the UNESCO schools’ network and how the wish was for all Coventry schools to be involved in this initiative.
The conference ended with a performance by Adam Hedge – Hailing out of Coventry City, ShadowCV. Adam is a Recording Artist who uses complex and compelling lyrics to captivate his organically grown audience. As well as producing, writing and recording his own music, ShadowCV is also a music mentor at one of the secondary schools in the city.
Legacy and Impact
Schools were asked three questions in terms of feedback from the conference, the following is the feedback for these questions.
1.What we thought about the conference ….
- Excellent, it gave us ideas on how to improve security
- Important hearing the voice of other young people
- Inspiring stories
- Inspirational, engaging, thought provoking, an excellent platform for students to be advocates for change
- It was interesting and fun experience. I learnt a lot about peace initiatives in Coventry and enjoyed hearing about the RISING Global Peace Forum
- Eye opening, inspiring and empowering
- Lots of great information and informative facts and statistics
- Engaging and enjoyed the ideas and thoughts of people at this event
- Gave us the freedom to speak of these issues
2. What our school is going to do after attending the conference ….
- Reflect on school priorities, use student voice and look at opportunities to engage with peace and security
- Look out for communication from the UNESCO project and RISING
- Continue to empower our students to have a platform and discuss issues on peace and security
- Spread awareness of the things we have discussed and learnt so that more people can understand what we face within our community
- Promote awareness on human security
- Represent peace throughout our school community and demonstrate what I have been taught
- Organise more activities and discussions around peace and trust, leading through demonstrating
3. What we would like more of …
- Social action projects that are relevant and available
- Police representation
- More activities at the conference
- To address social and environmental issues with a solution for each individual to act on
- Being free from danger
- To look at security and technology
- More interaction with students
Future actions and recommendations
- The ideas of the participants Human Security Manifesto be shared with interested bodies at a later date
- That there is an annual conference for 6th formers in November and this is to be delivered in partnership with the LMPC and RISING. Schools have already indicated that they would be interested in such an event.
- To open up this opportunity to 6th formers from Warwickshire schools next year, 2023
This conference would not have been possible without the assistance of the following organisations
Coventry Lord Mayors Peace Committee https://coventrycityofpeace.uk/lmpc/
RISING Global Peace Forum, Coventry University https://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/areas-ofresearch/trust-peace-social-relations/rising/
Rethinking Security https://rethinkingsecurity.org.uk/
Coventry Prevent Team https://www.coventry.gov.uk/prevent-3
Coventry Cathedral https://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/
Coventry Against Racism http://www.coventryagainstracism.co.uk/
Balbir Sohal & Carol Rank, Coventry Lord Mayors Peace Committee, November 2022