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The Importance of Youth Voices in Peacebuilding

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

In this blog post, youth council member Dimitra Pateraki shares her thoughts on the importance of youth voices in Peacebuilding and why organisations which make space for young people make a difference.

In a world with constant social changes, pressing societal and environmental issues and ongoing conflicts, it is becoming increasingly important to foster the inclusion of young people in decision-making processes and peacebuilding efforts. Nowadays, young people are more involved than ever in global realities. What has fundamentally helped in this is the expansion of technology and the facilitation of its increasing access to many parts of the world. Maybe what also enhanced this engagement was the unprecedented change brought by COVID-19 and the subsequent revolutionary social movements that followed during the same year which brought impactful structural changes. What’s more is that youth nowadays have been born and raised in an environment of constant social, economic and political instability, uprisings, and environmental change. They are living in an already chaotic world, this has rendered a good majority of them truly engaged and motivated to actively seek change.

The bottom line is that reality that the intensity and the severity of global issues have brought young people together, binding them with a shared vision to bring change. Even the United Nations has longrecognized that young people are a major human resource for development and key agents for social change and are encouraging their participation in youth empowerment programmes.

All the young people in their early and late twenties that I have come in contact with have shared with me that they’re fed up with the way the systems work and are ready to act out. Nevertheless, youth keep being underrepresented in decision-making processes and peacebuilding efforts, while in many cases they are completely excluded due to a perceived lack of experience and qualifications. Young people are not only an integral part of civil society but they’re also the generation that will be the most impacted by the unprecedented changes we are seeking today. They ought to have a decisive role and place in the important discussions and decisions made. For this reason, the existence of Youth Councils provides a vital starting point to kickstart youth’s involvement in such processes. within an enabling environment, guidance and a safe space for learning and practicing. The biggest challenge for young people seeking to work in conflict transformation is moving beyond theoretical understanding to develop applied knowledge and practical skills, this is where the role of Youth Councils becomes pivotal. By supporting youth-led and youth-owned peace initiatives as well as youth representation in peacebuilding, Youth Councils allow for the young people’s voices to be heard without any conditions and offer them essential practical skills, methods of working and insights in this field. Such well-guided, informative and welcoming spaces bring together young people across diverse backgrounds, foster intergenerational dialogue and encourage them to flourish their ideas and ways of thinking.

Undeniably, Youth Councils provide an inclusive space that supports youth’s development through a variety of activities. Constant engagement with research material, writing reports and project briefs, supporting or getting in touch with stakeholders, and most importantly directly coming in contact with experienced practitioners opens a new channel for young people to actively contribute while gaining valuable professional experience.

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