President of India inaugurates the World Youth Conference for Kindness

150 Years of Mahatma Gandhi

The UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) concluded the first-ever World Youth Conference on Kindness at the Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi on August 23, 2019, on the theme 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: Gandhi for the Contemporary World: Celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’. The conference in which the Samiti was a partner, was inaugurated by the Honourable President of the Republic of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, and saw participation from approximately 1,000 youth representing over 27 countries in regions such as Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. On this occasion, the tenth edition of UNESCO MGIEPs’ flagship publication, The Blue Dot, was unveiled, focused on Social and Emotional Learning.
Union Minister, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank'; Chair, Governing Board, UNESCO MGIEP, Prof. J S Rajput; Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, Shri R. Subrahmanyam and Nobel Peace Laureate, Founder- Kailash Satyarthi’s Children’s Foundation, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi also spoke on the occasion.
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, the Conference aimed to provide global youth and policymakers an innovative, engaging and inspiring platform to come together and discover ground-breaking pathways to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The opening session also included voices of two youth representatives, Ms. Suhani Jalota, Founder, Myna Mahila Foundation, and Ms. Sorina Petrescu, Founder, TMoves.
In his inaugural address as Chief Guest, the Honourable President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind said, “Education needs to go beyond mere literacy. We need to educate young people such that they can defy and transcend boundaries of class and race.” The President emphasized that “Following Gandhiji’s footsteps, we must let ourselves and our children interact and engage with those whom we tend to define as ‘them’. Greater interaction is the best way to develop a sensitive understanding, which can help us overcome our prejudices.”
Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishant’, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Human Resource Development on the occasion observed ”Gandhi, synonymous with Kindness, had said that to show kindness to one person was more praiseworthy than the bowing of a thousand heads in prayer.” Shri R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development continued by expressing that “Mahatma Gandhi’s call to people in India and the world was to understand that character is most important” and that “human qualities such as kindness can be inculcated each in one of us.”
The Chair, Governing Board, UNESCO MGIEP, Prof. J S Rajput spoke of the relevance of Gandhian principles such as non-violence for the youth in the world today, which is facing turmoil. He went on to state “The very basis for the premise of the establishment of the Institute based on designing education for peace, sustainable development and global citizenship harmonises fully with the principles of Mahatma Gandhi.”
Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO MGIEP, during his address said the motivation for this conference was the general observation that “people have increasingly started to think that being kind is a sign of weakness whereas aggressiveness is respected.” He explained that humans are neurologically wired at birth to be kind but the process of socialisation tears that away. He further said, “If real societal change is to be achieved, Gandhi’s learnings, which he meticulously imbibed through his experiments, need to be built into our education systems and exemplified in our daily lives. The World Youth Conference for Kindness is a step towards our goal of creating a movement of inspired and empowered youth through kindness to transform”.
As part of the Opening Ceremony, Grammy Award winner & UNESCO MGIEP’s global ambassador for Kindness, Ricky Kej, launched the Kindness Anthem: “Shine Your Light”, featuring musicians from four continents, including Grammy Award-winning flute virtuoso, Wouter Kellerman, Grammy Award winning singer, Laura Dickinson, the Mzanzi Youth Choir and Grammy nominee and co-author of the song, Lonnie.
Following the Opening Ceremony, numerous plenary discussions were held bringing together experts from diverse areas such as philosophy, the neurosciences, filmmaking, literature, acting, education, meditation, activism and social work. Panel 1 focused on the “Art and Science of Peace”.
The post lunch session opened with a high-level Talking Across Generations on Education (TAGe) on the theme ‘Kindness and Prevention of Violent Extremism: From a platitude to a force’. The session,s moderated by Chaker Khazaal, author and public speaker, brought together six dynamic youth participants and three policy makers in an engaging dialogue. The debate deep dived into how youth are at the frontlines of extremism and violence, and how education supplemented by social and emotional learning can be used as a tool to prevent violent actions by youth.
The Conference culminated with the adoption and release of the ‘New Delhi Declaration on Kindness for the SDGs’. The New Delhi Declaration is a synthesis of 1,200+ youth voices from 117 countries; meticulously substantiated and summarised by the 60 youth participants from 27 countries. During the closing ceremony, the two youth participants who represented the 1200+ youth voices presented the Declaration, which was unanimously adopted by the audience gathered at the Conference.
In concluding remarks at the closing ceremony of the Conference, Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, shared his strong views of youth empowerment and how his organization is working with youth on building qualities such as empathy, compassion, towards a sustainable future.
Following the Conference, the first-ever UNESCO MGIEP Kindness Concert was held at the IIT Delhi on August 23 The power-packed performances were led by Grammy-Award Winning Musician and UNESCO MGIEP’s Global Kindness Ambassador Ricky Kej with fellow-Grammy Winner Laura Dickinson and an ensemble of artistes including IP Singh (Band Faridkot), Fateh and Murad Ali, Manoj George and Manjunath. The concert, attended by nearly 1,000 people, also marked the official global release of the full #KindnessAnthem, a collaboration of 3 Grammy-winners (including Flautist Woulter Kellerman) and the Mazansi Youth Choir from South Africa. Additionally, World-Renown Speed Painter Vilas Nayak made magic with the music by painting a beautiful piece of art on ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ for the night!
The Conference was preceded by a 3 days intense capacity-building workshop at O.P. Jindal University, Sonipat, Haryana, from August 20 – 22, 2019, during which 60 young people from 27 countries were trained in social and emotional learning and on prevention of violent extremism through education.
The Conference was organised as part of the #KindnessMatters for the SDGs campaign, launched on the International Day of Non-Violence or the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, October 2, 2018. The goal of this campaign is to mobilize the world’s youth to achieve the 17 SDGs through transformative acts of kindness. Thus far, through the campaign, close to 5,000 transformative acts of kindness have been generated from over 50 countries. The Campaign aims to be the foundational step towards the ultimate request (backed by 250, 000 transformative stories of kindness by global youth) for the Member States of the United Nations to declare a Decade of Kindness for the Sustainable Development Goals – 2020 to 2030.