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Long Considered a Threat, Can Youth Take Lead in Peacebuilding?

Members of a pro-peace youth group perform in Nairobi's Kibera slum following a recurrence of violent rhetoric within the community. Nairobi, Kenya, July 28, 2014. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

A government-aligned youth group named the Imbonerakure has been blamed for much of the street violence currently plaguing Burundi, while policymakers elsewhere remain preoccupied with stopping young men and women from joining extremist groups such as the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). These examples reflect a common perception of youth as threats to global security, rather than potential agents of peace. In reality, the demographics of many unstable areas of Africa, the Middle East, and beyond ensure young people often suffer heavier casualties and more lost opportunities than other sectors of society, and have a far greater interest in curbing violence than participating in it.

The growing recognition of this potential was evident at the end of 2015, when the first youth, peace, and security resolution was adopted by the UN Security Council. Resolution 2250 urges UN member states to elevate the voices of youth in decision-making at all levels. It calls for protecting youth as civilians in conflict and stresses the importance of creating inclusive environments for youth peacebuilding through economic, social, and development activities. The resolution also advocates increasing partnerships with youth across the UN system, and for the design of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs to consider the needs of young people.

While unprecedented, the resolution is the culmination of several years’ worth of efforts to acknowledge and support young people’s roles in promoting peace and security. It builds on the momentum of the similarly inclusive Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. It also responds to the push for inclusive development contained in Goal 16 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which took effect this year.

Set against the background of youth recruitment by ISIS and other groups, both within conflict zones and also more stable countries further afield, it is not surprising that policymakers have elevated the youth issue to the top of the peace and security agenda. Research shows the average age of a “typical” jihadi fighter is between 18 and 29. At a White House summit on countering violent extremism (CVE) in February 2015, US President Barack Obama stressed that extremist groups were not only deliberately targeting their propaganda to Muslim communities, but Muslim youth in particular.

The challenge for policymakers will be to develop more youth and community-driven programs that effectively engage young people in the ways outlined in the UN resolution. There are already a number of promising prototypes in this respect. Nairobi’s Eastleighwood Youth Forum (EYF), for example, has established “peace forums” and youth dialogues to provide alternative paths for marginalized Muslim and ethnic Somali community members considering joining al-Shabaab. These monthly events gather more than 200 young people to discuss concerns within their community, and how to combat extremism through peaceful means. According to EYF’s own data, its programs have seen more than 50 young people move away from violence and extremism, as well as a drop in violence in the Eastleigh community. Another positive program is the Coalition on Rights and Responsibilities of Youth in northwest Pakistan, which aims to deradicalize youth through peer-to-peer education, capacity building, and social media programs, and reaches more than 500 young people between the ages of 15 and 29.

Building on the success of these, new programs elsewhere will need to strike a balance between promoting more inclusive peacebuilding and merely imposing new levels of security on communities. The youth demographic cannot be alienated if it is to remain a key part of minimizing conflict. The much-anticipated UN Secretary-General plan to prevent violent extremism may address some of these issues, providing a blueprint for further engagement between member states and their young populations.

An overall strategy on youth should emphasize the positive role they can play in preventing conflict. This was reflected in two outcomes from last year: the Amman Declaration, and the Youth Action Agenda. The first followed Jordan’s landmark Global Forum on Youth, Peace, and Security held in August, while the second came after a UN open debate on the youth role in CVE and promoting peace held in April. Both highlighted the agency and initiative of young people in building peace and the need to support their involvement in national and international institutions. This shift in framing away from youth as a threat arguably began with the UN’s Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding, released in 2014. The document highlighted the need to learn from youth-led organizations in addressing discrimination and establishing local ownership over peacebuilding processes, to help maintain community-level relevance and investment.

The international community must bear these lessons in mind when working in troubled countries and communities. While typically well-intentioned, peacebuilding interventions are often not adequately inclusive of a variety of stakeholders, particularly young people. Studies have shown that peacebuilding programs that is sensitive to local conflict dynamics, and that listen to, engage, support, and advise young people in their peacebuilding activities, are more likely to be self-sustaining and produce greater social cohesion. In addition, evidence indicatesthat programs which focus solely on capacity-building, whether through vocational training or education, without addressing underlying socioeconomic factors and experiences of injustice, are less likely to be effective in the long-run.

The UN’s new resolution is not without its flaws in terms of guiding future policy. A potential major issue is that it sets the age range of youth as 18-29 years of age. In other policy areas, the world body typically defines youth differently, as between the ages of 15 and 24, which more accurately reflects the fact that 48% of the world’s population is under 24, 29% of which is between the ages of 15 and 24. Keeping pace with global demographic shifts, there has been a rise in the number of younger militants around the world. This is true of conflict zones on several continents. For example, the number of 17 to 24 year olds engaged in the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan rose in 2014-2015, compared with 2012-2013. Meanwhile, two-thirds of al-Shabaab’s members are known to join between the ages of 15 and 24. And in Colombia, most young people joining the ELN or FARC are between 12 and 13, with 85-90% of them saying they did so voluntarily.

Recent research has confirmed that targeting positive outcomes in more adolescent brains can produce more meaningful and long-lasting impact in terms of repeated behavior and thought processes. While it would need to be carefully managed, engaging people at a younger age than presently outlined, and across political, social, and economic spheres, may therefore be more effective in producing inclusive and sustainable peacebuilding.

