International Youth Day: the Role of Youth in Peace and Security
12 August is International Youth Day! This day recognizes the importance of young men and women as drivers of change to many challenges and problems facing youth worldwide. The theme for 2019 is “transforming education”, which is integral to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 4 of Agenda 2030 is education, which is recognized as a development multiplier. An educated young population is expected to be more aware of various social issues: poverty reduction, health and well-being, gender equality, gainful employment, peacebuilding and conflict prevention. Youth are recognized as a group vulnerable to conflict but are also a positive force in society, once the many positive attributes of youth are rightfully leveraged.
While governments and civil society recognize the role of youth as positive drivers of change across the world, more work needs to be done to address vital issues.
Youth in Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding
The UN through its resolutions has recognized the important role of youth in shaping opinions of the future generations. From 1978 to 2019, there have been 34 UN resolutions on Youth passed by the General Assembly and Commission for Social Development.
In recent years and in the immediate future, youth bulges in developing and least developed countries will be a matter of concern to governments and non-governmental organizations around the world. Justin Yifu Lin writing to the World Bank has analyzed demographic trends in several regions of the developing world. He predicts the number of working-age individuals will increase due to youth bulges. This will lead to the rise of unemployment. If such individuals are not engaged in gainful employment, they will be a source of crisis leading to social and political instability.
For gainful employment, education and skill development is a necessity. This goes beyond developing basic reading and numerical skills. The World Youth Report on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has identified meaningful policies by governments at all levels as the key to realizing these goals. Therefore, the theme for 2019 International Youth Day is of recurring importance.
At GPPAC, we recognise the importance of youth for peacebuilding.
Youth: Drivers of Positive Change
A study by Population Action International identified that 80 percent of civil conflicts between the years 1970 and 1999 have occurred in countries where 60 percent of the population or more were below 30 years of age. Lionel Beehner pointed out that countries with high corruption, ethno-religious tensions, poverty, and weak political institutions are more prone to conflict caused by disgruntled youth. Beehner also argues that youth bulges are not always a bad thing. Strong institutions and right investments can turn youth bulges to economically productive populations for economic progress and growth.
At GPPAC, we recognise the importance of youth for peacebuilding. This year, we developed a GPPAC Youth Policy to streamline our youth centric activities as priorities across our network. Our Youth, Peace and Security Working Group also works with the United Network of Young Peacebuilders as a way to better promote youth empowerment and inclusive peacebuilding practices by mobilizing young peacebuilders in diverse conflict environments.
While governments and civil society recognize the role of youth as positive drivers of change across the world, more work needs to be done to address vital issues. This includes providing access to quality education and skill development for gainful employment to enhance the economic role of youth in society, thereby also contributing to peace and security.
Let the International Youth Day be a reminder to the world of the power of youth and their ability to make a positive change!