Political Analysis

Youth Need Leadership Skills to Build Peace in New Yemen

National Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

The United Nations Secretary-General highlighted in his 2012 report on peacebuilding in the aftermath of conflict that “a successful peacebuilding process must be transformative and create space for a wider set of actors including representatives of women, young people, victims, and marginalized communities; community and religious leaders; civil society actors; and refugees and internally displaced persons to participate in public decision-making on all aspects of post-conflict governance and recovery.”

 Fostering social cohesion and trust through an inclusive and participatory peacebuilding process during and after a transition or conflict is a challenging but a necessary task. Many key stakeholders remain on the margins or are excluded from the process. In particular, the potential contribution and inclusion of young people for effective peacebuilding has received little attention and support.

Yet young peoples’ leadership and roles in preventing and resolving conflict, violence and extremism are rich resources essential to achieving sustainable peace. Young people are valuable innovators and agents of change, and their contributions should be actively supported, solicited, and regarded as essential to building peaceful communities and supporting democratic governance and transition. Moreover, young peoples’ participation promotes civic engagement and active citizenship.

On June 3rd, the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with Search for Common Ground (SFCG) launched the Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding.

In the opening ceremony, Mr. Moammar Al-Eryani, Minister of Youth & Sport, said that peacebuilding depends on political, economic, and social elements and the social determinants are the most important ingredient to peacebuilding, represented by a number of programs, sports activities, cultural, artistic and joint employment that can attract young people to meet together and help develop their skills and abilities and melt the ice, especially after the events experienced by Yemen in 2011.

“Youth will represent 20% in decision-making and representation at the government level and all state institutions.  They should have the willingness to have this experience by developing their skills and abilities to have a role and be successful in carrying out their tasks and contribute to the process of change and building a new Yemen,” Al-Eryani added.

For her part, Lene K. Christiansen, UNFPA Representative to Yemen, said that young people’s contributions to peacebuilding often go unrecognized. Despite frequent images of youth movements as sources of unrest in conflict-affected states, only a minority of young people engage in violence. Instead, their leadership is a rich resource for preventing and resolving conflict.

Christiansen believed that young people have valuable roles to play as innovators and agents of change, and their meaningful participation is essential to the sustainability, inclusiveness, and success of peacebuilding efforts.

“Every day and all over the world, young people engage in peacebuilding in big ways and in small ways. We have seen young people leading non-violent movements, using new technologies, mobilizing their societies and bringing about change. Young people in the Arab World, including Yemen, have their own unique experiences driving social change in their countries” Christiansen added.

Particularly in the midst of continuing political crisis and violence, Christiansen pointed out that young people can be key agents in peacebuilding, in reconciliation and in post-conflict reconstruction, positioning themselves as the next generation leaders. “With youth in Yemen constituting more than 45% of the population, the young people of Yemen are indeed the future of this country,” Christiansen said. “Yemen today is going through a critical phase and experiencing many security challenges, and development is becoming more challenging. Development and peacebuilding are intrinsically linked. That’s why the United Nations has undertaken to promote a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, peacebuilding and development.”

According to Mr. Shoqi Al-Maktari, Country Director for Search for Common Ground, young people in many countries including Yemen were brought in and exploited by groups seeking violence and there is a possibility of attracting and investing the energies of young people in shaping the future of an independent and promising country and creating a fundamental shift in people’s lives.

He said that the involvement of young people in the industry of peace in Yemen should not be a requirement or an order from the government and the political leadership, but a fundamental requirement of local and international organizations and donors. “The situation in Yemen requires not only immunizing young people from extremism and violence, but also their participation in the industry of peace at the community level.”