There is clearly still much work to be done to increase understanding of the diverse youth demographic among policymakers. This includes gaining a better understanding of young people who are in transitional stages of life: as immigrants, students, or between jobs, for example. Efforts would also be improved by a better understanding of the full extent of perceived systemic injustices among disenfranchised youth, in order to respond to their aspirations beyond moving out of poverty or joblessness. Despite decades of research, there is no one model, theory or explanation that explains why individuals might become agents of violence, rather than peace. However, inclusionary policies and corresponding institutions, both economic and political, would undoubtedly lessen the underlying drivers of both radicalization and conflict, as was recently highlighted by the Club of Madrid.

As governments and institutions everywhere suffer from a lack of trust owing to a largely volatile geopolitical landscape, meaningful and systematic engagement with young people at the local, national, and regional levels seems imperative for ensuring peace, security, and development. In its final set of provisions, Resolution 2250 calls for a progress study to be developed this year on young people’s contributions to peace and conflict resolution in line with the UN’s recommendations, as well as regular reporting by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on measures taken towards implementation. Monitoring and reporting of this nature will be vital to pressuring policymakers to take action. Failure to do so would likely produce very high opportunity costs at all levels of governance.

Margaret Williams is a Policy Analyst at the International Peace Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

Members of a pro-peace youth group perform in Nairobi's Kibera slum following a recurrence of violent rhetoric within the community. Nairobi, Kenya, July 28, 2014. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

A government-aligned youth group named the Imbonerakure has been blamed for much of the street violence currently plaguing Burundi, while policymakers elsewhere remain preoccupied with stopping young men and women from joining extremist groups such as the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

Last Updated on Monday, 27 November 2017 16:57

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TALENT SHOW EVENT

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Eastleighwood has come up with a program named, ‘Eastleighwood Talent Show’. Eastleighwood Talent Show Project will be used as a platform for youth mentorship in which the organization shall promote social integration and the sense of responsibility among the youth people.

Eastleighwood is inviting interested candidates to apply for the Talent Show opportunity before the 25th of November, 2015.We are targeting variety of talents realized in Nairobi East land communities.

In this program, various individuals and groups of youths will be required to register and become members of the program. Kindly find the possible talent categories selected in the form below. Upon launching of the program on the 27th of November, 2015 which will involve training and development of the talents identified will proceed where various talents will be showcased.

The program is aimed at promoting/building self esteem, inculcate leadership skills, stimulating grounds for information sharing,
and encouraging openness, self responsibility and harmony among the youths in East land's at large.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 November 2015 14:52

Hits: 1430

Ewood Exclusive Show

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Currently, the organization has initiated a weekly Television Talk Show conducted in Eastleighwood T.V studio every Saturday. Through this show, we aim to strengthen a model where youths are progressively mentored and given a platform to share out their experiences. Different talk show topics are chosen and role models identified to lead the discussions as the Show is showcased live from Eastleighwood. Among the most interesting talk show topics ever is “Denying the negativity to continue advocating for peace and coming as the voices of changes" .The show prunes the different social cultural differences among the Somali Kenya and other communities living in Eastleigh. It shapes young people to come out to be the peace makers and mentors to the people in our society. Please join us from 2pm at Eastleighwood Hall in Eastleigh, 9th street, Sunrise Shopping Mall, 3rd Floor. Don’t miss out.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 November 2015 09:57

Hits: 1274

OUT-OF-SCHOOL YOUNG GIRLS AND YOUNG SINGLE MOTHERS AGED 15-24 YEARS.

Eastleighwood Youth Forum Organization is always determined to work with different stakeholders to bridge the gender knowledge gap in Eastleigh community through providing work/business based capacity building skills trainings to 400 young mothers and girls by the end of 2016. Through mentorship and skills trainings, 400 women will be supported by the organization to come up with viable business plans and establish 100 businesses to open up more job opportunities to other young women and girls for sustainable development.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 August 2015 12:49

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On 18th July, 2015 Eastleighwood launched the screening of mistaken

On 18th July, 2015 Eastleighwood launched the screening of mistaken at Grand Royal Hotel in Eastleigh 12th street.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2015 09:10

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Eastleighwood : The press release about radicalization and extremist activities in eastleigh

Over the past 3 years of violent experience of rapid youth radicalization and extremist activities around the country including eastleigh, one of the renowned major business center within Nairobi County with an approximately 5,000 business people actively engaged in businesses, Eastleighwood has been on the forefront to curb this situations. With relentless efforts, Eastleighwood Youth Forum,-anon-Governmental organization working with youths in the area has actively fought for peace despite the many challenges facing  the community.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 September 2015 09:20

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EASTLEIGHWOOD MODELLING EVENT AT KENYA POLYTECHNIC

We are pleased to announce that the long waited Fashion show and beauty pageant took place at Kenya polytechnic (Technical university) Opposite Times tower. The hall was transformed into an art exhibition and after the line up the crowd was in the avenue of the underground where fashion meets the runaway.

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 09:38

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Eastleighwood Youth Vocational Training Program

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The Eastleighwood Youth Vocational Training Program (EYVTP) has been running for a year now. Incepted in January 2014, the organization targeted to train at least 20 youths every Month in our Resource center to enhance their capacities in entrepreneurship and skillful talents. Since then, the organization through this crash program trained over 100 youths from Eastleigh in various fields i.e. Media productions (Music production, photography, video editing &Script writing), Fashion & Modeling, Basic Computer skills training and Traditional Dance. This trainings run for a period of 1-3 months and are aimed at facilitating youth participation in.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 11:53

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Eastleighwood Youth Forum
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Postal Address: P. O. Box 105239-00101, Nairobi Kenya
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