Free flow of information is one of the main criteria used to determine the level of peace in a country, following the Global Peace Index (GPI). In the thirteenth edition of the GPI issued in June 2019, several sub-Saharan African countries are positioned at the bottom of the ladder of peace, one of the main reasons being their decline in the free flow of information in recent years. A broad view of the GPI report shows that these countries also have a weak index on internet freedom and digital rights, as well as the freedom of the press.
On 9 December 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted the Resolution 2250, the very first resolution on Youth, Peace and Security, urging Member States to increase representation of youth in decision-making at all levels. Are young African Peacebuilders aware of its substance, are they using it to structure their work? How can it improve their impact towards building more peaceful African societies?
The adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security in December 2015, acknowledges the power of youth-led peacebuilding as essential to building peaceful communities. However, many questions remain about how to harness the power of youth in peacebuilding processes, ensuring their meaningful participation and establishing avenues for young people to proactively engage in peacebuilding efforts. Moreover, prevailing negative narratives continue to undermine the role that young people play in preventing violence and building peace in their communities – shaping policy, programming and funding in many countries.
This is what led two organizations, namely Peace Direct and the United Network of Young (UNOY) Peacebuilders, to organize a three-days online consultation from 8th to 10th April 2019, aiming to explore what youth-led peacebuilding looks like in practice and understanding how to operationalise the principles behind the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.
Going through youth peacebuilding experiences
The consultation went from introductory reflection pieces by moderators to comments, ideas and discussions within the group of about 140 selected participants from all over the world. Daily discussions themes were wide opened around Deconstructing the role of youth in peacebuilding, Moving towards empowerment and inclusion, Investing in youth peacebuilding capacities.
Deconstructing the role of youth in peacebuilding
Opening all discussions, this theme sought first to map out youth-led peacebuilding activities and highlight the diverse approaches taken to engage youth in peacebuilding, and secondly, to break down what youth means as a conceptual category, moving beyond generalisations and simplistic narratives.
It explored three main sub-themes driving ideas and discussions during the day. “Youth peacebuilding in practice” questionned contextual youth-led peacebuilding and resilience, individual contributions to the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) Agenda, and diverse inspiring potential innovative approaches or actions carried out. The “Debunking asumptions” explored third party and personal perceptions, impacts of the narrative around youth in peace and conflict as well as various ways used by young peacebuilders to make their voices heard and drive impact through their actions. “Diversity and gender among youth peacebuilders” specifically highlighted the local context, barriers to recognition and challenging stereotypes.
Moving towards empowerment and inclusion
On the day 2 of the online consultation, the sub-theme “Meaningful political inclusion” was addressed, considered as the key issue at the heart of youth engagement in peacebuilding:
“the political participation of young people is indispensable to their recognition and dignity. It also helps to promote civic engagement and active citizenship, and offers institutionalised avenues for addressing grievances and conflict issues to prevent frustration and potential violence”. _ Dimitri Kotsiras, Research and Advocacy Officer, Peace Direct
Based on the fact that global unemployment is on the rise with a third of the world’s active youth population, about 71 million youth, either unemployed or living in ‘working poverty’, and that several factors including market conditions have made it difficult for young people to secure jobs, and the current global rate of youth unemployment stands at 13% (ILO, 2018), the “Economic inclusion – looking beyond employment” sub-theme was addressed. It questionned stakeholder’s actions to secure youth economic inclusion, while exploring effects of the economic status on peacebuilding activities, and then, questionning the way how alternative economic models can boost peacebuilding involvement, inclusion and impact.
The topic “Youth leadership and accountability” focussed on the way how inclusive youth leadership frameworks that can help inform the development of ‘peace leaders’, while questionning young peacebuilder’s perceptions on leadership in their respective roles.
Investing in youth peacebuilding capacities
The day 3 started with the sub-theme “Bridging the Gap Between Youth and Adult Peacebuilders”, exploring inter-generational partnership models that would best bridge the gap between both stakeholder groups as well as obstacles faced by both parts in trying to establish a partnership with each other.
In the meantime, “Moving towards financial sustainability” came across to point out the fact that “the ability to operate on a long-term basis without threat of stopping work due to lack of financial means, is a critical challenge for all civil society organisations, particularly those engaged in peacebuilding activities which donors might view as ‘too political’ or risky.”_ Dimitri Kotsiras. And considering this, participants were called to mention their biggest challenges to financial sustainability, their creative ways to secure fundings and insure financial sustainability, the role of funding in their specific peacebuilding activities and impacts of having fundings or not.
Finally, a “Participant-led open discussion” triggered many insights on various topics and discussions, leading to both the deepening of the addressed topics and the ways forward.
Way forward: Involving for action
The youth peacebuilding online consutltation’s instigators agreed to publish in the coming weeks, a global report of the consultation which will inform various peacebuilding stakeholders on stakes of the youth peacebuilding in practice.
Apart from this report, the UNOY Peacebuilders has published in late February this year, the UNOY Youth4Peace Training Toolkit authored by Romeral Ortiz Quintilla, with the help from UNOY members, youth trainers and experts from all over the world. The Training Toolkit divided into 4 parts and including templates for an easy use, presents tips for youth to develop their own training on peacebuilding & conflict transformation and creating peaceful narratives. A downloadable version compelling it all together can be found here.