This century is marked as a war century. It is the most war-ridden century in history. Genocides and massacres committed in different region of the world. The changes, turbulence and tensions happening in this more interlinked globe mired in conflict made youths forcefully appear as the prime life blood feeding of this war machinery.
.More than half the world’s population is under the age of 30 and the majority of those youths live in countries affected by fragility and protracted conflict. Today, youth are facing a plethora of daunting challenges vary from armed conflicts, unsteady society structure, poor education, and lack of job opportunities to drug misuse and risk to health issues. All these make youths a lost generation. A lost generation is an angry generation due to the failure of the nation to address their issues.
Youth are angry of the injustice and no equal opportunities caused by their corrupt governments, trivial media and fake policies. Anger if not properly controlled will lead to exclusion and Atrocity. Militant groups are good at targeting and recruiting angry and disappointed youths. Yet resorting to violence or joining militant groups is one way of showing disapproval or rebellion and reacting to injustice unfortunately.
Considering the statement that Youths are the fuel of any war would lead to a dichotomy in labeling youth narration either as agents of violence or victims. But today we are in an urgent need of a shift in the paradigm to adopt a counter narrative for youth as problem solvers and active partners in building peace and violence preventing efforts
Manal Omar one of the most influential Muslim women in America and the vice director of Africa and MENA Department at USIP said “let’s not talk about youth as a problem but as a solution and youth source instead of youth bulge.” (Manal Omar, 2016)
Mr. Ahmad Allendawi, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said as a reaction on the adoption of Resolution 2250 last year on youth, peace and security:
“This is a major breakthrough in our collective efforts to change the predominantly negative narrative on youth and recognize the significant role of young people in peacebuilding. Youth have for too long been cast away as either the perpetrators of violence or its victims. With this resolution the Security Council recognizes the important contributions that young people make in countering violent extremism and supporting peace building efforts around the world.” ( Allendawi, 2015)
Although this century has appeared as a war century driving youths to be the fuel of such war, youths still represent humanity hope keepers and its major source for development and success. Thus peace and prosperity can only be reached if youth are fully engaged in a meaningful conflict resolution process and decision making.
The Dalai Lama while addressing 28 youths from war affected countries as an initiative of USIP to engage youth in dialogue with influential religious leaders, he insists on the role of youth in achieving peace and harmony and he believes that peace can only be achieved if youth are engaged. (Dalai, Lama, 2016)
This was also reinforced by Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah a leading Muslim scholar and the founder of the Forum of Promoting Peace in the Muslim Societies when he insisted on a participatory approach in dealing with peace efforts that involves youth, women …. as main partners. ( Shakh Abdallah, Bin Bayyah, 2015)
Youth, in fact, are often at the frontlines of peace building and are playing an instrumental role in preventing violence and brining harmony to their communities across the world. The absence of youth voice as main partner in countering violence and building peace would lead nowhere since youths are the critical factors for social transformation and innovation.
Youth are the most creative individuals on this earth and violence can be mitigated through innovating and creative approaches drafted by youth in partnership with adults. Youth have all the potentials to add an extra value to countering violence and extremism programs if their recommendations and inspiring ideas are taken into consideration. Sharing the peace building process with youth is a sign of showing respect to their high quality abilities and capacities.
Youth need appreciation while shaping their future policies by involving them. Durable peace building should be led by youth and as Manal Omar said “youth don’t inspire peace but lead peace.” So it is this segment which will bring about change, peace and prosperity once given the opportunities to work with local and national governments.
There are a lot of youths making peace at the front line across the world. They are doing an amazing work to bridge difference and spread peace and tolerance. One example is Imrana Alhaji Buba a young peace builder from Nigeria who has just received Queen Elizabeth Young leaders Award. He founded Global Alliance for Youth Leaders in 2010 to promote culture of peace and tolerance within his local community. He is implementing a number of education programs ranging from mediation sessions to offering entrepreneurship trainings to unemployed young men and women as antidote for exclusion and violence. His organization has now over 600 members.
There are a lot of unheard stories of youths across the globe making change and building peace at the front and line. Youths today are both catalyzing and galvanizing factor in promoting dialogue and peace building and their voice should be well heard through a holistic and bold approach that offers them space to contribute to designing the structure of non violence efforts.
Why youth should be engaged in peace building?
Youth enjoy high social competence, flexibility, exuberance and the ability to challenge hardships. They are great communicators and problems solvers. They also possess autonomy as well as a sense of identity to act independently. They have a positive influence on their fellow young people. They are able to cooperate with them and make them learn the positive things in life. They write great stories and can teach their peers that violence has always an alternative solution which is dialogue and communication.
Youths are tech- savvy generation. They are social media experts. And no one today deny the power of social media in building peace and making positive change. Messages and posts of love and tolerance can be spread through Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp to mobilize people to be more tolerant
Youth constitute the capital of any nation. They have incredible potentials and if properly harnessed would comprise a priceless asset to any conflict resolution process.
UN Security Council resolution 2050 is a historic Resolution on Youth Peace and Security to engage youth in conflict resolution, and as Victoria a Generation Change fellow and a young peace builder from Africa said that “2050 resolution is an opportunity for us to be well represented and it is a platform for us to be heard as a peace builders.”
Indeed the implementation of this youth right should be well operated and go beyond tokenism to make youth participation in building peace a reality. Youth should not be engaged in the peace process as a luxury or to embellish the negotiation table but youth should be involved because of their potentials and capacity to fight extremism and offering creative solutions to prevent violence. Adopting an alternative narrative that glorifies youth potentials and label them as effective partners in promoting peace and prosperity is the right way to achieve sustainable peace and implement sustainable goals.
Omar, M. (2016). In: Youth, Peace and security: New perspective. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwGSIOrnh-s [Accessed 15 Aug. 2016].
Bin Bayyah, S. (2014). In: Violent Extremism- Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah With Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXyLca22x1o [Accessed 19 Aug. 2016].
Gowan, T. (2015). UN Security Council Adopts Historic Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security. [online] Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. Available at: http://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2015/12/un-security-council-adopts-historic-resolution-on-youth-peace-a… [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].