Youth and Peacebuilding
What Works

On December 9, 2015 the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted an historic resol­­ution that recognizes the important role young people play in the prevention and resolution of conflict. Resolution 2250 creates the framework for nations to engage and empower youth as workers of peace through five pillars:

  1. Participation,
  2. Protection,
  3. Prevention,
  4. Partnerships, and
  5. Disengagement and reintegration.

This resolution comes at a time when almost half of the world’s population is under the 24 years old, and an estimated 600 million youth live in conflict-affected areas.

The amount of research that demonstrates what works for youth in peacebuilding situations is not very extensive. The list below is a starting point to show promising practices and some proven successes in this area. 

Photo credit: USAID Ethiopia, food for peace.

PILLAR 1:
PARTICIPATION

Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding: Practice Note
 
This document is the product of a collaborative effort led by the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) Working Group on Youth and Peacebuilding, which includes 40 partner organizations primarily from civil society and the United Nations. This Practice Note summarizes the situation of youth in conflict-affected environments, argues for the importance of investing in youth and peacebuilding, addresses existing assumptions and theories of change regarding youth and peacebuilding, provides overviews of key issues, highlights a variety of promising practices in different sectors and thematic areas that have undergone some level of evaluation or review, and offers a set of overarching recommendations for donors, policy-makers and planners.
 
Reference:
Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development Working Group on Youth and Peacebuilding. (2016). Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding: Practice Note. United Nations:

 
What We Know about “What Works” in Youth Civic Engagement and Voice, Youth Organizations, Youth Leadership, and Civic Education
 
This literature review examines academic empirical studies from the year 2000 onwards that focused on evidence of the impact of interventions in youth civic engagement and voice, youth organizations, youth leadership, and civic education for youth. The review paid particular attention to interventions in conflict and violence-affected areas and in the context of countering violent extremism but was unable to identify empirical academic literature on the impact of interventions in conflict and violence-affected areas and for countering violent extremism was identified. Literature that was located is descriptive and does not address impact in a rigorous manner. According to the authors of the literature review, “There is little consensus on the definition of basic terms, theories of change, desired or expected impacts, or ways these impacts should be measured. The theory of change is often not well articulated, but may include promoting greater attachment to the community, persuading youth to adopt counter narratives, or simply occupying the time of youth and crowding out less desirable activities.”
 
Reference:
Skalli, Hanna Loubna and Thomas, M.A. (2015). What We Know about “What Works” in Youth Civic Engagement and Voice, Youth Organizations, Youth Leadership, and Civic Education. Washington, DC: Counterpart International.
 

Evaluation of Child and Youth Participation in Peacebuilding
 
The report is organized in 3 parts. Part 1 provides a brief introduction to the present state of child and youth peacebuilding (CYP) globally and, specifically, in Colombia, the DRC, and Nepal. It then introduces the evaluation’s methodology, its application in each country, and what was learned about the evaluation process. Part 2 shares key findings from the evaluation. It introduces the types of CYP initiatives evaluated, their impact, factors influencing impact, CYP quality, and overarching findings. Part 3 offers
CYP recommendations to different stakeholders, proposes future research, and draws general conclusions.
 
Part Two provides an overview of different types of CYP initiatives evaluated. It then presents findings concerning CYP impact in 4 key areas: 1) Aware and active citizens for peace, 2) Increased peaceful cohabitation and reduced discrimination, 3) Reduced violence, and 4) Support to vulnerable groups. It then describes 11 key factors hindering or enabling CYP impact. Many of these factors can positively or negatively influence impact depending on how they are addressed or neglected. Next authors explore the quality of child and youth participation in peacebuilding and results from assessing the following 8 principles: 1) Participation is transparent and informative; 2) Participation is relevant and respectful to children and youth; 3) Participation encourages diversity and inclusion; 4) Participation is sensitive to gender dynamics; 5) Participation is safe and sensitive to risks; 6) Investments are made in intergenerational partnerships in young people’s communities; 7) Participation is accountable; and 8) Young people are involved in all stages of peacebuilding and post-conflict programming. This evaluation’s findings are primarily based on participants’ opinions and, therefore, findings are usually suggestive rather than conclusive.
 
