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International Day of Peace: Reflections on the role of youth in peace-building

The theme aimed to look at UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security as well as AU instruments on youth, specifically on the role of youth in preventing and combatting violent extremism.


02 October 2017

On 21 September, IPSS, in partnership with the African Union (AU), United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU), Oxfam International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Delegation to the AU, hosted a celebration of International Peace Day at the AU Headquarters, under the theme, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: Meaningful Youth Inclusion in Peace-Building”.

The theme aimed to look at UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security as well as AU instruments on youth, specifically on the role of youth in preventing and combatting violent extremism. More than 100 people from member states, international and civil society organizations, academia, media and youth organizations attended the celebration.


The event began with a screening of a documentary by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) titled ‘Security in a Decade and Beyond’. It depicts 15 years of conflict prevention and peacebuilding work in the Horn of Africa region. Amadou Diongue, an expert with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) Secretariat, delivered the opening address, highlighting the significance of Peace Day as a day to measure the journey to peace and security as well as remember soldiers who lost their lives in the pursuit of peace.



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Panel I: Protection of civilians, including youths and protection from all forms of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)

Dr. Yonas Adaye, Academic Director at IPSS, moderated all four panel discussions. The first speaker, Diane Misenga Kabeya, Deputy Head of ICRC delegation to the AU, noted the importance of using a community-based approach as its people-centred nature allows for youth to be the entry point in order to assess their capacities and needs; therefore becoming specialists in their own situations. She further stressed the need to consider different types of vulnerabilities such as age, physical abilities or disabilities, internally displaced persons in host communities as well as differentiated approaches to address the different realities of men and women affected by conflict.


Zane Dangore, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) representative (a.i) to the AU and UNECA, added that peacebuilding is essentially about building justice as inequalities remain some of the biggest drivers of conflict.


Dr. Emmily Koiti, Coordinator the South Sudan Youth Leaders Forum and youth representative in the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (JMEC), drew from the context of South Sudan, arguing that there remain barriers for youth to contribute to peace but not to war. She recommended that youth and women be empowered to push for the leadership they want in South Sudan, particularly through the formation of youth and women networks. She also pushed for the promotion of civic leadership programmes, referring to the success of youth exchanges abroad that encourage young people to return as more responsible citizens.


Panel II: Giving spaces and recognition to youth to prevent all forms of violence (direct, cultural and structural) and in conflict transformation

Mohamed Yahya, Africa Regional Program Coordinator at the UN Development Programme (UNDP), discussed how unhospitable Africa is becoming for the youth – culturally, politically and economically. The consequences of such are migration out of the continent and the lure into violent extremism. In response, states should be urged to transform their economies and promote labour migration within the continent.


Geofrey Odudigbo, Political Minister, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the AU, discussed the various interventions made by Nigeria as part of its national strategy on youth. He framed these as a soft approach to countering terrorism and violent extremism and highlighted successes such as the creation of political space for youth participation. He also cited the reduced age limit allowing for persons to be elected and represent a constituency at 20 years old as one such example.


Colonel Bedda Gatachi Tumushabe, from the AU Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), drew on lessons from MNJTF and its response to terror activities around the Lake Chad Basin. He spoke on the mandate of the security initiative, which includes the creation of safe environments and the protection of civilians especially the youth. He emphasized the need for greater rehabilitation of abductees, largely the youth, as well as the need for them to take part in civic structures. He further highlighted that MNJTF programmes are also focused on prevention of conflict relapses through a focus on youth empowerment.


Panel III: Meaningful participation of youths in decision-making at all levels (local, national, international)

Zinurine Alghali, Ag. Chief of Policy Development Unit, Peace Support Operations Division, AU, spoke on the various instruments available on youth, peace and security at the AU. He put forth the following recommendations: involvement of youth in the assessment and analysis of conflict, in the planning of appropriate responses, as well as the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of solutions.


Getachew Redae, PhD Candidate at IPSS, shared research on youth involvement in conflict, and proposed that there be greater clarity on the meaning of ‘meaningful participation’ as it is currently vague and subjective.


Ibraheem Sanusi, Deputy Head of the African Governance Architecture, AU, discussed the linkages between governance deficits and youth. He added that instruments to address this are available, but require better translation into practice as well as into digestible formats for individuals at the grassroots-level. He called for there to be youth focal points in AU departments as well as youth sensitive programming in AU initiatives.


Panel IV: Building partnerships to fully support youth initiatives and ensure quality education, youth employment and empowerment

Aissatou Hayatou, Senior Policy Officer at the AUC-UNECA-AfDB Joint Secretariat Support Office, highlighted the importance of forming partnerships with different stakeholders such as the private sector, as well as investing in sectors such as agriculture which have the ability to absorb 60% of the continent’s employment needs. She stressed the need to establish better ways in which partners can work together to ensure that greater impact on the ground.


Col. Nurudeen Azeez, Head of Operational Planning and Ag. Head of Mission at UNOAU, spoke on the principles of partnership as well as the opportunity to involve youth at each level of the UN-AU joint framework. He further emphasized the importance of pulling together resources for youth empowerment.


Nicholas Ouma, Senior Youth Advisor, AU, stressed the importance of education and peacebuilding. He highlighted the need for skills development and addressing unemployment as being two pressing issues. He then recommended incubation and incubation facilities to enhance the employability of the youth.



The celebration concluded with the acknowledgement of the great strides and commitment that AU Heads of State and Government have shown on the 2017 AU theme ‘harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth’. It was further acknowledged that there remains the need for more innovative approaches, strengthened partnerships, as well as clearer benchmarks and ways of measuring success so as to fully realize Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 which calls for ‘an Africa whose development is people driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children’.


Click here to view photos from the event. 


Click here to read a press release from the African Union.