Too young to build peace? Youth engaging in peacebuilding make way for inclusive communities
June 18, 2021, by Zohra Elias
Young people form a major part of our global community, from women, men, girls, boys, to non-binary folks. However, are young people actively involved in peacebuilding processes? Often, young people are undervalued and categorized as troublemakers rather than change-makers. Despite this, it is also assumed by many that youth-led organizations ought to be solely responsible for youth engagement in peacebuilding. The Canadian Coalition for Youth, Peace & Security (CCYPS), for instance, is a network that aims to foster collaboration, advocacy, and research to advance positive peace in Canada and abroad. They are an example of youth-led movements pushing for stronger engagement of young people in various decision-making spaces. Creating a harmonious society is challenging, both in conflict-affected and ‘peaceful’ contexts. Regardless of the state of violence in a given region, the maintenance of a tolerant society requires support and accountability at all levels, including the private sector, all levels of government, and civil society. Peace is not solely the absence of violence.
Most youth are considered “too young” to understand complicated topics such as peace and security without considering the enormous impact these topics have on their daily lives. The lack of recognition of the capacity and the role that young people have in society has demonstrated the lack of confidence towards young people as peacebuilders. The United Nations launched the 2030 Agenda, in which it recognizes that young people are a major resource for development and key agents for social change, economic growth, and technological innovation. The participation of young people in decision-making is also a key priority area of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda. Even though the important role of youth in peace processes is recognized by the policy frameworks, they continue to not be actively included in most formal processes. Actors that fail to recognize the importance of young people’s meaningful engagement, outlined by the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, neglect the potential young peacebuilders have in contributing to peace and security in their regions.
Young people represent the backbone of society - they are vibrant members who play a crucial role in peacebuilding. Many countries believe that adults alone can achieve durable peace however; the power of youth cannot be overlooked. Youth should be encouraged and supported to realize their full potential, which includes bold leadership in peacebuilding processes. The institutionalization and community-oriented peace education must be prioritized for intergenerational learning and successfully-inclusive peacebuilding approaches - this includes young people in all stages of the process.
To conclude, the potential of youth, including young women, has to be amplified in order to sustain a process of change. Youth participation should be encouraged at all levels by multilateral actors, as called upon in the UN Security Council Resolution 2250. In order to move forward to more meaningful engagement of young people in peace processes, those in leadership positions must recognize the expertise and capacity of young people as change-makers and agents of peace.
About the author:
Zohra Elias is a youth-led activist from Algeria with a Master’s degree in Social Sciences of Sociology in Work and Organization Studies. She is an intersectional advocate for gender equality and climate action (UNEP MGCY, Youth4CAP), with a major focus on peacebuilding engagement (CCYPS member). Her commitment is to drive change in her community and to elevate youth voices in a non-violent context.