The UNESCO Medium-Term objectives include an emphasis on gender equality, youth empowerment and Africa, and stress intercultural and intergenerational dialogue.

Drawing on these inspirations, the UNESCO Collective Healing Initiative has been developed under the direction and leadership of UNESCO Rights, Inclusion and Dialogue Section, and carried out in partnership with Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, Fetzer Institute and Global Humanity for Peace Institute, University of Wales Trinity St David. Its ongoing work is supervised by an Advisory Board appointed by the UNESCO Routes of Enslaved Peoples.

The Collective Healing Initiative regards peoples experiencing collective trauma as change agents (rather than as mere victims) who can contribute to their own and each other’s well-being. It recognises that a high number of young people and young adults globally (more than 50% of our planet’s population) presents a unique opportunity for our collective future. It aims to empower young people to initiate intergenerational dialogue and inquiries in the communities impacted by the legacies of dehumanisation and structural violence.

Research and grassroots practices have highlighted and demonstrated the importance of intergenerational dialogue & inquiry in integrating past trauma as part of collective healing, racial justice and well-being. Likewise, traditional wisdom, such as that illustrated by the African Akan metaphor of ‘Sankofa’, and the indigenous idea of ‘medicine wheel’, also suggests that remembering the past is a path to recovering the knowledge of previous generations, connecting past-present-future, harmonising with all elements in the cosmos, and restoring the wholeness of our being.

Through the intergenerational processes, UNESCO Collective Healing Initiative can help communities acknowledge their histories, identify cultural wisdom and spiritual practices of healing and well-being, and form future-facing narratives. In these ways, intergenerational dialogue & inquiry is a key to humanity’s endeavours to end cycles of destruction and patterns of violence.

By facilitating encounter and practising the arts of listening, dialogue and inquiry, intergenerational dialogue aims to:

  1. Understand people’s memories of histories and how they perceive their present lived realities in connection to marginalisation, colonialism and transatlantic slavery
  2. Recover cultural wisdom and indigenous practices of healing, well-being, and regeneration
  3. Identify the starting points for collective healing, social justice, and well-being through stories of compassion, strengths and place-based ‘treasures’
  4. Construct visions for a more humane and caring world
  5. Propose institutional conditions for systemic transformation

Initiating intergenerational dialogue can empower young people to adapt the inquiring methodologies to their contexts. With the support of local organisations and the international partners, and guided by scholars and researchers in applying the ethics of inclusion and the arts of listening and dialogue, young people will learn to capture and document community-based narratives, and present stories of resilience, healing and regeneration to worldwide audience for mutual learning.

Collective healing, social justice, and holistic well-being is a political process as much as a grassroots endeavour. As a political process, it engages social policies and institutional practices and decision-making. Through intergenerational inquiries, young people, in dialogue with other stakeholders, can analyse and identify structural conditions that have perpetuated traumas and marginalisation and help define systemic transformation necessary for a more promising future. This kind of political process is inherent in the culturally rich responses to trauma and healing. In initiating community-rooted inquiries, young people can rise above alienation and victimhood, and feel empowered to lead in caring political action.