The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative programme celebrates its first generation of peace ambassadors

  • 14.12.2020

42 young people from the first promotion of the programme graduated on 3 December 2020. The programme, which BNP Paribas supports for 5 years, will train 350 young leaders from Cape Town to become peace and sustainable development ambassadors.

Peacemakers for a more sustainable development 

Launched in 2018 by The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) with the support of BNP Paribas & RCS in South of Africa, the Youth Peace Network programme aims at helping young men and women from Cape Town to play the roles of peacemakers and entrepreneurs within their community.  

WPDI is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) supported by BNP Paribas and its consumer finance arm in South Africa, RCS – made a commitment in 2018 to enable young people of the Cape Flats to become community ambassadors for peace and entrepreneurship. 

These first 42 peacemakers – referred to as “Trainers of Trainees” (TOTs) – were selected last year, based on their personal experience and capability to act as agents of change in their community. They have successfully completed a year-long curriculum that covers Conflict Resolution, Information Communication Technology (ICT), Entrepreneurship and Trauma Healing. These young South African graduates, 20 young women and 22 young men, join an ever-growing global network of WPDI peacemakers in South Sudan, Uganda, the United States and Mexico. Each graduate will now spread these concepts and methodologies, which place peace at the center of a sustainable development, within its own community.


Forest Whitakerfounder of the WPDI Foundation, expressed immense pride and joy in welcoming the new generation of young social development ambassadors in South Africa. “Today, we are united by a unique ambition to make our communities better, more resilient, more peaceful and more successful.”

Forest Whitaker - Prize graduates ceremony
“ I am even prouder because you completed a demanding training amid another crisis. A major global crisis that nearly brought the whole world to a halt, but did not stop you from striving to learn and grow. I know how hard you have fought to keep the programme’s momentum going ”

Forest Whitaker

Founder of the WPDI Foundation

Promoting peace

Antoine Sire, Head of Company Engagement at BNP Paribas, virtually attending the ceremony from Paris, said who attended the graduation virtually from Paris said  “I am impressed by the resilience and achievements of the students to promote peace in Cape Town, which is key for a sustainable future. We believe that supporting youth and sustainability programmes is key to combatting these social issues”.

Young graduate Graduation Ceremony 2020

A partnership to support change in South Africa

Vikas Khandelwal, Head of Territory for BNP Paribas in South Africa, stated that “Through our partnership with WPDI, we are beginning to better understand how peace and conflict resolution not only affects disadvantaged communities in South Africa, but also business development and the economy. WPDI will soon yield its first pool of small businesses in the community as part of its entrepreneurship programme which I am proud to have been involved in as a mentor.”

Regan Adams, CEO of RCS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BNP Paribas – discussed how the partnership with WPDI seeks to bring about create true change in areas deeply affected by gang violence. “We believe in empowering young women and men in order to create a ripple effect throughout our troubled communities.

Kayla, young graduate of the WPDI programme

Kayla Isaacs from Mitchell's Plain, who is a young graduate of the WPDI programme, says she is honoured to be an ambassador for peace. “From first being accepted into the programme, to graduating today, the skills we have learnt are already proving valuable. Now, our mission is to continue the work and share these skills with the greater community.

This is especially important now, given the widespread challenges facing our communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, the opportunity to be a Peacemaker is all the more appreciated, and is one that I will make the very most of” Kayla concludes. 

Kayla - WPDI Programm graduate ceremony 2020

About Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI)

The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) was founded in 2012 by artist, social activist Forest Whitaker, who is the UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace & Reconciliation as well as member of the United Nations Advocacy Group for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). WPDI is a non-governmental organization that operates in countries and regions impacted by violence and poverty.
Its mission is to empower young women and men living in vulnerable places to become leaders, peacemakers and entrepreneurs in their communities. WPDI help them become mediators who will address tensions and conflict between and within communities with competence and confidence. 
WPDI’s work is guided by the CEO/Founder’s philosophy that, in communities affected by endemic violence and long-standing poverty, change must come from within. WPDI believe that local youth—as stakeholders who are both native to their communities and nonetheless open to new perspectives and ideas—are transformative insiders uniquely positioned to be powerful agents of peace and sustainable development. 


The BNP Paribas Group in South Africa is represented by a full commercial branch in Johannesburg and by BNP Paribas Personal Finance Ltd. (RCS). RCS is a consumer finance business based in Cape Town that offers its customers a range of financial services products under its own brand name and in association with a number of leading retailers in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.


photos credits : WPDI, @Svetlana & Delphotostock 

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