Just over the last weekend, the world celebrated yet another World Youth Day (August 12). This year’s celebration, just like previous ones, came with a very important message. It’s a message borne out of the understanding of the role young people can play in conflict prevention and sustainable peace.
Conflicts and other forms of violent unrest have become seemingly unending occurrence in our world today. Most especially in parts of the world often characterized by high volatility.
Also, it is a known fact that youth are mostly the main actors in conflict scenarios. And they always lose the most. Therefore, they stand to play a vital role in conflict resolution, prevention, and maintenance of peace.
The adopted theme this year, “Youth Building Peace” embodies this notion.
Youth and Peace
The adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250, in 2015, heralded something important. It led to the wide acknowledgment of youth as major players in achieving conflict resolution and long term peace.
UNSCR 2250 recognized “That young people play important and positive role in promoting international peace and security”. The resolution further provided the framework for engaging the youth. It also urged UN member states to give youth a greater voice in decision making at all levels.
This notion was further reiterated by yet another resolution, UNSCR 2282, (2016). This time, reaffirming “the important role youth can play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and as key aspects of sustainability, inclusiveness and success of peacekeeping and peace building efforts”.
Furthermore, the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), encourage “promoting active involvement of youth in maintaining peace and security”.
The bottom line is that the relationship between youth and peace is now gaining the recognition it deserves. Conflict prevention and resolution, inclusion, social justice and sustainable peace cannot be achieved without active youth participation. This is even more important for the less developed and conflict prone parts of the world.
Right now, youth are the largest demographic group in the world. And they form the largest section of the population in countries faced with conflicts, and other forms of violent unrest. Nigeria unequivocally fits into this category of countries.
From the restive militancy in the Niger-delta region to the perennial ethnoreligious conflicts in the middle-belt and the Boko-haram insurgency. Coupled with intermittent communal clashes in other parts of the country, Nigeria is definitely far from been entirely peaceful.
An obvious factor is the fact that, youth are mostly at the heart of these incidents.
In a country with high youth unemployment, marginalization, and social exclusion, the youth become vulnerable. They are easily involved in the perpetration of conflicts and other forms of violence.
Many are manipulated into committing acts of violence for the selfish interest of others, such as in cases of political unrest. While many more venture into violent crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, and the likes.
However, in any given society there can’t be meaningful development without peace and security. This is evident in the case of Nigeria.
The theme of this year’s World Youth Day celebration is aimed at highlighting the importance of the positive role youth can play in conflict resolution and peace building all over the world.
It expresses the need for governments and policy makers at all levels to promote social inclusion for the youth. Also, to involve youth in decision-making processes and provide them with access to quality education, health care, and other basic services.
Besides, creating an enabling environment for the youth is highly beneficial.
A high sense of belonging will no doubt foster their ability to thrive, by achieving their potentials and life goals. This is important not only to steer youth away from conflicts and other forms of violence. But also as an important precursor for socioeconomic development.
In the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, peace was emphasized as an important recipe in the achievement of sustainable development. This was underscored in goal 16, which is aimed at “Peace, Justice and Strong institution”.
Therefore, as a matter of utmost importance, Nigeria must build peace through its youth, for a sustainable development.