The UN Secretary-General highlighted, in his 2012 report on “Peacebuilding in the Aftermath of Conflict”, that, “a successful peacebuilding process must be transformative and create space for a wider set of actors — including, but not limited to, representatives of women, young people, victims and marginalized communities; community and religious leaders; civil society actors; and refugees and internally displaced persons — to participate in public decision-making on all aspects of post-conflict governance and recovery”.
Fostering social cohesion and trust through an inclusive and participatory peacebuilding process during and after a transition or conflict is a challenging but necessary task. Many key stakeholders remain on the margins or excluded from the processes. In particular, the potential contribution and inclusion of young people to effective peacebuilding has received little attention and support.
Yet, young people’s leadership and roles in preventing and resolving conflict, violence and extremism are rich resources essential to building sustainable peace. Young people are valuable innovators and agents of change, and their contribution should be actively supported, solicited and regarded as part of building peaceful communities and supporting democratic governance and transition. Young people’s participation promotes civic engagement and active citizenship.
Promoting the participation of young people in peacebuilding requires multiple approaches:
- A human rights-based approach, grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the World Programme of Action on Youth;
- An economic approach that identifies young people as central to the economic development of their country, and promote their access to economic opportunities as essential for their own development;
- A socio-political approach that connects young people to civil society and the political arena, and provides them with opportunities, training and support for their active engagement and participation in public life; and
- A socio-cultural approach that analyses the roles of young people in existing structures and supports dialogue, including an intergenerational dialogue, about these structures.
The principle of “do no harm” is fundamental in all instances, and requires an awareness and active avoidance of the negative consequences that interventions can inadvertently create. In addition, all participation should be based on free will.
The following principles were identified to offer guidance to key actors, including governments, UN entities, funds and programmes, local, national and international non-governmental organizations, civil society actors and donors. These principles are designed to inform participative, inclusive and inter-generational peacebuilding strategies and programmes that systematically promote and ensure participation and contributions of young people in these challenging conflict contexts where violence has often become the norm. They are not listed in order of priority and are all of equal importance to consider.
An infographic is also available here.