August 20, 2019, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Youth representatives from ministries of Youth, youth groups and Civil Society Organisations within the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region are attending a regional workshop conducted by the IGAD Mediation Support Unit (MSU) and ACCORD to deliberate on how there can be genuine inclusion and representation of youth in peace processes and dispute resolution as a way to encourage youth participation in conflict prevention, peace-making, and nation-building.
The 3-day seminar is being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital aims at raising awareness to sensitize the Member States on how to set up mechanisms and frameworks that enable young people to participate meaningfully in peace processes. This inclusion targets inclusion in dispute resolution, and explore ways through which the UNSC Resolution 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) on the facilitation of youth equal and full participation at decision‑making levels can be adapted and localized.
Within IGAD, the youth have been identified as central in mitigating the security challenges in IGAD having in the recent past engaged young women and provided them with platforms to share their experiences and challenges in mediation. In addition, MSU has provided internships and fellowship opportunities to young women in the field of conflict prevention and mediation to enhance youth skills.
In his opening remarks, the Director of MSU, Dr. Aleu Garang emphasized the purpose of convening this seminar is to create a platform for youth to engage, a network for further engagement in peace processes. He reiterated the commitment of the Committee of Ambassadors (CoA) to recognize the youth role in peace processes, advance the election of the “Youth Special Envoy” to advance representation of youth issues, voices, and inclusion in peace processes at the national and regional level.
“IGAD MSU has over the years recognized and engaged the youth due to the important role they play, considering that they are the majority of the population in Africa, hence their voice is important, as well as give them possibilities and opportunities especially in peace processes for them to meaningfully participate in nation-building “ he said.
Other remarks by ACCORD and the Youth for Peace Africa under the African Union reiterated that the youth require to be engaged in nation-building using their numbers to underscore the importance of involving youth and their concerns and perspectives in peace processes as future leaders.
“Youth voices need to be heard, where they should be heard, hence they need to speak and be heard at all levels” Mr. Rhuks Ako, a co-convener of the AU Youth for Peace (YNP) Africa Program stated.
Other objectives to this European Union-funded seminar is to also strengthen capacities of IGAD member states in understanding the role of youth in peace processes, and particularly in mediation, negotiations for comprehensive agreements and implementation of these agreements. The aim as well as to create synergies amongst national institutions, youth groups, CSO's and youth in social and political processes and to share experiences, good practices and lessons learned in youth inclusion in decision-making.
In attendance are IGAD focal persons, ministry of youth representatives, youth leaders at learning institutions, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) engaged in Youth, Peace & Security matters (YPS), United Nations, African Union, ACCORD as well as experts from IGAD region and Africa at large.
- In 2018, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2419 calling for an increasing role of youth in negotiating and implementing peace agreements recommending the peacebuilding commissions to include and establish ways through, which to engage young people in national efforts to build and sustain peace.
- At the continental level, the Agenda 2063 of the African Union aims at prioritizing inclusive social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance and peace and security in order to reposition Africa to becoming a dominant player in the global arena.
- About 65% of the total population of Africa is below the age of 35 years, and over 35% are between the ages of 15 to 35 years; making Africa the most youthful continent. By 2020, it is projected that out of 4 people, 3 will be on average 20 years old in Africa. These statistics clearly show the importance of youth inclusion in peace processes. According to the IGAD State of the Region Report (2016), the demographic age structure in the IGAD region shows that 55% of the population are youth.
- Despite the involvement of youth in violent spaces such as extremism and rebel groups, as well as victims of violence, they have actively been involved in creating awareness and activities championing peace, fight against discrimination and violence, hate speech mitigation, as well as conflict prevention and resolution.