The Role of the youth in Peace Building and the Myth of Job Creation

The youth must secure their future.

As presented by Asogo Venantius Torkuma, Program/M&E Officer One Project Afrika at the SDG Hangout 2019, organized by YALI Network Kaduna Hub held at Ilimi House, 3A Lapai Road, Kaduna, Saturday 3rd August 2019

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Protocol.

It’s indeed a great pleasure and honour to speak to you this afternoon and I sincerely thank the YALI Network Kaduna Hub for sharing this platform and opportunity with us. I will briefly speak on two out of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals of Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions and Economic Growth

OPA is the implementing partner of the Kaduna Youth Agenda (KYA) and been supported by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), USAID and UKAID. The Kaduna Youth Agenda is a high – level advocacy campaign that came about as a result of the implementation of the Vote Not Fight campaign in the period leading to the 2019 general elections to influence issue-based campaign and ensure youth participation in peaceful elections. Also within this period, a survey was carried out and questionnaires issued to over 6000 youths across the 23 LGAs of Kaduna State to aggregate their priority needs for political engagement for the incoming administration, 85% of youths chose the thematic areas of Education, Agriculture, Health Care, Job Creation and Peacebuilding as topping their needs.

Our focus, however, this afternoon would be on Peace Building and Job Creation. There is a wide range of discourse on the role of young people in conflict situations, especially when it comes to perpetrating violence. Most of the discussions tend to focus on young people as violent by nature rather than as a product of their communities.

Furthermore, a lot of attention has been paid to youth as agents of conflict rather than as agents of peace. Considering that 65% of the population in Nigeria consists of young people, it is becoming increasingly more important that, rather than seeing young people as agents of conflict and destruction, they are seen as agents of peace, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and advocates for social cohesion in their communities.

A study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (2005:9) states that:

“There is an automatic tendency to problematize youth as a factor in violent conflict while overlooking their many positive contributions to society, including their potential role in sustaining the social fabric and peace, as well as their survival in impossible environments.”– UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery

The inclusion of young people in peacebuilding processes is bound to facilitate sustainable peace in a society, by redirecting the energies of young people to the implementation of constructive peace projects.

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Incorporation and utilization of youths in peacebuilding processes would facilitate their transformation from agents of violent conflict to agents of peace in their societies.

There are different approaches, tools and interventions that young people can use to contribute to peacebuilding in their communities. These include among others:

1. Strengthening community cohesion and reconciliation through intercommunal, religious and ethnic dialogues and events (e.g. exhibitions, plays, sports, concerts);

2. Building civic awareness through debates and public campaigns (e.g. peace walks, rallies and social media movements);

3. Engaging in community entrepreneurship and livelihoods programmes through capacity building and training;

4. Advocating for the participation and inclusion of youth in decision-making by participating in conferences, producing policy papers, organizing forums, etc.;

5. Establishing alliances, networks, councils and clubs to connect young peacebuilders, build their capacity and leadership, and promote their participation in peacebuilding frameworks.

Youth are more likely to avoid violence and engage in peacebuilding if they are granted a specific set of opportunities, interrelated and mutually reinforcing, which we call threshold conditions for peacebuilding. These threshold conditions include engaging in political participation; forging connections between youth and their communities; building constituencies for peace; training youth for the workplace; and building youth’s confidence and self-esteem. When there is peace, there will be development and there will be jobs.

‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ ~ John F Kennedy

Nigeria’s population is said to have reached about 167 million people in 2012 (National Bureau of Statistics). The National Population Commission (NPoC, 2013) states about half of the population are made up of youth, defined as individuals between 15 and 34 years of age. Unfortunately, as the youth population grows, so does the unemployment rate. In fact, unemployed youth numbered about 11.1 million in 2012.

How long are the youth going to blame the government or wait on the government for change? The responsibility lies with you as soon as you have reached an understanding age of maturity. You must start working to better your future. Don’t be a spectator in your own economy, but a participant.

The youth must stop being heavily reliant on the government for jobs. The work of government is not to create jobs, but to create an environment for people to develop their own work.
This process is what will create jobs we haven’t even imagined yet. The responsibility to change things, create jobs and boost any country’s economy lies with the youth, and not the government.

How are we able to do this? The youth must embrace Agriculture; it is one untapped resource that can create a lot of jobs for the young people but so far the experience has not been encouraging and the narrative has to change if we want to move from where we are at the moment.

My recent interaction with top government functionaries greatly revealed that the efforts of the government to empower the youth through agriculture production and value chain weren’t embraced by the youths. This is however not to say, we don’t have young people who have excelled in agriculture.

We have a great number of young people doing excellently well in this same sector that has been ignored by the many. I am also aware of the fact that oftentimes the empowerment doesn’t get to the right people who would have used them judiciously. The political spectrum sees it as an avenue to compensate and settle those they used to get into their various political offices, as such we must rise up from our slumber to demand transparency and accountability from government Ministries, Department and Agencies who carry out such programmes.

I am of the view that the civil society needs to advocate for further amendments to the composition and functions of certain ministries and departments, so as to meaningfully engage young people from state to local level.

In conclusion, enhancing structures that promote the participation of youths in peacebuilding processes will actively contribute to young people’s engagement with decisions and activities that affect their wellbeing.

Policies and institutions that enable investment in children and youth to succeed at the micro and macro levels should be encouraged. These could take the form of full multi-sector programmes that target youth in specific areas of activity, such as employment creation and/or peacebuilding projects.

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