Essay by Ria Chakraborty from India aged 20 who is a student at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University.
Paving the Pathway for Peace: Empowering the Youth as Peacemakers
May the wings of peace conquer the stormiest of skies.
The word youth conjures a multitude of kaleidoscopic connotations, which, often, owing to the imagery invoked by popular culture, are streaked with the aura of indecisive recklessness or a benign sense of naivety. However, the demographic is hardly a one-dimensional monolith; it possesses colossal diversity in the terms of its traits, penchants, desires, skills and abilities. Located amidst the liminal space between the perceptibly established categories of childhood and the adulthood, the young citizens of the world wield the strength to mould the contours of our future as they are symbolic of the concoction of an array of socio-cultural factors, and they bring a range of indispensable capabilities and assets to the table: a fresh, newfound perspective on the contemporary issues that the world has to tackle, their way of interacting with and utilising new-age technology and their ingenious and inventive propositions.
In the ever-shifting realm of the world, an overall milieu of peace is a prerequisite in order for people to pursue their ambitions and actualise their collective potentials and in this dynamic arena, the actions undertaken by the youth hold immense significance; hence rather than ‘othering’ the youth, they must be included within the discourses of peace-building and their proactive participation in the endeavours that seek to promote the construction of a cohesive and harmonious society must be encouraged. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 (UNSCR 2250), adopted by the UN Security Council in 2015, is a step in the right direction as it was the first resolution to deal with youth, peace and security and, it notably acknowledged the agency that the youth possesses to bring about peace, stability and prosperity.
The challenges that hamper the youth’s ability to act as the harbingers of peace ought to be identified, assessed and obliterated at the very rudimentary level. From the perspective of policy-formulation on a broader scale, the youth should be viewed as an element that bears responsibility and agency rather than perceiving the entire demographic as a reckless, passive and homogenous entity.
Sociologist Johan Galtung has identified numerous types of violence: the direct, the structural (perpetuated by disparities in the socio-economic societal realms) and the cultural spheres. Thus, within the context of the aforementioned realms, the youth needs to be cognisant of the developments and conflicts that occur and the niche organisations in these spheres must attempt to build platforms at the substratal levels of the society that allow the younger citizens to engage with the community in a meaningful manner.
In order to ensure that the youth is equipped with the skills to navigate through the intricacies of the global realm, measures should be undertaken to impart education, because the inequities between various social groups have subsequently deprived the children of learning opportunities. Education is indispensable and imperative in order for the youth to decipher the world around them and to take well-informed decisions and consequently, emerge as a trailblazer for the future. Keeping in perspective the fact that the discriminatory processes of admission or scarce psychosocial and educational resources can become the grounds of violent contentions, efforts should be undertaken to facilitate the universality of quality education to mitigate the socio-economic barriers that impede the children from striving forward in life to a certain extent; this endeavour, in turn, could also potentially deter direct, structural conflicts.
The widespread notion that the lack of formal skills, practical experience and knowledge amongst the youth renders them inefficacious in the realm of peace-building hinders the ability of the young citizens to venture into the arcane socio-political domains where majority of the decision-making procedures occur. Skill-building and capacity-enhancing initiatives need to be undertaken and efforts must be made to craft a platform wherein the youth can articulate its viewpoint and can take on a role of leadership. In order to implement this recommendation, a thorough demystification of the dimension of governance and policy-formulation needs to occur because the younger citizens have conventionally been under-represented in political structures across local, national and international forums.
In order to address the underrepresentation of the youth, international agencies must collaborate with the local governing bodies to communicate with the young people residing in those territories and the global forums must take the youth’s geopolitical context into account for forming specific programmes or peace-building missions that would be aimed at resolving conflicts at the grassroots level. A youth panel must be devised in the international peace-building committees to facilitate the involvement of young people in decision-forming exercises at the global stage wherein they will also interact with their international counterparts, work alongside a slew of stakeholders, embark on the voyage of leadership and delve into engagements with the world-community. A sustainable practice of youth-inclusion and a consistent mechanism must be formed to institutionalise the young people’s participation in peace-building so that the process cascades unhindered and endows the youth with a comforting sense of security, stability and the assurance that their voices would not waft into abysmal void of ignorance, unheard.
To resolve cultural and context-specific issues, the youth can revel in the rainbow-tinted crevices of their imagination and take up creative projects such as Niambie, a youth-led radio programme that seeks to enhance the Tanzanian youth’s peaceful political engagement by combining imperative socio-political matters with catchy, memorable tunes which encourage the youth to partake in the democratic processes; various studies have showcased a discernible link between effective learning and the utilisation of music and hence, this model can also be embraced to endorse peace-education and to popularise it amongst young people.
By vanquishing inequities and prejudices, youth-inclusion in peacemaking could become a glistening cornerstone on the pathway to an aureate future.
May the enlightened, equipped and empowered youth be our torchbearers.
Galtung, Johan. “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research.” Journal of Peace Research, 1969: 167-191.
“How is a radio programme encouraging young people’s engagement with democratic processes in Tanzania?” BBC, 2016.