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.
Youth who live in countries where violent conflict has taken place have the capacity to engage in conflict transformation and peacebuilding efforts. They can be an important asset when it comes to shaping and engaging in peace dialogues and processes, often acting as advocates for new perspectives and innovative ideas. The constructive role that young people can play, however, is often overlooked by communities and decision makers, who fail to perceive them as legitimate stakeholders.
Part of the problem here is that non-youth actors play into the mantra of youth being “the leaders of tomorrow”, expecting youth to defer to the older generations and wait for their turn to assume leadership roles. However, the development of these ‘future’ youth leaders in peacebuilding is contingent on adult leaders’ recognition and appreciation of the knowledge, potential, and capacity youth have today as agents of social change.
Youth leadership enables them to exercise their rights as local and global citizens and fully contribute to and engage in their communities and societies. It provides them with opportunities to take part in decision-making processes, create and improve on systems and procedures, as well as to organise and exact positive social and political change. In turn, it also helps them to model peacebuilding behaviours and skills to groups and organisations in their communities, enabling peaceful communities of practice to emerge.
There are clear benefits to supporting the development of youth leaders in peacebuilding:
Youth have direct access to youth constituencies and spaces that adult decision makers often fail to reach. They are often embedded in communities that are facing situations of conflict and violence, and their interventions can bear decisive results for social cohesion.
Youth leadership development prepares youth to work with adults to solve problems of conflict and violence in their communities and helps them to understand the perspectives of adults.
Youth leaders can combine their personal skills (such as self-awareness, empathy, tolerance, confidence, and motivation) with their social skills (building relationships, working in groups and the ability to mobilise effectively) to guide, direct or influence others and serve as role models. They can introduce other youth to new ways of thinking and doing things and can support other youth to have their voices heard.
We would like to hear from youth and non-youth leaders on the subject of youth leadership in peacebuilding and whether you have led peacebuilding initiatives that have had a meaningful and lasting impact in the way youth are included in decision-making processes and leadership roles.
As youth peacebuilders, what are your perceptions on peacebuilding and leadership?
What challenges are you facing when it comes to taking on leadership roles in peacebuilding?
How can we develop inclusive youth leadership frameworks that can help inform the development of ‘peace leaders’?
Today’s discussions focused on the inclusion, participation and empowerment of youth peacebuilders in the political and economic spheres. We looked at the options and opportunities (or lack thereof) available to young peacebuilders when it comes to their engagement with political processes and economic policies, and we likewise explored the skills and values needed for youth to take on leadership roles in peacebuilding.
We are again impressed by the strong quality of your contributions with over 100 comments made today alone. New participants have joined today’s session, adding on to yesterday’s conversation, so please feel free to have another look at the Day 1 sessions for their contributions.
All comments so far have helped stimulate our discussion by raising thought-provoking points. In this summary we’ve done our best to include a representation of some of the key points raised throughout the day. Please feel free to review and continue to add comments to each of these threads.
Once more, we would like to thank everyone for their participation!
Youth leadership and accountability
Participants made some great points about the responsibilities that “leaders” have towards their colleagues, volunteers or even community and family members. They agreed on the fact that leadership positions are often sought out for the wrong reasons, and sometimes by the wrong people. They developed the idea that in the peacebuilding context (but not only), leading is about serving the greatest amount of people.
Our participants were willing to reflect on young people’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to heading an initiative or organisation but were also able to identify what sets youth apart and what they can bring to the table in terms of leadership and accountability. We are grateful for all their input as well as their enthusiasm and thoughtfulness in addressing issues that are not always easy with such openness and insight.
“When we decide to work as peacebuilders it is really important to understand that our leadership is not a mean to self-empowerment but a mean to serve others and practice humility.” Lina María Jaramillo Rojas
“Young people, as a rule, are always involved in all spheres of society. Every young person has certain rights, therefore, in any sphere of public life, whether social, spiritual, economic or political, human rights are affected.” Jannat Rakhimova
“As peacebuilders we cannot give up in spite of the environment in which we are operating. We need to be problem solvers, get a vision to see things not in a negative way but in positive one. We need to work in consortium with other people like local civil organisations.” Pife Muliro
“As a young leader with less experience comparing with those senior, it is difficult to overcome the criticism of being junior. Especially on aspect of peacebuilding, which requires past experience to tackle the problem more efficiently, obviously youth is not preferable when it comes to decision making on peacebuilding.” Yee Man Ko
“Sometimes what we define a threat to peace in the global south can have a different meaning.” Kiduo Mwamnyenyelwa
“I believe peace building and leadership should be necessary key points in the communities, families and government. There should be willingness for individuals to take part in leadership not necessary through political recognition but by addressing even the key challenges that start right from their families.” Zaharah Namanda