Youth voices are crucial

Published on Tuesday, 29th of June 2021

CMI continued with its support to the next generation of peace-makers in the Lake Chad Basin region in North Central Africa.

CMI’s Janna Greve and Elisa Tarnaala together with young peacebuilders Maryam Hassan Gombe and Indira Banga at the United Nations System Staff College Torino Forum for Sustaining Peace.

The Lake Chad Basin region includes parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria and contains an array of mixed characteristics, such as key trade routes, severe poverty, cultural richness and weak governance. For over a decade, extremists of Boko Haram and the Islamic State-West Africa Province have carried out violent attacks, abuses and social and economic interference in numerous cross-border communities. This has caused mass displacements of people, a humanitarian crisis and a severe breakdown of trust between citizens and governmental or military actors.

People under 25, who make up about two-thirds of the region’s 20-million strong population, experience widely contrasting situations, depending on their access to education, security, infrastructure, and employment. However, there is no doubt that their lives continue to be shaped by the impacts of the ongoing crisis and new destabilising factors, including gloomy economic prospects due to Covid-related restrictions.

UNSCR 2250

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250
(2015) on Youth, Peace and Security recognises that
young people play an important and positive role in
international peace and security.

The resolution has already had a global impact. The
five focus areas of the resolution – participation, protection, prevention, partnership, and
disengagement and reintegration – have been made
part of the political agendas and programmes of the
peacebuilding community. But much work remains
to be done.

The narrative of youth in conflicts is slowly changing.
Instead of seeing them as a demographic problem
and security risk factor, youth are now recognised
as vital change-makers.

Among the heterogenous youth population, young women especially are exposed to different forms of abuse or exclusion in society and to the violence perpetrated by armed extremists. They are also disproportionately underrepresented in decision-making and deprived of access to basic infrastructure, education and economic opportunities which would allow them to overcome a status of vulnerability. At the same time, many young people, including women, are leading their own local peacebuilding and development initiatives and are increasingly demanding accountability and political change. The inclusion of youth is thus critical to conflict resolution in the region.

Building youth participation capacity

CMI’s work in the region is focused on inclusive regional dialogue to support peace-making and enhance local ownership. This has included close collaboration with the Youth Network for the Lake Chad Basin Region, the Lake Chad Basin Commission, and the African Union.

CMI and partners have sought new ways of engaging youth throughout 2020. Using different virtual formats, CMI has worked with the Youth Network to maintain exchanges between members, facilitated interactions between youth and regional and international actors and supported capacity building efforts. The representatives of the Youth Network have continued to learn from each other and they value each other’s initiatives. In September, young female peacebuilders from the Lake Chad Basin were given the stage in a panel headed by CMI in the UNSSC virtual Torino Forum for Sustaining Peace. Their message was unequivocal: youth voices are crucial for attaining peace, and this can only be achieved by engaging young people meaningfully.

This article was published in our Annual Report 2020.