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Young People And Peacebuilding

What role do young people play in peacebuilding?

Youth can and do play a variety of different, shifting roles in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

These can range widely from dissenting or rejecting the peace process, political activism, becoming criminals and vigilantes, negotiating and mediating, becoming key security and justice actors or peacemakers.

Thus, engaging young people positively and giving them a stake in their societies is important for long-term peace and security, and a way to ensure the full enjoyment of their right to participation. Therefore, it is important to ensure the meaningful participation of young people in peacebuilding efforts and peace processes.

In depth…

Young people can be important drivers and agents of change in the development of their societies. This may be because they demonstrate openness to change, feedback and learning, tend to be more future-oriented, idealistic and innovative, and willing to take risks. Overall, it is very important that the specific needs and priorities of different groups of young people during and after conflict are identified and addressed through targeted initiatives, which should be developed with and by young people themselves.

There are many types of youth peacebuilding engagements, which can be observed at different stages of conflict. For example:

  • Youth can engage in endeavors to prevent the outbreak of violence in the “pre-conflict” settings, including through early interventions to prevent violence, such as education promoting a culture of peace, peace debates and dialogues, religious dialogues, civic and voter education, educational theater and community radio, sport and music festivals, and provision of humanitarian support.

Good practice: Latin America

The program “OIJTravesías”, supported by the International organization of Youth for Iberoamerica (OIJ) created in 2018 a training and a cultural exchange initiative “Building peace through cinema” to allow young filmmakers from Mexico City (Mexico) and Colón City (Panama) to address violence through cinema. Young people were part of training sessions on documentary film-making and on the youth, peace and security agenda. Young people led the whole creative process, from writing the script, producing the film, being actors in it, and engaging their peers as viewers. Through these short films, they could express their views on issues related to peace and security in their local environment.

  • Youth can intervene to mitigate the impact of violent conflict where it has emerged, and to build peace and social cohesion – for example, through peer-to-peer dialogues in conflict-affected communities, through supporting the disengagement and reintegration of former fighters, or through monitoring and documenting human rights violations during conflict.

Good practice: Syria

The Syrian Youth Assembly is a fully youth-led initiative with a mission to empower and support Syrian youth and refugees around the world, and to build peace, dialogue and cultural exchange. Among many other activities, the Syrian Youth Assembly works to engage Syrian youth in the peace process in Syria and help make their voices heard in the UN-led peace process in Geneva. In addition, they offer young people various training and programs related to peacebuilding.

  • Young people can also engage in efforts to ensure that various forms of violent conflict do not recur or re-emerge. They can engage directly or indirectly in formal and informal peace processes, take part in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, and raise awareness on past conflicts through art and media campaigns.

Good practice: Yemen

Yemen’s youth played a key role in the establishment of a national dialogue process in 2011. Independent youth representatives, which made up 7 percent of members of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) aimed to shape the new Yemeni Constitution, worked together with women and other civil society constituencies, which enabled this unaffiliated group to acquire a significant role in the decision-making process. Despite youth being underrepresented in decision-making committees, their main outcomes of the NDC related to youth could be observed in three areas: political empowerment, economic empowerment, and education, for example, through the creation of a new independent authority named the Supreme Council of Youth with a mandate to supervise public policy. The State also agreed to guarantee a youth quota of 20 percent in various branches of government.

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