We argue that youth should not be seen as a problem to be solved, instead as partners in peacebuilding

By James Obuba

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) state of the world population ( 2017), Kenya’s population of 52 million, makes it the 6th largest population in Africa. With the current fertility rate of 3.7 per woman and an estimated annual  population increase of 2.5 million, the “youthening” trend of Kenya’s overall population is projected to continue on an upward curve.  While the coinciding increase in its working population presents an opportunity for increased innovation, many fear that the relentless population pressure threatens to heighten youth underemployment, political instability and could prevent the possibility of reaping a sizeable demographic dividend. This article argues that in order to harness the demographic dividend, Kenyan youth need to be actively involved in peace and security matters. They should not be seen as a problem to be solved, instead as partners for peace.

The United Nations Security Council resolution 2250  highlights five key pillars of action in peace and security: participation, protection, prevention, partnerships, disengagements and reintegration. As a strategic response to spearhead the resolutions, the Commonwealth Secretariat in partnership with the Government of Kenya and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) convened at the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya, from 11th to 13th April 2019 for an innovative workshop on promotion of sustainable peace through National youth policies in the framework of 2030 Agenda.

The workshop brought together young people from Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Zimbabwe who were representing government institutions and civil society organizations. Other participants included senior government officials and representatives from intergovernmental organizations. The objective of the workshop was to discuss and explore current challenges and opportunities for the youth to be actively engaged in peace and security initiatives at county level and to examine the root causes of violent extremism. ADRES Group was commissioned to provide facilitation and research services by the Commonwealth which will inform a policy brief on youth engagement in peacebuilding.

During the workshop following recommendations were made:

First, initiate youth in peacebuilding programmes at the National and County Levels. The devolution in place should encourage the creation of youth initiated peacebuilding programmes at the National and County levels. This will breed a generation of transformational leaders in the various sectors and organizations. Such programmes could also align with international policy frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), African peer Review Mechanism (APRM), African Union’s Agenda 2063, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 2250.

Ms. Nicola Shepherd (Left), UN’s focal point on youth, Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD), UN DESA, said: Fulfilling the youth peace security agenda requires working across the sustainable development goals and the best place to start on this work is with the national youth policies. We believe the young people of Kenya have the ideas and solutions that are needed to move this crucial work forward.”

Second, establish a trust fund for youth in peacebuilding or piggy back on the existing youth fund. This is required to sustain the peacebuilding programmes that are youth-led through the fund; resource sharing agreements will solve the numerous resource based conflicts, especially for communities living across the borders of Kenya – Uganda, Kenya- Somalia, and Kenya – Ethiopia. The trust fund will serve as a coordination arm for local regional and international financial and technical support.

Third, build on the existing affirmative action to promote broad-based inclusion, including mainstreaming gender, into youth peacebuilding activities. Participation and visibility of female youth in peacebuilding activities is either low or negligible in Kenya. A broad-based representation and participation of various categories of youth, including rural youth, uneducated youth, young mothers, young widows, youth living with HIV/AIDS, former militia members and violent extremists, youth wings of political parties, youth in the private sector is required.

Mr. Layne Robinson (Right), Head of Social Policy Development at the Commonwealth Secretariat said: “If gender mainstreaming is implemented positively, it impacts the whole society and not only the youth.

Fourth, build better the opportunities for the youth. Much more attention has to be paid to the youth by increasing opportunities for education, employment and political participation. Even so, youth need to be able to engage productively in a politics that builds unity. Youth leadership exchange programmes should be promoted by relevant actors at the international, regional, national and county level. More support is needed for the organisations working in the slums and informal settlements on education, youth activities, vocational training. Youth are encouraged to use resource centers already put in place and those to be set up especially by the county governments.

Overall, it does not make sense to just do peacebuilding on its own. There is need for integrated programming that incorporates alternative livelihoods for peace to be sustained.

Click here to download the workshop report.

Click here to download policy brief.

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