‘Youth as peacebuilder’ is a theme that in recent times keeps resounding in international and local peacebuilding agendas. Numerous initiatives are underway in conflict contexts globally to engage, empower and capacitate youth with tools like dialogue and mediation. Such initiatives have yielded inspiring results in many cases, in enhancing their contribution to social change and conflict transformation. So, to what extent do youth initiatives contribute to mediation and dialogue? In an exploratory endeavour to get a sense of this ‘youth space’ of mediation and dialogue, this study aims to gather evidence of the contribution and participation of youth in mediation-, dialogue- and peace- processes. The study will form the basis for rationalising further research and praxis on the topic.
Youth-led social movements, change processes, violence-prevention and peacebuilding efforts have come to fore in recent years, partly due to the ‘youthfulness’ of the Arab Spring dynamics. On the other hand, youth are also prominently featured in mainstream media in reporting when it comes to socio-political violence such as those usually characterised as ‘violent extremism’. These are however neither new phenomena nor balanced perspectives. While there are many examples of youth transforming conflict across the globe, genuinely guided by approaches of mediation and dialogue, which too often they go unnoticed. In conflict research however, there is a lack of reflection on the particularities of the youth approach to/in mediation and dialogue and on how this situates itself in the broader mediation and dialogue context involving other non-youth actors.
In an attempt to fill this research gap, Berghof Foundation and Finn Church Aid have endevaoured in this scoping study to explore, through qualitative research, ‘youth spaces’ of mediation and dialogue – their characteristics, dimensions, challenges and potential. Stories from and on such youth spaces have been collected from different conflict contexts around the world and then reflected upon. Two field studies in Myanmar/Burma and Ukraine inform the study, along with shorter reflections on a few other cases. This study situates itself within the broader follow-up of the recent United Nations Security Council Resolution (UN SCR 2250, December 2015) on youth, peace and security, which urges greater representation by young men and women in the prevention and resolution of violent conflict. It is also anticipated to contribute as a thematic paper to the Progress Studyon youth, peace and security mandated by SCR 2250. In addition, the process of this study is likely to stimulate further research such as a comprehensive (and/or follow-up) action research proposal.
Finn Church Aid (FCA) is funding the project and is also a collaborator.
2016 December: Verification workshop in Yangon, Myanmar
2016 September-October: Field studies in Myanmar and Ukraine