Young People In Peacebuilding

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The UN Secretary-General highlighted, in his 2012 report on Peacebuilding in the Aftermath of Conflict, that “a successful peacebuilding process must be transformative and create space for a wider set of actors; including, but not limited to, representatives of women, young people, victims and marginalized communities; community and religious leaders; civil society actors; and refugees and internally displaced persons; to participate in public decision-making on all aspects of post-conflict governance and recovery.”

Fostering social cohesion and trust through an inclusive and participatory peacebuilding process during and after a transition or conflict is a challenging but a necessary task. Though, young people are excluded from the process; and their potential contribution and inclusion to effective peacebuilding receive little attention and support.

Yet young people’s leadership and roles in preventing and resolving conflict, violence and extremism are rich resources essential to achieving sustainable peace. They are valuable innovators and agents of change, and their contributions should be actively supported, solicited and regarded as essential to peace, and democratic governance and transition.

Moreover, their participation promotes civic engagement and active citizenship. Though, this requires:

  1. A human rights-based approach, grounded in the UN convention on the rights of the child, the convention on the elimination of all Forms of discrimination against Women and the World Program of action on Youth;

  2. An economic approach that identifies young people as central to the economic development of their country, and promotes their access to economic opportunities as essential for their own development;

  3. A socio-political approach that connects young people to civil society and the political arena, and provides them with opportunities, training and support for their active engagement and participation in public life; and

  4. A socio-cultural approach that analyses the roles of young people in existing structures and supports dialogue; including intergenerational dialogue about these structures.

In addition, the principles below inform about strategies that promote and ensure the participation and contributions of young people in challenging contexts of conflict:

Promote youth participation as a vital condition for successful peacebuilding: Prioritize regular, systematic and meaningful participation of young people as an essential condition for the sustainability, inclusiveness and success of peacebuilding efforts.

Value and build up on Young People’s diversity and experiences: Value diversity among young people and develop strategies to involve and include youth from different backgrounds, taking into account differences in age, gender, ethnicity, culture, religion, class, caste, education, social status, sexual orientation, physical and intellectual abilities or interests, etc.

Be sensitive to gender dynamics: Avoid stereotypical assumptions about the roles and aspirations of girls, boys, young women, young men and young transgender people in conflict; and identify strategies to reach out to young women, seek their engagement, and create a safe space to raise their specific issues and concerns and support their initiatives.

Enable youth ownership, leadership and accountability  in Peacebuilding: Identify young people and youth led-organizations involved in peacebuilding initiatives: find them, learn from them and support them. Support power sharing between decision makers and young people.

Do no harm: Provide a physically, socially and emotionally safe and supportive environment for young people to participate in peacebuilding and post-conflict activities; ensure that facilitators are specifically trained to handle difficult conversations and situations and know where to refer those who might need specialized services.

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Rwandan Youth Forum

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