Reducing aid and grants to youth organizations is dangerous for both peace and democracy, writes Emelie Weski. Photo: Thomas Ulrich, Pixabay


Peace is at stake when contributions to youth organizations decrease

The organization of young people is one of the most effective preventive measures against armed conflict. This is confirmed by an independent report from the UN Population Fund. To stop financing young people's organization is to counteract sustainable peace. The Social Democrats, the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats get homework, writes Emelie Weski from LSU.

The Moderates and the Sweden Democrats have recently been at the forefront of major cuts in international aid. They want to cut up to SEK 11 billion. A quarter of today's aid. At the same time, the Social Democrats are taking the lead in cutting the national state subsidy to youth organizations. Since the turn of the millennium, the actual depreciation of the state subsidy amounts to 15 percent.

The reason for the cuts is said to be that the money is needed more at "home" and in every man's pocket. But it is very likely that this type of cut will cost more than it tastes. The grants go largely to civil society organizations that build democracy, hold authoritarian regimes accountable and build peaceful relations with Sweden.

Let me give some examples from Kenya, Myanmar and the Philippines - where Swedish aid to youth organizations has an important task.

Young people are recruited for terrorism in Kenya

The right to freedom of association, freedom of expression and peaceful organization has been guaranteed by Kenya's constitution since 2010. Nevertheless, civil society organizations are routinely subjected to slander and harassment - and important information is withheld from them.

A new bill wants to ban all forms of information sharing and organization on social media. At the same time has the terrorist network Al Shabaab for several years recruited among young people, under cover and with the help of incorrect information.

The opportunities for young people to inform themselves and strengthen their own resilience are small. But Kenya's youth movement is working to strengthen young people's capacity to seek information and use source criticism in defense. Stopping funding for the youth movement would likely contribute to a destabilizing effect in one of the region's most stable countries - and make it even easier for Al Shabaab to recruit.

False news is aimed at young people in Myanmar

Myanmar is ranked as the country with most likely for ethnic cleansing and armed conflict 2019. Here, magic factories fire on polarization between different ethnic groups. Myanmar's government recently set up social media monitoring through what they call the "Social Media Monitoring Team". The aim is to target pro-Rohingya activists, international civil society organizations and foreign media.

The monitoring groups produce fake news on Facebook aimed at young people. And they organize intimidation tactics aimed at young representatives. In this way, the violations against the Rohingya population can continue without anyone being held responsible. And without the outside world finding out anything.

But Myanmar's youth movement works to make the violations visible and to give young people a voice on regional platforms for youth organizations to get information to the outside world. Stopping funding the youth movement would likely lead to invisibility of violations and even more people fleeing.

Escalating violence against young people in the Philippines

Armed conflict is always preceded by a structural undermining of democratic principles and rights. Peace therefore begins with preventive measures that address the core of democracy. Something that is clear in the Philippines.

The young people who organize themselves here, in one of the countries of the world fastest authoritarian development, do it with their own lives at stake. President Rodrigo Duterte has been running a purge campaign since 2016. The so-called "war on drugs" has resulted in more than 12 extrajudicial killings and the Civil Guard taking the law into their own hands. Young people who are remotely connected to some form of drug or gang activity are killed. The list of dead includes representatives of youth organizations.

But the Philippine youth movement works to enable young people to be represented in decision-making and to make the violations visible. Stopping funding the youth movement would probably contribute to more violence in the country and could have a destabilizing effect on the whole region.

Democracy and peace are at stake

Young people are a driving force for revolutions and rights struggles in many parts of the world. But the democratic space and the opportunity to organize shrink. And youth organizations are particularly vulnerable.

Securing peace is all too often about risk isolating the youth group, instead of building for a growing society. Something that results in serious violations of young people's organization, freedom of expression and human rights.

The UN Population Fund UNFPA's study "The Missing Peace" from 2015 puts one foot down once and for all. Young people's opportunity for independent and independent organization is an important tool for building young people's resilience to peace. But in many countries, the organization of young people is discouraged.

Even in Sweden, where state subsidies to youth organizations are declining, it is more difficult to work for sustainable peace. 90 percent of LSU's members and partner organizations state that they work with factual political influence. The first thing that smokes when the democratic space shrinks. Their activities are often about holding the public accountable and highlighting violations of human rights.

When the money is withdrawn - to youth organizations both in Sweden and abroad - international security is at risk. A guarantee that more costly efforts from the defense will be needed. A militarization that will have a hard time solving the actual democracy problems that are the basis for escalating tensions.

When young people are prevented from organizing, it puts democracy and lasting peace at risk. And Sweden's contribution should not be underestimated. Aid and state subsidies to youth organizations must be increased now!

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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