During this week’s East Africa Regional Consultation on the Roles and Contributions of Youth to Peace and Security in Africa which was held in Asmara, Eritrea, Professor Charles Ukeje, who is the lead Consultant for the study said, The youth are the Present! There is no better time to talk about the youth than the present; hence we should include the youth in current issues of peace and security in the continent. This event, hosted by Eritrea, featured leading young peace builders from 15 African countries and was attended by 40 individuals from African countries.
More than any time in history, the majority of the world population today is made up of the youth, totalling 1.8 billion and still rising. Considering that the youth are agents of change and have great potential to contribute towards peace and its sustainability, the United Nations Security Council had on 9th December 2015 unanimously adopted Resolution 2250 titled “Maintenance of International Peace and Security”, which deals specifically with the youth, peace and security from an international dimension.
With its 5 pillars, the resolution, the first of its kind, calls for increased involvement of the youth at all levels of decision making and their inclusion as key-actors on the peace and security agenda.
Resolution 2250 was strengthened on June 6th 2018 when the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2419, reaffirming its commitment to the implementation of UNSCR 2250. It has an additional focus on the inclusive representation of the youth for the prevention and resolution of conflict, including representation when negotiating and implementing peace agreements.
I find it particularly important to note that Resolution 2250, which was sponsored and led by Jordan, was initially pushed by civil society, in general, and by youth organizations, in particular, which led to the crystallization of the draft resolution when Jordan held the first ever Forum on Youth, Peace and Security in Amman.
At the time of its adoption, Resolution 2250 included a set of guidelines upon which policies and programs would be developed by member states, the UN and civil society.
It is in line with these resolutions and guidelines that the African Union Commission’s Peace and Security Department (PSD), in partnership with AU Youth Division and Department of Political Affairs’ African Governance Architecture, launched the Youth for Peace Africa (Y4pAfrica) program in Nigeria, on September 2018.
It was imperative for PSD to develop upon the resolution a policy that fits its own program. As a result, Y4P was kick-started to contribute towards the actualization of Aspiration Four of Agenda 2063 of AU and its flagship project- Silencing the Guns by 2020, while implementing Article 17 of the AU Youth Charter. The program is set up with the objective to effectively engage and collaborate with the youth in promoting peace and security on the continent.
Long before the 2015 adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, young people in Africa were working to prevent violence, deal with conflict and build peace in their communities. However, research on these youth-led efforts was scarce as was noted by the PSC on its first open session on Youth, Peace and Security. The literature on the youth reinforces a common narrative that the youth are either perpetrators or victims of violence rather than agents of change. In a way UNSCR 2250, Y4PAfrica, seeks to change this narrative by revealing the positive role the youth play in sustaining peace and effectively giving them the space and recognition for their efforts to prevent all forms of violence and transform conflicts. In this, the youth are not considered only as a group to be protected (youth as victims), nor as a group to be protected from (youth as perpetrators of violence), but are rather considered as actors for positive change in their communities, recognizing their role as catalysts for peace and actors in preventing violence.
It is for this reason that the East Africa Regional Consultation on the roles and contributions of the youth toward peace and security in Africa was held this past week in Asmara. The meeting tried to address issues of youth marginalisation and their socio-economic exclusion which contribute to their vulnerability to engage in violence, conflict and social unrest, particularly their susceptibility to radicalisation and violent extremism. It also discussed young people’s social and political engagement in their communities; their role in promoting social well-being, in consolidating the social fabric, as well as in conflict prevention and sustaining peace. This discussion also included an examination of critical social and economic issues that hinder youth development and inclusive political participation at all levels. The meeting provided a forum for the exchange of ideas, experiences and substantive knowledge on these issues, and offer recommendations aimed at strengthening the implementation of resolution 2250, 2419, Article 17 of the AU Youth Charter, the 665th Communique of the Peace and Security Council and contribution towards “Silencing Guns” and “Agenda 2063.
The primary objective of the Consultation was to provide innovative thinking on the role of young people in the prevention of violence and conflict, and empower the youth to be drivers of the processes aimed at building and sustaining peace at local, national and global levels. The results of this meeting will in the near future contribute to the AU’s Study on the roles and contributions of Africa Youth to peace and security in the continent. While the findings of the study will provide critical information towards the development of a comprehensive policy, it will also contribute to the scarce literature by focusing on positive roles and contributions of African youth to peace and security in the continent. On a large scale the study will contribute to the UN’s Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, highlighting the positive contributions of young people in peace building.
Organizing the regional consultation for East Africa was crucial for several reasons. East African countries predominantly have a large young population. Also, these young individuals live in one of the most strategic places in the world that is prone to foreign political and military intervention, intra-state wars, ethno-national conflicts, piracy, violent extremism, terrorism, human trafficking, which mostly affect the youth. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the youth are identified and recognized as agents of positive change and are included in conflict prevention, resolution and mediation processes.
Speaking at the event Mr. Ibrahim Osman, Director General of the Desk’s Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea, noted that it has always been clear that the youth are drivers of change and highlighted the recent positive development in the region that has given rise to a new era of cooperation in which the youth are expected to play an important role in sustaining peace. While Ambassador Fred Ngoga, Head of the Conflict Prevention and Early Warning Division, AU Peace and Security Department stressed on the importance of Pan-Africanism, owning our identity and coming together to realize the Africa we want for us and for generations to come.
During their stay the participants of the event went on a tour of Asmara, a UNESCO World Heritage site, tried different Eritrean cuisines and watched a cultural show by the Sibrit Cultural troupe.
The consultation was an experience of a life time for all involved. Africans coming together in one room to discuss current and future challenges and opportunities is, in a sense, and African excellence that we must keep cultivating if we are to achieve positive and lasting peace in our continent, and there is no denying that the African Youth have a big role to play in accomplishing it.