Youth Working for Peace Just Got a Helping Hand

The UN Security Council adopted historic Resolution 2250 (SCR 2250) on youth, peace and security earlier this month. For the first time a Security Council Resolution focuses exclusively on the crucial role of young men and women in peacebuilding and countering violent extremism—and education featured prominently.

We know that education has “two faces”—it can play a critical role in shaping factors that foster peace or fuel division, and it can influence whether a young man or woman will engage in violence or not.

SCR 2250 specifically highlights the importance of education in preventing the marginalization of youth and building their capabilities and skills to promote peace. It notably calls on governments to “support quality education for peace that equips youth with the ability to engage constructively in civic structures and inclusive political processes.”

Last week ECCN hosted a Webcast on SCR 2250. I was joined by Saji Prelis, Director of Children and Youth Programs at Search for Common Ground and ECCN’s Co-Chair, to listen to insights from three remarkable young peacebuilders into how education can advance the implementation of SCR 2250: Saba Ismail (Pakistan), Achaleke Christian (Cameroon), and Rolando Jr. Villamero (Canada).

Their presentations surfaced a number of key questions about the role of education, including:

  • How can education help youth to avoid engaging in violence and be agents of violence prevention and peace?
  • What are some of the unique education needs of marginalized youth—and how can they be met?
  • What are some examples of innovative and effective education programs that reach marginalized youth and support them to build more peaceful societies?

These are crucial questions for USAID and ECCN. We should note that SCR 2250 requests the Secretary-General to carry out a progress study on the positive contributions of youth to peace in order to recommend effective responses. Perhaps this offers our new community of practice an opportunity.

Posted in Design, Implement, Research and Evaluate for Better EiCC Programs, Peacebuilding Programming
4 comments on “Youth Working for Peace Just Got a Helping Hand
  1. Profile photo of Saba Ismail Saba Ismail says:

    I would like to share my experience from Pakistan. The North Western Province “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” is facing religious extremism and militancy for more than a decade. Because of the prevalence of religious extremism in the society, economic insecurities, lack of good governance and exposure to biased education, media, and politics which promote radicalization, the young people are more at risk of responding violently to the issues in community and recruitment by the militant and extremist organizations. Militant groups use the young recruits to promote their agenda through acts of terror such as suicide bombing, torching schools, public institutes, and by slaughtering innocent civilians. The level of tolerance has been significantly reduced among young people, leading to the spread of violence all over the country in a variety of shape and forms.

    According to the Report “Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan” released by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) , schools in Pakistan often serve as incubators of societal intolerance, especially toward religious minorities, with profoundly negative implications for religious freedom and security. Through the propaganda of militant organizations, religious political parties, and text books an insecurity around the Islamic identity has been developed, the Islamic identity has been portrayed equivalent to Pakistani identity and that defense of Pakistan is equivalent to the defense of Islam. This skewed understanding has influenced youth to view existence of religious minorities as threatening to Islam and the propagation of Islamic identity as their responsibility.

    The educational institutes are also a big threat to the religious extremists and thats why in December 2015 the terrorists attacked a school in Peshawar killing more than 140 children and teachers and then again in 2016 Baacha Khan University in Charasadda was attacked by the militants.

    It is very important to enagage young people as peacebuilders to bring peace. From the platform of Aware Girls we are working to prevent violent extremism using peer to peer education model-a model in which young people reach out to other young people vulnerable to the violent ideologies and to the recruitment of militant groups and provide them with alternative narratives based on non-violence, tolerance, compassion and pluralism- to prevent them from being recruited by the militant groups.

    In our model- we keep young people in the center of our programs, we engage them as partners in the process of countering violent extremism and building peace, we believe that the millions of young people out there who aren’t buying the militant agenda of extremist groups are a huge resource for us.

    We engage both young men and young women and shape our approaches accordingly because we experience first-hand the differentiated impact conflict has on young women and men.

    To prevent violent extremism, we- the young women from the platform of Aware Girls have been working for addressing the vacuums which provides fertile ground to the extremist groups and extremist narratives by promoting active citizen engagement of young people, promoting good governance and democracy, inter-faith harmony, and gender equality- when we invest in girls’ and women empowerment and political stability we take away the oxygen from the violent extremist groups.

    Through the work of Aware Girls- we are proving it every day that we, the young women and girls’ are investing in our communities for preventing violent extremism, we are dealing the issue with a holistic approach.

    Saba Ismail

  2. Profile photo of Ayo Oladini Ayo Oladini says:

    The current insurgent in northeast Nigeria is equally attributable to lack of access to basic and other alternative education. A good number youth taking up arms are not necessarily radical religious individual but largely enticed with some monetary gains and a few indoctrination which they have no ability to verify. There exist structures and systems that these youth can benefit from but these are not usually funded as institutions set up to do so lack qualified personnel and resources to do so.

    Our current effort in the region targets two groups of youth aged 13-17 ( adolescent girls and youth males) that are being exposed to basic literacy program where they are taught reading skills in their local language, numeracy to be able to cope with day to day interaction and more significantly marketable vocational skills found in their host communities. These youth and adolescent girls numbering about 4500 have acquired basic vocational skills like cap making, barbing, shoe making, mobile phone repairs, vegetable farming, poultry, fish farming etc supported through USAID funded projects and are now better focused of their potential as well contributing to their community as good citizen. An assessment carried out among these youth at the end of intervention shows a much better positive social skills in terms of emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention, and peer relationship problems making them normal youth compared to their status at the baseline.

    Although the communities where these initiatives are implemented recognize the need to support these youth being the future of their communities, government at federal, state and local government levels are yet to consciously and deliberately support these youth to expand their potentials despite the presence of inactive institutions meant for this.

    Any effort supported in this direction of providing functional basic education will reduce possibility of youth being engaged in violence but contributing to the community through their acquired new skills.

  3. It is rather unfortunate that the lack of quality and accessible education in most local communities in sub-Saharan Africa has been one of the factor which violent extremist groups use to radicalize young people. Violent extremist prey on the lack of educational facilities to turn young people against their governments, and use their state of illiteracy to intoxicate their minds with propaganda.
    Even though the lack of quality and accessible education is a major pull factor for youth radicalization, I personally think the role of civil society organization with the use of non-formal /peer to peer and informal education has a great role to play. Back in Cameroon, with the most recent Boko-Haram insurgence, our organization just like many others are using non-formal/peer education as an effective tool to engage youths against violence and radicalization.Our organization has developed visual aids like a youth peer to peer training manual and a video documentary. We equally create opportunities for youth dialogue and experience sharing,counseling and dialogue with youths engaged or had been engaged in violent extremist ideologies. We focus most of our peace education programs with street children, youths in correction centers, uneducated and under-privilege youth in urban and rural communities.
    Resolution2250 is stepping in to call on international development stakeholders, donors and governments to amplify the use of non-formal/peer education by civil society through financial , material and technical support.

    • Profile photo of Jim Rogan Jim Rogan says:

      Thank you, Achaleke, for these important points on the potential for non-formal and peer education programs. We know that these kinds of programs can bring design and implementation closer to the youth themselves. There are major lessons in youth and peacebuilding programming that call for youth to lead or be involved much more in programs for greater relevance and results.

      SCR 2250 points to the need for better livelihoods and vocational training for youth. My ECCN colleague, Ash Hartwell, discusses how the adaptive management practices of a youth livelihoods program in Liberia are showing exciting results.

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