Title: Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?
Institution: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Publication Date: 2006
Keywords: Conflict, Gender, Peacebuilding
As young people are growing in number and are faced with fewer education opportunities, unemployment, the HIV/AIDS crisis, war and other forms of violence, there is increasing concern, even alarm, about ‘youth’ and the conditions that may encourage their participation in perpetuating violence and preventing the consolidation of peace and development. Most analyses of conflict in different parts of the world are starting to identify a ‘youth factor’ as a key element in the generation or perpetuation of violence. This tendency often leads to overlooking the positive contribution of young people to society, including their potential role in sustaining the social fabric and promoting peace.
This review explores the intersection between youth and violent conflict, with a view to enhancing policy and offering programming guidance. First, it identifies key issues, questions and dilemmas related to youth and violent conflict, including focus on gender dimensions. Second, the review explores how the issue of youth and violent conflict is currently addressed in key policy frameworks; that is theconflict prevention agenda, the youth agenda and the development agenda. Third, the review provides an overview of current programmes put in place byUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other key international actors.
The review presents a collection of varied examples as an illustration of different approaches and areas of activity. The review is based primarily upon a desk review of specialised literature, policy frameworks and programme documents, complemented by a period of field research in West Africa (Senegal, Liberia and Sierra Leone),
More effective responses to the challenges facing youth should be premised on a better understanding of the complex reality of youth and specifically the understanding youth is not a homogenous category that isolates this particular age group from the rest of society. Instead, youth strategies and programmes should take into consideration the inherent complexity of the notion of youth as a social and functional construct.
The specific gender dimensions facing male and female youth also need to be more deeply understood and responded to. For instance, “youth is often the time when the world expands for boys and contracts for girls.” Girls begin to experience new restrictions and the attitudes, behaviour, conduct and, in particular, the sexuality of young women begins to be more closely watched, even ‘policed’. For male youth, a transition from boyhood to adulthood has different defining markers: often boys are left to ‘prove their manhood’. Understanding these differences and the different priorities of males and females is critical to formulating more effective responses to the challenges of youth and violent conflict.
Critical to ensuring sustainability of conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts is to work more closely with youth to help them design activities and interventions. This approach should be complementary to broader efforts to increase youth participation in decisions that affect their lives.