International Youth Day 2021: Promoting the role of youths in peacebuilding
Since December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution 54/120 has declared August 12 each year as International Youth Day based on the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth. Globally, International Youth Day is commemorated annually on August 12 to galvanize actions toward issues affecting youth and celebrate the effort and influence of young people in transforming their societies. The theme of this year’s Youth Day, ‘Transforming Food systems: Youth Innovations for Human and Plenary Health’ highlights the important contributions of youth to innovatively address agricultural needs of their societies.
Nigeria has a large adolescent and youth population, and studies show that more than one in two people in Nigeria are under 24 years of age. Of concern is that violent extremist groups tend to leverage on the vulnerability of young people to spread their ideologies as a study showed that more young people are recruited into violent extremist groups, particularly those that are disillusioned and unemployed battling with challenges that span economic, social and political deprivations. In the northern region of Nigeria, insecurity, loss of lives, and damage of assets and the environment are some of the consequences of the violent activities perpetrated by extremist groups and ethno-religious conflicts. Undoubtedly, the current state of insecurity has impacted negatively on food production and threatens peace and security.
While evidence shows that the issue of food insecurity may lead to the outbreak of conflicts, impact of conflicts on food security often lasts long after the violence has subsided. There are concerns that activities of violent extremists and criminalities, if not curbed, will continue to undermine the ability of conflict affected populations to engage in livelihood activities such as farming and build resilience to violent conflict. Therefore, young women and men are recognized as key constituents in preventing and responding to conflict, and promoting resilience of communities to tactics of violent extremists.
Mercy Corps Nigeria’s USAID funded Community Initiatives to Promote Peace (CIPP) program continues to leverage existing structures and use innovative approaches to engage violent-prone communities, including youth to address not simply conflicts but the deep-rooted drivers of conflicts in their communities. Recently, the program engaged youth groups at the grassroot level under a ‘youth-led action research’ initiative in Kaduna, Katsina and Kano states. Through this initiative, effort is underway to collate and use evidence-based approaches to strengthen the capacity of identified youth groups on local strategies for preventing violent extremism. Additionally, capacity building of youth groups to engage in dialogue and influence both the formulation and implementation of conflict and gender responsive policies and practices at all levels is a priority.
This year, CIPP supported local youth groups in various states as they joined their peers around the world to implement youth-led activities in commemoration of the 2021 International Youth Day. The youth-led activities ranged from interfaith youth dialogues, rallies and round table meetings with government and community leaders across CIPP target states, specifically Kogi, Kaduna and Kano states. CIPP provides support to these youth-led peacebuilding initiatives to demonstrate our commitment to inclusion and mainstreaming of youth’s voices, and actions in sustaining peace and preventing violent extremism, especially reducing their vulnerability to violent extremism recruitment.
In Kogi state, CIPP in collaboration with the Office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Sustainable Development Goals supported a youth-led dialogue event with representatives from the Kogi state government including the Commissioner for Youth and Sports Hon. Idris Musa Danjuma, and the Chairman Kogi Youth Development Commission, Mr. Lawal Ozomata James. This was an opportunity for young people to discuss issues around youth engagements and youth issues with key state actors. The event also featured a roundtable discussion and an action plan development session with youth and government representatives jointly participating.
In Kano, Kogi, Benue and Kaduna states, CIPP also supported various community-level activities to commemorate International Youth Day. Activities conducted include dialogues, rallies, and speaking events that focused on highlighting the potential of youth to contribute to community peace and development, and food security by extension.
CIPP will continue to promote the inclusion of young women and men as well as other marginalized groups in maintaining peace and security by facilitating safe spaces for them to dialogue and participate meaningfully in peacebuilding processes and decision-making structures.