The evaluation results revealed that child and youth peacebuilders have contributed to impact in four key areas: 1) young peacebuilders often became more aware and active citizens for peace; 2) young peacebuilders increased
peaceful cohabitation and reduced discrimination; 3) young peacebuilders reduced violence; and 4) young peacebuilders increased support to vulnerable groups.
 
The report presents three overarching recommendations concerning child and youth participation in peacebuilding, more specific recommendations for different stakeholders, and conclusions:
Engage children as peacebuilders from a young age to ensure continuity and increased impact.
Encourage multi-pronged and multi-stakeholder efforts supporting CYP to multiply and amplify peacebuilding impact.
Engage with children and youth as partners in formal and informal governance and peace structures in a wide range of contexts, not only in contexts affected by armed conflict.
 
McGill, Dr. M., O’Kane, C.  (2015). Evaluation of Child and Youth Participation in Peacebuilding.
 

 
Six Ways to Successfully Engage Youth in Peace Building
 
This article presents the views of four youth activists and experts on best practices that development leaders — particularly program designers and managers — can apply to leverage youth engagement and give young people opportunities to become agents of peace.
 
Reference:
De Vos, Manola. (2015). 6 Ways to Successfully Engage Youth in Peace Building. Devex.

 
Four Lessons on Youth and Peacebuilding in Lebanon
 
In this article a former chief of party (team leader) of the Lebanon Civic Support Initiative funded by the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives offers four lessons on how civil society partners engaged students, school dropouts, political leaders, social activists and others to more effectively engage and empower youth as positive change agents. 
 
Reference:
Wuerth, Oriana. (2015). 4 Lessons on Youth and Peacebuilding in Lebanon. Devex.
 
 
The Unexplored Power and Potential of Youth as Peace-builders
 
This paper explores the role of youth as peace-builders and uses four examples to show youth’s unique power for and participation in peacebuilding. The paper is divided into four sections:
 
Sections 1 and 2: Describes the most generalized perspectives on the role of youth in conflicts, based on a short review of existing literature.
Section 3: Challenges the generalized perspectives and contrasting these perspectives with positive examples of youth engagement that illustrate the power and potential of youth as peace-builders, that is, as positive agents of non-violent change through four recent historical examples.
Section 4: Suggests points for further research and exploration.
 
Reference:
Del Felice, Celina and Wisler, Andria. (2007). The Unexplored Power and Potential of Youth as Peace-builders. Journal of Peace Conflict & Development Issue 11, November 2007. Available from www.peacestudiesjournal.org.uk and http://www.bradford.ac.uk/social-sciences/peace-conflict-and-development/issue-11/PCD-ISSUE-11-ARTICLE-The-Unexplored-Power-and-Potential-of-Youth-as-Peace-Builders_Celina-Del-Felice-and-Andria-Wisler.pdf

 

PILLAR 3:
PREVENTION

Critical Choices: Assessing the Effects of Education and Civic Engagement on Somali Youth’s Propensity Towards Violence

Mercy Corps undertook a rigorous impact evaluation of a 5-year stability-focused youth program in Somalia known as the Somali Youth Leaders Initiative (SYLI) and analyzed the impact of two program components on youth propensity towards political violence.

The research compared the impact of the following two components of the SYLI program: formal secondary education and civic engagement activities. Using survey data from Somaliland--where the program has been implemented the longest—they compared attitudes and reported violent behaviors among youth in the program and outside of it. In addition, they conducted in-depth interviews with teachers, community leaders, government officials and youth. The study found that although the provision of secondary education through the SYLI program reduced the likelihood of youth participating in violence by 16%, it increased support for political violence by 11%. However, the combination of both secondary formal education and civic engagement through the SYLI program reduced the likelihood of youth both participating in (by 13%) and supporting (by 20%) political violence.
 
