Despite many aid efforts to promote peace, conflicts continue to start around the world. In almost all conflicts, young people are used to commit and participate in violence. Therefore, Sweden, the EU and the UN should invest in supporting peace work aimed at young people, writes the organization Youth Alive! Kenya.
Since the 1990s, aid workers and researchers have paid close attention to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Preventive measures have been designed to resolve and manage conflicts before they become violent. In addition, conflict management strategies have been developed to limit and reduce conflicts. The conflict prevention strategies have included a number of activities, such as conflict prevention and conflict resolution. The methods that have been used include mediation, peacekeeping, peace-building, confidence-building measures and diplomacy.
Conflict prevention is still a mystery. Conflicts continue to arise around the world and many of them become violent. In the 1990s alone, approximately 5,5 million people were killed in almost 100 armed conflicts. The deadly conflicts lead to widespread devastation, regional instability and a large number of refugees. The international community is unable to prevent war and many organizations are instead forced to work to limit the negative effects of violence.
According to the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK), in 2013 there were approximately 400 conflicts around the world, of which 20 were regular wars. The causes of the conflicts have been the same for thousands of years: religious fanaticism, ideologies, valuable raw materials and power. Several countries have experienced violent conflicts in recent years, including Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, the Philippines, Kenya and South Sudan.
Young people are used as perpetrators of violence
In almost all conflicts, young people have been used to commit and participate in violence. Politicians and other people in power have mobilized young people to spread their message, their racism, their economic crime, their violent evictions and their massacres. Just to name a few things. In addition, violent extremist organizations such as Boko Haram, al-Shabab and al-Qaeda have begun recruiting young people to work actively to incite even more violence.
Many of the young people who are used as perpetrators of violence are promised that they will have a better life by their warlords. Unfortunately, many of the young people are killed instead, or they are injured for life. Those who profit from the violence will never compensate them for their injuries or their lost lives.
In addition, violent conflicts kill innocent women and children because they have a harder time escaping than men. Survivors are often injured, driven away from their homes and lack both property and relatives.
It is difficult for local peacebuilding organizations and the international community to predict and respond quickly to conflicts that risk becoming violent. This is due both to the complex dynamics of internal, ethnic and local conflicts and to a reluctance on the part of many states to take measures that involve risks and costs.
We want to increase trust and predictability
Youth Alive! Kenya (YAK) uses conflict prevention strategies that increase trust and make violence more predictable in the local community. The strategies are for conflicts not to develop into violence. Our main focus when we work with young people is that future conflicts can be stopped before they break out. In this way, YAK works with youth organizations from different parts of the country, to spread peace-building work around Kenya. We use knowledge from global exchanges on peacebuilding and the fight against violent extremism. We advocate that young people be included and participate in the development agenda. We advocate good youth policy at national and global level and we integrate peace initiatives and the fight against violent extremism into all our programs.
At the local level, the conflicts following the 2007 Kenya elections led us to further strengthen our strategies. The violence killed 1 people and displaced more than 500 people. Millions of dollars worth of property was destroyed and many villages were destroyed.
More than 75 percent of the participants in the conflict were young, either as victims or perpetrators. In the wake of this, YAK developed a conflict prevention and peacebuilding toolbox. The purpose of the toolbox is to support Kenyan youth to engage meaningfully in peacebuilding in their communities. It is specially designed for YAK's member groups and focuses on understanding and knowledge of the biggest conflict issues in Kenya. Despite the focus on Kenya, we believe that large parts of the toolbox can be useful for other organizations, campaigns and activities around the world.
The toolbox contains, among other things, concepts, facts and statistics that can be used in peace-building efforts and campaigns. It explores strategies for successful efforts, ideas for acting and organizing events, and tricks for engaging the media. In addition, it lists a number of other sources that can be helpful in raising awareness about conflict prevention and peacebuilding work.
Requires support from the outside world
Some recommendations to Sweden / EU / UN:
- Support development programs that work with peace, human rights and the fight against violent extremism, especially in countries affected by violence and / or the recruitment of young people to violent extremist organizations.
- Support programs that strengthen young people's representation and participation in the development agenda. Both UN decision-making and local decision-making are primarily governed by governments that want to get their own agenda through rather than supporting young people and their issues.