Eva Biaudet europeanvoices The importance of friendship "There does noT exist such a conflict in this world that cannot be solved." The words of recent Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari echoed in my mind during a recent speech that I gave in Trieste, Italy, to an auditorium of 180 enthusiastic teenagers from 70 countries on the topic of human trafficking. The United World College of the Adriatic students were full of questions and had a strong belief in their capacity to make the world a better place. At their college, the academic challenge seemed to be based on what these young people feel is important friendship, discovery and fighting violence and injustice. These young optimists clearly felt that they were needed in shaping the future. I was encouraged by the support I received from them in my endeavour to end modern day slavery and exploitation. When I think back onto my teen years, ers and advanced pedagogical skills that turn studying into an exciting common journey a place where dreams, secrets, disappointments, love and sorrow are shared. At best, teenagers find friends for life in school, whom they can trust and turn to when things are difficult, friends who care for and look after one another. I'm not sure that adults who design eduIt's possible to work together and solve problems, be they personal or global. one of the most important things for me was spending time with other young people, as well as making new friends, and looking for cute boys. I was already a political activist, engaged in environmental issues, children's rights and other fundamental questions. I managed fine in school I think mainly because that's where my friends were. I find quite exceptional the idea that the purpose for going to school is the academic challenge. At best, one is lucky to have a school with enthusiastic teachcational systems always realise the importance that friendship plays in education, in preventing social exclusion, misery and in teaching humane values. We like to believe that children can be educated to want an education because it's good for them and because it opens up better future opportunities for them. However, I have yet to meet a single parent who actually believes this works. That doesn't mean we think our teenagers are not intelligent. It's because they have this strong intellectual capacity that we falsely expect them to use it in the same way we use our own adult rationale. But let's be open-minded. While providing children with academic skills, why not at the same time create for them an environment of belonging that takes joy in their strength to build friendships, bridges divides between people and lets them have fun while learning? When you experience a community like the United World College in northern Italy, you become encouraged because you see that it's possible to work together and solve problems, be they personal or global. Eva Biaudet is the OSCE special representative for combating trafficking in human beings, a former Finnish minister of health and social services, and a mother of four. She lives in Vienna, Austria. MAY 2009 BLUE WINGS 61 OSCE/Susanna Loof
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