Taken as a whole, the findings signal that education by itself does not address the underlying drivers of potentially destabilizing actions such as support for political violence. Education is important, but just the first step. What matters to youth is not just having an opportunity to learn but also being able to use their skills to influence their lives, their communities and their nation. Hence, the study concludes that to reduce violence, youth development programs must address both the lack of skills and the lack of opportunities that hinder youth from succeeding.
 

PILLAR 5:
DISENGAGEMENT AND REINTEGRATION

Youth in War-to-Peace Transitions: Approaches of International Organizations 

 
A large and growing part of combatants in protracted armed conflicts are youth. Since there is no legal framework for this group and demobilization and reintegration programs (DRPs) have largely neglected such youth in practice. In contrast to armed groups, that regularly offer youth an income, an occupation, status, identity and the 'excitement' of violence, most DRPs fail to appeal to older children and young adults. But the failure to (re)integrate youth into civil structures cannot only put the peace-building process at jeopardy but also deprives these war-affected societies of a potential driving force for peace and development.
 
This study deals with youth in war-to-peace transitions and the response of international organizations specifically around demobilization and reintegration programs (DRPs). The study explores four guiding questions: What approaches have international organizations developed regarding youth? On which assumptions about youth and their role in violent conflicts are these approaches based? How do the different approaches affect program development? Are these approaches compatible? To explain the various responses of international organizations towards youth in conflict contexts, specifically regarding demobilization and reintegration, this study developed three ideal typical approaches: (1) a rights-based approach, (2) an economic approach, and (3) a socio-political approach. After outlining the basic ideas underpinning these ideal typical approaches on a theoretical level, the study examines two exemplary demobilization and reintegration programs for each approach to determine their practical value for post-conflict peacebuilding.
 
Reference:
Kemper, Yvonne. (2005). Youth in War-to-Peace Transitions. Approaches of International Organizations. Berghof Report Nr. 10 (2005).
 
  
The Dynamic Role of Youth in Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Lessons from Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kosovo
 
This undergraduate thesis uses three post-conflict countries to examine the effects of a large youth population during the post-conflict reconstruction period. The role of youth in post-conflict reconstruction has been largely understudied and there are significant gaps in the understanding of how the post-conflict reconstruction process affects young people, and the role youth play in determining the success of the reconstruction program. The youth in conflict research focuses predominantly on young men, suggesting that a large proportion of male youth will increase the likelihood of instability but does not consider the youth population’s role in building peace. Through a thorough investigation of the impact of different actors’ policies and programs, this study attempts to draw comparisons across cases that experienced varying degrees of success with reconstruction in order to generate hypotheses that may guide future research regarding the role of youth in post-conflict reconstruction and the ability of reconstruction actors to facilitate the youth population’s war-to-peace transition.
 
Reference:
Schwartz, Stephanie. (2008). The Dynamic Role of Youth in Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Lessons from Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kosovo by Stephanie Schwartz Class of 2008. A thesis submitted to the faculty of Wesleyan University. 
 
 
Just Keeping Them Busy? Youth Employment Projects as a Peacebuilding Tool
 
The promotion of youth employment is a popular peacebuilding measure in post-conflict settings. Giving jobs to young people is widely seen as an essential way to harness their energy towards constructive and peaceful purposes and discourage their recruitment for violence. Unlike traditional youth employment projects, these interventions set themselves a twofold objective: creating jobs and promoting peace in post-conflict societies. However, little is known about their impact on either of these fronts, and there is anecdotal evidence that youth employment projects in post-conflict settings have often fallen short of the expectations of donors, governments and beneficiaries alike. This article argues that the practice of using youth employment projects for peacebuilding is rooted in untested, problematic and possibly flawed assumptions, and this fundamentally affects the chance of success for such interventions.
 
Reference:
Izzi, Valeria. (2013). Just Keeping Them Busy? Youth Employment Projects as a Peacebuilding Tool. International Development Planning Review. Jan 2013, Vol. 35, Issue 2, pp. 103-117.