The fifth One Young World Summit was a manic weekend filled with debate, entertainment, inspiration and at times a deep sense of grief stemming from the many conflicts our world is engulfed in. In an event spanning only three days, 1300 delegates from across the globe convened in Dublin where they laughed and cried and collaborated to help address global problems.

The Summit sessions were exceptionally intense and the same intensity then manifested in the bonds forged between delegates at the Summit. Moving people in different ways, each delegate left Dublin with a unique set of motivations and lessons learnt and an overarching realisation that human beings the world over share a common humanity.

My own personal experience was unique to say the least.

When twenty four delegates – all from different parts of the globe and all representing different perspectives of current conflicts – sat together in a room at Croke Park last month, nobody seemed to think it would be possible to learn lessons from the Northern Ireland experience. But they were wrong. As we moved into the final hour of a four-hour discussion we broke into smaller groups and this was when people began to open up about the challenges they faced on a personal level.

Sean Murray former IRA prisoner and Jackie McDonald former UDA prisoner– two individuals who were at loggerheads during the height of ‘The Troubles’ and at the time more than willing to kill each other - were now standing side by side, talking to us at Croke Park in a workshop that shared their lessons with delegates living in countries affected by conflict.

When Sean and Jackie finished talking, and the session moved to questions, a young man representing Indian occupied Kashmir, simply shrugged his shoulders and asked: ‘How do you expect any side to start a dialogue amidst so much blood? How can a father negotiate with the killer of his son?’

The knee jerk reaction, at the prospect of dialogue, was largely uniform – it was not something the delegates could imagine. Terms like ‘third party intervention’, ‘confidence building measures’ and ‘dialogue’ were simply rejected. But Sean Murray and Jackie McDonald were all too familiar with the contradictory sentiments of a conflict and they were not going to let the delegates return until they all took ownership of at least one lesson from the Irish peace process.

In response to the delegate from Indian occupied Kashmir, Sean Murray said, ‘You befriend your enemy for the sake of those who have survived the conflict; you do it for your children, your grand children and their children.’

‘And if you don’t talk you cannot devise an alternative to the conflict. But to talk you must first disconnect from the hate’ – a simple, rather obvious recipe in theory yet incredibly difficult to implement. Introspectively, and in specific context to South Asia, disconnecting from hate becomes more and more distant when fire-breathing leaders on either side of the Pakistan-India border spew hatred and millions listen through live broadcast. One cannot help but doubt the sincerity of such leadership then.  

Another message that highly resonated with South Asian delegates was that of ‘inclusion’. While governments on either side hold peace talks, the real stakeholders of the conflict, fighting within their communities each day, are left out as spectators on the sideline. There can be no solution unless all stakeholders sit across the table and talk face to face – another universal truth that is invariably ignored at the highest possible level of governance. Between the Indian army, the Pakistan army, the militias, the people, the two respective governments and various actors in the international community, there are a number of stakeholders that lack a voice on the world stage and struggle to identify an alternative to the conflict they are embroiled in.

It was heart warming then to see the Indian and Pakistani delegate at the One Young World Summit sharing notes and ideas on how they were going to return to their respective countries and help their people resolve their conflict. One initiative they discussed was to co-write a column about the untold stories of their people and to give them a voice – a voice they’ve been dying to have for over six decades. Their column could be the beginning of something significant; an effort that empowers the powerless and ultimately paves the way for a more inclusive peace process.

In retrospect, if I had to sum up my experience at One Young World, it could easily have been just about starting a new business and securing funding for it. I could say the same about the opportunity to fly into space – it could very well have been the highlight of my weekend in Dublin. But here I was, discussing a problem that was more than six decades old and the solutions (through the eyes of the Irish speakers) were so crystal clear and obvious, I could not fathom how a country like India and Pakistan – with so many bright minds – could not have brokered peace in so many years.

And even though I am not a Kashmiri, nor have I directly suffered from the conflict in Kashmir, I find myself dedicated to the cause of finding peace where there has been none since 1947.

 The writer is a communications consultant based in Lahore.