Ms Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of ICT Europe, says young Tibetans need to be equipped with knowledge and skill to effectively use the weapon of Truth, which is the defining feature of the Tibetan struggle, as China gets more sophisticated in its handling of the issue.

On 13 December 2005, 11 Tibetans from Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom completed the International Campaign for Tibet Europe’s Tibetan Youth Leadership Program (TYLP) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This TYLP was the fifth led by ICT and the second held in Europe and was open to young Tibetans living in Europe.

The TYLP’s primary aim is to nurture young Tibetans who will take an active part in the Tibet Movement and use their energy and convictions about issues affecting Tibet as a powerful force for activism and change. I and others who have worked on the political aspects of our struggle for many years observed the development of young Tibetans in exile closely. More and more, we find ourselves looking to the younger generation of Tibetans and considering who among them will drive our struggle forward in the years to come, whether as individuals, as campaigners or even Tibetan Deputies.

As generations shift, political leadership by a new group of passionate Tibetans is crucial for the future of the Tibetan Movement in Europe and in general. There must be a new wave of determined Tibetans with a firm understanding of the complexities of the Tibetan struggle, and the flexibility and dynamism to move with the changing tide of global policy towards China and Tibet.

In India, in particular, there are many positive efforts being made by the CTA (Central Tibetan Administration) and NGOs to bring Tibetans together to discuss and to learn. However, many of the TYLP participants in Amsterdam have grown up in Europe and still have only a small network of Tibetans their own age. They came to this TYLP to learn new skills, hear new views and gain a new perspective on the Tibetan situation.

And, I believe, they also came to hear more about what makes ICT’s TYLP unique: its ability to bring together international experts and young Tibetans to discuss Tibet’s place in the world, Tibet’s place within Chinese law and to encourage a dialogue between Tibetans and Chinese academics on the many developments within modern China and how these impact Tibet.

This highlights an important aspect for all Tibetans living in exile and especially young Tibetans who have known nothing else. We must be more sophisticated in our understanding of what Tibetans inside Tibet face today, their challenges and what the International Community realistically can do and is doing to help. Today, China has become much more sophisticated in getting its message on Tibet across, and unless we Tibetans are equally sophisticated, some governments and business leaders will be convinced of what is good for EU-China business: that China has changed and that all Tibetans are happy.

Future Tibetan leaders and the Tibetan cause will face more and more challenges – they must be equal to these challenges, know their facts, remain credible and be able to understand and discuss the various positions of their own government and those of the Chinese in order to be convincing. More than ever, we Tibetans must be clear on what our homeland means to us; but it is not enough to say “Free Tibet” if we cannot describe how that freedom might look or how it might be achieved.

One of the cornerstones of the Tibetan Youth Leadership Program is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s belief that the Truth of our struggle is our most powerful and valuable strength. The challenge which therefore falls to us is to help our young Tibetans to effectively communicate that Truth to governments and individuals in an informed and balanced manner that leaves no doubt as to the seriousness of the Tibetan situation.