Tapping into the Missing Peace: Why Diversity and Inclusion for Young People Around the World is Non-Negotiable
“If youth can be such a powerful force that can destroy a nation, why do people overlook our resources when we are working for peace?”
—Rwandan Youth Movement Leader
On every continent, young people live in the crossfires of violent conflict, and their lives are forever changed. However, the violence they experience does not provoke them to be violent en masse. Instead, this extraordinary group of non-violent young people finds creative ways to prevent violence, consolidate peace and develop their communities every day.
Ironically, most people worldwide perceive young people as violent, unstable, or victims without power. Although some young people become violent, most do not engage in violence (Prelis L.S., 2016). Through concrete action, they are shattering myths that identify them as lazy, apathetic victims or perpetrators. Despite the misconceptions about them, they are proving to be the best-untapped resources for bridging divided communities.
There are many definitions of what constitutes a youth, yet there is no consensus on this debate. For example, the United Nations defines youth as between the ages of 15 and 24; the UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace, and Security defines youth as between ages 18 and 29; and the African Youth Charter, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, defines youth as between 15 and 35 years of age. Therefore, this chapter will broadly use the term young people to include children, adolescents, and youth.
One in every four young people aged (15-29) are directly affected by violent conflict. (Hagerty, 2018) Young men make up 90% of all deaths resulting directly from conflict. As of April 2017, over 50% of the global population was below 18 years of age in 17 countries, 16 of them from Africa. As governments and traditional institutions face more young people than ever before, they are ill-equipped to take advantage of the dividends that youth offer.
Young people are constantly changing and growing, both physically and emotionally. At the same time, they are developing identities based on race, gender, ethnicity. The transition to adulthood is marked by touchpoints in life such as graduating from university, finding a stable job, getting married, forming a new family, or buying land or house, etc. These transitions vary from person to person, from culture, ethnicity, age, gender, economics, conflict dislocation, etc. [LH1] New research points out that despite these transitions, young people in many parts of the world feel paralyzed and struggle to become adults.
Young people’s transitions to adulthood have become increasingly uncertain ... [A] growing number of young women and men ... are unable to attain the social markers of adulthood, such as a secure job, marriage, and a family. Trapped between childhood and adulthood, they are living in a twilight zone, a liminal space that has now become known as “waithood.” (Honwana, 2015)