Around the world, young people disproportionately suffer the consequences of armed conflict, organized violence, and systemic exclusion and injustice.
It is estimated that approximately 23 percent of the youth population aged 15 to 29 live in a region affected by violent conflict or organized violence, including civil wars, localized intergroup conflict, trafficking and warlordism, and violent extremism. Such violence has detrimental effects on young people’s safety, wellbeing, and development, increasing youth’s risk of displacement, disability, trafficking, exploitation, and psychosocial disorder, as well as inability to access education and safe employment. Although less widely referenced, it is increasingly recognized that youth suffer structural and psychological violence as a result of being disproportionately affected by entrenched injustice and inequality, such as political oppression, corruption, disenfranchisement, unemployment, and discrimination.
This “violence of exclusion” means that, although youth are disproportionately affected by direct, structural, and cultural violence, they are less able to access and participate in the decision-making arenas that affect them, including formal and informal peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction processes. Young people who do seek to participate in or to shift traditional power structures may face backlash or retribution.
Transformative Peace recognizes that a comprehensive approach to youth engagement in peacebuilding must address the complex challenges that youth face in conflict-affected contexts, as well as their need for protection when they engage in peace and development initiatives. Moreover, supporting youth’s engagement in peace processes should neither patronize nor instrumentalize their contribution, but rather, must recognize them as autonomous actors with agency. Here are six best practices for youth engagement in peacebuilding: