Young people have a critical role in building and sustaining peace, but too often, young people experience exclusion from decision-making processes relating to peace and security and their expertise remains unvalued. To encourage youth participatory research approaches and sharing of recent research on areas of relevance to youth, peace and security, a virtual GCYPS Knowledge Café was hosted on the UNESCO Youth as Researchers on COVID-19 Initiative, 14 December 2021.

The knowledge cafes by the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security (GCYPS) aim to bring to the fore youth expertise and youth-led recommendations, provide greater knowledge on youth, peace and security, and connect young people with the academic community and practitioners.

‘Youth As Researchers (YAR) on COVID-19 Initiative’ by UNESCO connects youth-generated knowledge with tangible policy solutions and pandemic recovery efforts. The speakers from the YAR Initiative were Dr. Kaila Thorn (UNESCO Consultant, Visiting Assistant Director Batten Leadership Institute, Hollins University); Ammar Hadeed, YAR Researcher from Arab States Youth Civic Action Team; Tokelo Shai, YAR Researcher from Global Use of Technology Team; Jack Gaffey (YAR Researcher and YAR Coordinator); and Ella Anderson (YAR Researcher, YAR Steering Committee Representative, and YAR Coordinator).

Key insights from the GCYPS knowledge café included, 

  • Youth-led, bottom-up and tailored knowledge generation is important in context of the COVID-19 crisis. A recent example was shared on supporting young people’s role in citizen security and peacebuilding in the Caribbean;
  • There is a need for recognition of youth civic action in crisis response – from cleaning the streets after the explosion in Beirut to supporting refugees and asylum seekers in conflict-affected societies;
  • Youth-led research has identified challenges for peacebuilding in Arab States including the impact of the pandemic, wars, disasters, corruption, lack of resources and lack of online connectivity;
  • Youth-led research on technology has identified limited awareness of the consequences of using online information, which is a question of safety for young people engaging in online spaces. In this regard, it was recommended to 1) encourage technology education and training and critical thinking; and 2) innovative approaches to balance internet freedom vs security;
  • Reflections on the YAR Initiative in Ireland highlighted that youth-led research can enable the inclusion of a diversity of young people in spaces that were commonly reserved for respectively decision-makers and academics and facilitate exchange between multiple stakeholders; enable young people to influence policy, including on social services; and increase outreach to and accessibility for a broad range of young people. 

The conversation was facilitated by Laura Guay (UNESCO), Grace Atuhaire (Eastern Africa Youth Empowerment Forum), and Maria Stage (United Nations Development Programme). 

About the UNESCO Youth As Researchers Initiative

Launched in 2020 and with over 6000 applications, the UNESCO Youth As Researchers (YAR) Initiative has engaged 270 young people as researchers, from over 70 countries, and close to 10,000 young people as respondents to research surveys and interviews, enumerators, coordinators, reviewers, communicators, interpreters, graphic designers, and trainers. Over 16 months, 34 youth-led research teams have been conducting research with youth to explore the impact of the pandemic on them: from mental health to human rights; from learning to livelihoods; and from youth-led action to the role of technology, the UNESCO YAR has been yielding findings on those aspects of the lives of youth that have been significantly affected.

About the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security

The Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security (GCYPS) is the leading platform for shaping global policy and practice on youth, peace, and security. The GCYPS facilitates exchange, coordination, and collaboration between organizations from civil society, including youth-led and youth-focused organizations, UN entities, donors, academia and inter-governmental bodies.