Equipping Youth Peacebuilders in Duhok

Merhaba! That means 'hello' in Kurdish. 

In the city of Duhok in the northern region of Iraq, the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies (CPCRS) is the home of research, teaching, and training on peacebuilding at the University of Duhok. It serves the youth, works with local and national stakeholders in politics and civil society, and engages with international partners to develop new knowledge about the emerging theory and practice of peacebuilding.

Our names are Maria, Kelsie, and James. We are a group of graduate students studying Social Entrepreneurship at Pepperdine University. Amid the pandemic, we were fortunate to immerse ourselves in a remote learning experience with the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies. In 2002, the CPCRS emerged as part of a loosely organized international network affiliate of organizations dedicated to peaceful conflict resolution in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. In its development, CPCRS became a platform to transform conflict through research, seminars, workshops, and degree programs in an area racked by war and insecurity.

PREP Conflict Transformation Simulation 

CPCRS anticipates relaunching New York University's Peace Research and Education Program (PREP) Conflict Transformation Simulation, an interactive project that was last implemented and completed in 2018. With more than 15 years of partnership, NYU and the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Duhok have delivered community-based peace education workshops locally and more broadly in Iraq since 2014. 

PREP's Conflict Transformation Simulation is a multi-generational simulation exercise that entails youth engaging in interactive conflict transformation activities that enhance their ability to build sustainable peace. This is achieved by empowering the youth to become active peacebuilders in their community by improving their communication, teaching them to become advocates for change, and participating in project planning for peacebuilding. The simulations re-enact contexts that help overcome youth's vertical exclusion with traditional leaders and horizontal exclusion fabricated by ethnic, national, religious, and gender differences. 

With no available external funding after the project ended in 2018, our team is committed to supporting CPCRS in relaunching the conflict transformation simulation. As you learn more about the project, we invite you to join us in supporting the relaunch and furthering their impact in youth-led peacebuilding. Our goal is to provide the Center the full $4,500 in funding by the Summer of 2021. 


With over 60 percent of the population under the age of 25, The 'Youth Bulge,' or the vast divide between older and younger generations, is an issue lying at the heart of Iraq. The concern lies in limited opportunities for education, employment, and civic participation. The 2011 statistics from the United Nations Iraq show only half of the youth between 15 and 24 years old feel optimistic about the future. Almost half of them perceive the value of taking part in social and political life, and nearly 20 percent express strong desires to emigrate. In this three-day simulation, the goal is to change attitudes about youth capacity to harness their potential, contribute positively, and create linkages to help them engage more effectively with adult leaders in their communities. 

The core belief of PREP's conflict transformation simulation is that youth are an asset and have the skills necessary to resolve issues within their local communities and countries. In a space for critical thinking, they can imagine solutions to issues previously thought to be intractable. During the simulation, participants engage in collaborations and negotiations in intra- and inter-group meetings and are provided with an opportunity to shift attitudes about themselves and others. 

In previous years, youth participants self-identified increased confidence, increased capacity to solve problems, think critically, an increased sense of agency, and the ability to imagine new ways to strengthen the social fabric of their community. 

The funds raised from this campaign will be directly applied to talent, resources, activities, and monitoring and evaluation tools needed to launch this project and equip a group of 20 youth peacebuilders in Duhok. Please join us in helping the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies contribute to the vision of a more peaceful future for Iraq! Youth peacebuilders can be catalysts for change. 


Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies About Page. (2020) University of Duhok.  Retrieved October, 2020 from https://uod.ac/ac/institutes-and-centers/center-for-peace-and-conflict-resolution-studies/about/

In Iraq, UN Youth Envoy Says Young People Are ‘Most Valuable Force We Have to Shape a Better Future. (2017, August 17). United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved November, 2020 from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2017/08/in-iraq-un-youth-envoy-says-young-people-are-most-valuable-force-we-have-to-shape-a-better-future/

Iraqi Youth- Key Statistics and Resources. (2011). United Nations Iraq. Retrieved October, 2020 from http://www.uniraq.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1140:iraqi-youth-key-statistics-and-resources&Itemid=606&lang=en

NYU Peace Research and Education Program. (2020). NYU School of Professional Studies. Retrieved November, 2020 from https://www.nyupeace.education/what-we-do/#iraq


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Kelsie Fortner-Leonhardt 
Corona Del Mar, CA
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