INVESTING IN YOUTH PEACEBUILDING CAPACITIES | Bridging the Gap Between Youth and Adult Peacebuilders | The Youth Cafe

The Youth Cafe is taking part in an online consultation on Youth and Peacebuilding at the invitation of Peace Direct and the United Network of Young (UNOY) Peacebuilders! The three days consultations are exploring what youth-led peacebuilding looks like in practice and understanding how to operationalise the principles behind the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.

“We must not only work for youth — we must work with youth.  All of us will gain by doing so.” – Jan Eliasson, Former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations

The work of youth in peacebuilding promises the potential of a tremendous peace and security dividend for governments and international actors. However, many young people are frustrated by the tendency of these actors treating them as a problem to be solved, instead of as partners for peace. Moreover, youth are largely isolated from non-family adults – spatially, socially, and psychologically. As a result, many non-youth peacebuilding organisations rarely interact with young peacebuilders.

However, activities that build capacity and increase the participation of young people in social and political life are not conducted exclusively by youth-led organisations. Many non-youth-led peacebuilding organisations conduct similar activities with similar goals. To give only a few examples, training and capacity building of youth and other community members on conflict resolution, leadership, and peer education is common among both types of peacebuilding organisations. Inter-faith, religious and ethnic dialogues and social cohesion activities between different groups within society are common among youth-led and non-youth-led organisations, who also organise campaigns which mobilise thousands of community members, including young people, to raise awareness around gender-based violence, sustainable development goals, and climate change.

Some youth-led organisations have been successful in integrating youth in the local, national, and international decision-making processes. Many have prevented violence carried out by youth in their communities, including preventing youth from joining violent extremist groups. They have fostered formal and informal employment opportunities for those who are experiencing difficulties acquiring a job. Some youth-led organisations have been very successful in delivering humanitarian assistance where national infrastructures are inadequate or in hard-to-reach areas.

Bridging the gap between youth-led peace organisations and “traditional actors” will incorporate multiple layers in the efforts to build peaceful societies. Lessening the gap will support young peacebuilders in the work they are already doing and potentially bring more youth into peace work. However, many structural and organisational changes need to be made to bridge the gap, including:

  • Creating an open organisational structure that is built on trust, shared values and a sense of belonging to a common vision to building peace in their communities;

  • Engaging youth-led organisations as practitioners in the field of peacebuilding, including recognising their roles in designing, implementing and monitoring programs, project and actions that prevent, respond to and address issues related to conflict, peace and security;

  • Encouraging and facilitating coordination between youth-led organisations and other, non-youth actors actively working in the peacebuilding, development and humanitarian fields;

  • Supporting programming that breaks down barriers to youth participation, changes the negative perception of youth communities and fosters conflict transformation among youth as well as community members;

  • Encouraging peacebuilding and violence prevention programming that gives special attention to intergenerational dialogue and building and (re-) establishing trust between youth and community members and institutions.

While the gap is closing, there is a vital need to promote cooperation, learning and partnerships between youth peacebuilders and non-youth actors in the peacebuilding, development and humanitarian fields. In doing so, youth peacebuilders demonstrate that their inclusion is key to building resilience among their countries and communities.


  1. What are some inter-generational partnership models that would best bridge the gap between youth-led organisations and non-youth actors?

  2. What obstacles do you face in trying to establish a youth-led organisation as a legitimate actor in a peace process, in development, or humanitarian assistance?

  3. What are the main challenges non-youth actors face when engaging with young peacebuilders? How could they better engage with youth actors?

Session summary

On the final day of our consultation, we kept the conversation going and benefitted from a broad range of perspectives and experiences, with over 100 comments from over 140 participants.

Today’s discussions looked more closely at intergenerational relationships in peacebuilding and how to bridge the gaps between age groups in order to provide opportunities for learning and creative processes for all. We also looked at issues around the financial sustainability of youth-led initiatives, and we had an open session for participants to broach topics and issues that we could not cover and provide feedback on the content and engagement over the past 3 days.

Some participants have continued to add further comments to the topics from earlier days, so if you wish to see how those conversations have continued to evolve, or if any of the below summary prompts you to share more thoughts, please do visit the platform again!

We are privileged to have learned from all the participants here, seeing communication and openness practiced on such a large scale on our digital platform for the last three days has been enriching and inspiring! Don’t miss your chance to share with us any key points or recommendations around youth and peacebuilding that we should consider.

We have also posted a closing statement on the platform which details next steps following on from this consultation - we hope you get the chance to check that out.

Thanks again to all participants for your time and dedication to this consultation!

Bridging the Gap Between Youth and Non-Youth Peacebuilders

We asked participants to consider different intergenerational partnership models to help bridge the gap between youth and adult peacebuilding practitioners, considering the obstacles and challenges that both sides face when engaging with one another.

Participants went from discussing the need for collaboration to the lack of experience of youth which often slows or hinders youth-led initiatives. This led to advice on how engaging in dialogue and communication between generations will not only boost peacebuilding efforts but will help dismantle negative perceptions of youth while simultaneously providing training opportunities for young peacebuilders. All the while, collaboration gives space for youth to put in practice their insight and knowledge of creative approaches, particularly with regards to digital platforms and online resources. Participants agreed that learning is a two-way street and working together is a positive for all age groups. 

Key points:

“While best peace building practices espoused by non-youth actors should be considered by youth-led organizations, the elder practitioner needs to be receptive to alternative approaches offered by the younger generation.” Robert Wertz

“Youth led organisations cannot […] move well on their own. This requires collaboration or integration of […] for instance the religious leaders, opinion leaders, elders, and other stakeholders. Through this, trust will be built […] hence bridging the gap that always exist between youth led organisation and non-youth actors” Anonymous

“Paradoxically, it is increasingly not young people who learn from adults, but, on the contrary, adults learn from young people.” Jannat Rakhimova 

“While working to bridge the gap, the need for safe spaces where youth can voice out their concerns and opinions is very vital as youth have to be engaged as social actors with their own views, perspectives and contributions.” Jacqueline Namutaawe

“Youths should be involved in all peacebuilding processes because it builds trust between us and our governments, leadership, accountability, and equip us to take ownership in peacebuilding.” Musa Carew

“We need to be able to build relationships: An intergenerational dialogue is not about a clash or alliance. Relationships have to include everyone and so we need to reach out to the 'other'.” Amjad Saleem