Bridging the Evidence Gap on Youth-Driven Peacebuilding
Young people are agents for peace, engaged in transforming the structures and institutions that hinder the socio-economic and political well-being of people living in fragile and conflict affected communities. UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, adopted in December 2015, requested the UN Secretary-General “to carry out a Progress Study on the youth’s positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution.”
The Global Survey of Youth-Led Organisations Working on Peace and Security was developed in 2016 as a contribution to this study. Mapping a Sector: Bridging the Evidence Gap on Youth-Driven Peacebuilding is a descriptive analysis of the 399 responses from youth-led organisations to the Global Survey. It provides a snapshot and broad overview of the activities, achievements, strengths and needs of youth-led organisations as reported by them. The survey was designed and implemented by UNOY Peacebuilders and Search for Common Ground.
On this page you can download the full report, or read a summary of key findings and recommendations below.
Building on the responses provided by youth organisations, the report provides a first broad scale global overview of the youth-led peacebuilding community. In their responses, the organisations indicate that despite various challenges, youth-led organisations are engaged in noteworthy endeavours for peace, and have achieved remarkable successes.
In summary, the survey findings are that:
- A majority of the youth-led organisations operate with limited funding, with 49% operating under USD 5,000 per annum and only 11% over USD 100,000.
- Despite variations in funding, there is a common thread in the type of activities that these organisations implement. Due to funding disparity, the life span, depth and impact of these activities vary from one-off to fully established projects.
Common activities reported include:
- Trainings and capacity building of youth and other community members on conflict resolution, leadership, peer education
- Advocacy for the participation and inclusion of youth in decision making both within formal and informal structures
- Organising events (debates, exhibitions, theatre, sports…) for raising awareness of youth and community members on issues relevant to their communities such as human rights and democracy
- Organising inter-faith, religious and ethnic dialogues and social cohesion activities between adverse parties
- Organising campaigns (peace walks, rallies…) by mobilising thousands of youth and community to raise awareness around subjects such as gender based violence, sustainable development goals, climate change
- Establishing and forming alliances, networks and clubs to build youth capacity and leadership and promote participation
- With an average age of 29 and 28 years old for males and females in leadership roles respectively, the youth-led organisations are gender balanced and operate with 97% volunteers (including staff and members). They target both youth as well as relevant members in their communities such as local and national decision makers, older people, families, displaced persons, etc.
- Youth-led organisations’ main strengths are in their ability to (a) mobilise youth and communities; (b) create an open organisational structure that is built on trust, value and sense of belonging to a common vision to ‘do’ something for their communities that has transformed the social fabric of trust within their communities; (c) develop skills and expertise amongst themselves and their target group on youth, peace and security issues; (d) leverage local knowledge and access inaccessible youth; and (e) acquire credibility in their communities by implementing important community development work- at times in areas where no other actors exists.
Achievements reported include:
- Integrating youth in national, local and international decision making processes
- Preventing violence in their communities (including preventing youth joining violent extremist groups)
- Creating formal and informal employment opportunities
- Fostering social cohesion within communities
- Transforming the perception of youth to being seen as positive agents for peace
- Delivering humanitarian assistance where national infrastructures are inadequate
- Challenges that youth-led organisations face range from difficulties associated with operating in contexts of ongoing conflict and heightened violence, widespread marginalisation and mistrust from and towards community and government stakeholders, limited access to resources and support, and rampant poverty and under-employment.
- Besides funding and access to resources, youth-led organisations need training and capacity building to monitor and evaluate their work for sustainability. Youth-led organisations also expressed the need for creating and expanding relations, partnerships and exposure to regional and international platforms to enhance their skills, build networks, exchange best practices and lessons learned, and deepen relationships with other youth.
- Finally, youth-led organisations are applying different skills to overcome funding challenges by finding alternative sources such as through their members, crowd funding, donations and in-kind support. Some push for visibility by participating in and actively joining local, national and international networks and social media. Others solicit funding through traditional sources such as through institutional donor proposals, partnership with CSOs, media houses (radios, TV), and others.
