"Uniting for Peace in Vienna" --
Students Mark the International Day of Peace,
21 - 24 September 2008

Under the heading "Uniting for Peace" sixty students from Southeast European capital cities have gathered in Vienna to share experiences, learn from each other, discuss and debate issues of intercultural understanding and cross-border dialogue. On the occasion of the International Day of Peace (21 September), the Student Forum "Uniting for Peace in Vienna, jointly organized by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna and the City of Vienna, is offering a platform for young people from Belgrade, Ljubljana, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Skopje, and Zagreb to come together on 'neutral' territory to discuss questions of common concern, revisit the past and look towards a peaceful future.

The students are spending four programme-packed days in Vienna at the invitation of the host city, in its capacity as member of the Union of Capitals of the Central and South European Countires (UCSEEC), supported by UNIS Vienna and a number of other partners and sponsors. The programme kicked off on the International Day of Peace (Sunday 21 September) with a colourful youth peace festival in the Vienna Museumsquarter hosted and organized by 'Willfriede' (www.willfriede.at), an initiative of the City of Vienna's youth office (Jugend in Wien). On a chilly autumnal evening, participants were happy to sample a warming 'peace soup' ('Friedenstatensuppe') and listened to an inspiring lecture by CoNGO (New York) President Rev. Liberato Bautista. In it, he expressed the hope that his experience and his participation might be both 'youthful' and 'useful', as he called upon all to become true global citizens and focus on the things that unite us rather than divide us.

22 September was the group's 'day at the UN': At the Vienna International Centre, the students listened to lectures about the United Nations, peacekeeping and peace building measures, career prospects, as well as the work of the various UN offices and entities in Vienna, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The group was joined for the day by students from Webster University's Vienna campus. The highlight of the day was the ringing of the Peace Bell in the Memorial Plaza at 12 noon. -- a symbolic gesture to call upon all nations to work harder to build and preserve peace and also to commemorate the victims of war through the ages. UNIS Director Maher Nasser invited all present -- students, UN staff members, NGO representatives and members of the diplomatic community -- to ring the Bell and reflect on what each of us can do - as individuals - to further the cause of global Peace. Some of the students said they felt thrilled to hear the Bell resounding loud and clear against the walls of the 'mighty' UN. "It's a clear message for Peace to the world," said one participant.

From here the students headed into the third day of the programme which includes hands-on workshops at the Diplomatic Academy Vienna and the Modul University on Kahlenberg. They met with private businesses and visited the offices of the OSCE. To round off the day they participated in an art workshop in which each city group will produce part of a larger picture as a visual record of the project. On their final day in Vienna, the students are invited to a reception at the Vienna City Hall. The formal programme and agenda was supplemented by a number of cultural and informal activities, allowing the students to explore their host city and to build bridges between the participating capitals.

Summing up their day at the Vienna International Centre, Urska Derganc from the University of Ljubljana said: "There's so much to learn and so many different ways in which the UN makes a difference. Today has been a very useful experience.".