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Crossing Borders: Enabling Young People to Become Active Global Citizens

Through this piece, Youth Time will take you to the capital city of Denmark, Copenhagen, to talk with Garba Diallo, Founding Director of Crossing Borders, a non-profit, civil society organisation educating and empowering young people to become active global citizens. 

Crossing Borders provides impartial dialogue space and skills training for youth and educators, with a special focus on areas of conflict. 

It works in peace building, youth empowerment and youth participation. Its mission is to raise awareness of educators on global issues with the aim to contribute to building a peaceful and sustainable world. 

Across cultures and professions, it provides platforms for young people to cross-fertilise ideas and form global associations, networks, and communities worldwide. 

In the beginning of our conversation, Diallo explains that the inspiration behind this idea stems from the needs to create safe spaces for the youth to meet, engage in meaningful dialogue, mutual learning, exchange of good practices to build global communities toward addressing cross borders issues like the climate challenge and the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are also prompted by the realisation of the increasing needs to organize both at the local and global levels. 

“Without organisation, our efforts will be scattered and ineffective. In particular, we are inspired by our founding values of the Ubuntu philosophy of Unity in Diversity according to which We are, Therefore, I am.”

Raising Awareness Among 18,000 Youth Leaders

He goes on to explain how they reach, connect and build mutual cooperation with respective young people.

“Thanks to our capacity building courses for youth and young journalists from around the world with special focus on Africa, Caucasus, Eastern Europe, the EU programme and partner countries, the Middle East and Nordic region, over 18,000 youth leaders have gained awareness raising, media, and empowerment training courses, seminars and workshops with varied duration of four days to six months.”

Thanks to these efforts, Crossing Borders has gained extensive networks of collaborating partners focusing on youth organisations, networks, universities, civil society organisations, public, private and international institutions like UNESCO, the EU, the Nordic Council, Anna Lindh Foundation, etc. 

They also have a huge network of partner schools and educational networks both nationally and globally. 

Currently, they implement seven youth focused projects in Ghana, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, one project in Egypt, Lebanon in the Middle East, two projects in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine plus 16 strategic partnership Erasmus+ funded projects. 

“Through our school service programme, which aims at bringing the world in the Danish schools via thematic workshops on pressing current global issues focusing on migration, inequality, peace and conflict, coping with the COVID-19, intercultural co-existence etc. 

“Together with our volunteer program we reach out to many individual youth and youth organisations.”


Let the Youth Tell their Stories

Further, Diallo elaborates on the tangible results of this work by recalling that they provide capacity building and dialogue space for the youth to take action toward the world they want to live in by enabling them to meet, share and co-create on equal terms. 

“We also provide training courses, workshops, great debate camps, coaching, mentoring, youth exchange, facilitation skills, writing techniques, public speaking, storytelling based on the philosophy of I tell My Story, then I Exist because everyone has a story from which we can learn and get inspired by. “ 

It is also inspired, he goes ahead, by the belief that if you want to help the youth without them, you are in fact against the youth. 

“Don’t tell the stories of youth, but provide them with an enabling environment, and communication and presentation skills and then let them tell their stories.”  


Youth as the Leaders of Today

In the introduction of the Crossing Borders International Projects they write: educating, connecting and empowering people to become active global citizens. 

“Thus, all our international projects are grounded on the idea that the youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but especially the leaders of today. 

“All the changes you see around the world are led by youth. We don’t do projects for the youth but by and with the youth. Hence, our projects are based on evidence based and need analysis by our local partners.”

He adds that they do not go to Africa to help local people, but they go there to partner with them in projects they define and present from the ground. 

“We do not go there to teach our partners, but to mutually learn with them. We do not spray our website, online platforms and print materials and wall with pictures of seemingly poor people and kids from the global south, while you do not see anyone looking like those victims in our offices or boards of directors. 

“In sum, we try to walk the walk. Be honest and authentic.”

Ways to Enabling the Youth to Take Actions

Crossing Borders is a space for the youth to gain leadership skills to take action, understand the nature and implication of migration, turn climate challenges into opportunities, etc. 

Since Youth Time gives voice to young people and all the issues concerning them, Diallo shares a few opportunities for young people to engage, while he believes that the youth are the lifeline of, hope for and leaders of society both now and into the future. 

He also acknowledges that in most of the countries in the global south where some 80% of the world population lives, over 60% of the inhabitants are young people while the average age of the rulers is more than 70. 

“Today’s youth have much higher education, digital skills and access to information about anything in the world, but they kind of lack the awareness of their potential power and understanding of the need for them to organise, collaborate in taking positive actions as global citizens to contribute to solving pressing global problems of the pandemics of inequality, greed, forced migration, COVID-19 climate, youth exclusion and unemployment and conflicts etc.” 

Furthermore, he takes into account that nearly all the major problems the world faces today are global in nature, therefore we need global collaboration, coordination and approach. 

“We have only one planet and for its sustainability, the youth are the hope. 

“Toward enabling the youth to take actions, we design and implement a tailored educational process starting with personal SWOT, Goal Mapping and Goal Setting for the youth to find out what they are passionate about, good at and what want to improve in their skills and what their goals for life are and then coach them toward those goals.”


The ABC Challenges

Speaking in more general terms, Diallo mentions some of the biggest obstacles faced by youth today.

From their own perspectives, the biggest challenges we face today are the ABC:

A: the attitudes and the underlying thinking according to which the concept of a zero-sum game is the rule with individual persons, countries, companies and organisation completion against one another rather than collaborating on common issues. 

The COVID-19 vaccine nationalistic hoarding is a clear example. These attitudes disempower and make many young people feel small, paralysed and powerless, with the tendency to develop the attitudes that “we can’t, don’t know and don’t dare or care” to take necessary risks.

B: the behaviours that result from the A, according to which some young people become introvert, develop narcissistic personality disorder who get addicted to and become victims of and used by the social media to kill time, rather than taking advantage of these fantastic tools to mobilise, organise and take actions for common good.

C: the contexts in which many young people are left behind and excluded from taking the front seats in building the world they want to see and deserve to live in. 

Visit Crossing Borders website and contact them if you want to join to learn and be useful to yourself, your community and the surrounding global society. 

Photos: Crossing Borders

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