Main strengths of youth-led organisations:
- Mobilising youth and communities
- Creating an open organisational structure that is built on trust, shared value and a sense of belonging to a common vision to ‘do’ something for their communities
- Developing skills and expertise amongst themselves and their target groups on youth, peace and security issues
- Accessing local knowledge and hard-to-reach youth
- Gaining credibility in their communities by implementing important community development work, at times in areas where no other actors exists
The survey findings indicate the importance of investing in youth and peacebuilding activities, including developing direct partnerships with youth-led organisations, strengthening the capacity of youth from diverse backgrounds, involving youth in local, national, regional and international decision making and providing funding for youth-led organisations. Additionally, the findings demonstrate the value of recognising that youth-led organisations are key actors in the peace and security field, and engaging with them on an equal footing with other practitioners working on peace and security and in the broader development and humanitarian assistance fields. Specific recommendations to all actors working at the intersection between youth, peace and security as well as in the broader peacebuilding and conflict transformation community follow.
1) Recognise and work with youth-led organisations as peace and security practitioners
- Engage youth-led organisations as practitioners in the field of peacebuilding. This includes recognising their roles in designing, implementing and monitoring programmes, projects and actions that prevent, respond to and address issues related to conflict, peace and security
- Ensure youth-led organisations are involved in shaping international, national and local policies and practices related to peace and security, and not specific only to youth
- Encourage and facilitate coordination between youth-led organisations and other, non-youth actors actively working in the peacebuilding, development and humanitarian fields
2) Improve youth-led organisations’ access to resources and support, including funding
- Earmark funding specifically for youth-led organisations working in peacebuilding to reflect the range and impact of their actions, and to bolster their innovative approaches. This funding needs to be flexible and designed with the specific needs of youth organisations in mind. It needs to go beyond small funding or seed grants and also enable the build-up of organisational capacity as well as long-term sustainable action
- Work with youth-led organisations as implementing partners for peacebuilding activities both specific to youth and more broadly for their communities, countries and regions
- Encourage private sector engagement with youth-led organisations through the provision of micro financing, apprenticeship facilities to youth etc.
3) Ensure the implementation of UNSCR 2250 in national and local policies and practices
- Create structures within national governments and other partners to enable young people to participate in developing strategies for improving peace and security at all levels. These can include specific youth committees or youth delegates, but should also enable meaningful youth participation in existing as well as new mechanisms for peace and security that are not youth-specific
- Develop support measures such as data collection, indicators for measuring progress, national legislations and action plans that include specific and direct measures to implement UNSCR 2250, structures for coordination with relevant governmental, CSO, INGO, youth (male and female) and other actors, mobilisation of resources and reporting on progress
4) Provide space for youth participation within peace and security programming
- Support programming that breaks down barriers to youth participation, changes the negative perception of youth communities and fosters conflict transformation among youth as well as community members
- Encourage peacebuilding and violence prevention programming that gives special attention to intergenerational dialogue and building and (re-) establishing trust between youth and community members and institutions
- Create and protect safe spaces for youth-led organisations to implement peacebuilding programming
5) Strengthen the capacities of youth-led organisations so that they can build resilience in their communities
- Develop capacity building programs for youth-led organisations on issues related to violence and conflict, peace and security, resilience, youth, gender, violent extremism, leadership and ownership, and programming (grants management, implementation). Ensure that these trainings are implemented in partnership with youth organisations themselves.
- Build capacity of and provide regular trainings to youth-led organisations on designing strong monitoring, evaluation, learning and accountability mechanisms, such as indicators for measuring success
- Encourage and facilitate learning, sharing and exchanges among youth-led organisations and with other, non-youth organisations by providing platforms for regular national, regional and international forums, seminars, conferences
6) Conduct research on the activities and impact, needs and capacities of youth led organisations
Bearing in mind the survey finding provides a broad overview of youth led organisations working on peace and security, it is clear that more in-depth research is required to better understand these organisations and their work. Such research should focus on:
- Understanding the agency and life-cycles of youth led organisations must be better understood, including in terms of activities, funding and organisational capacity, as well as how organisations are impacted on by the context in which organisations operate
- Assessing the impact of youth organisations’ activities on their communities, moving beyond self-reported successes to more rigorous means of measurement