June 2016- In the framework of the Global Counterterrorism Forum-Horn of Africa working group co- chaired by Turkey and the EU, DEVCO B5 organised a Youth Symposium in Djibouti bringing together a diverse group of civil society actors, multilateral organizations, and governments to understand and address the specific issues facing youth in the context of violent extremism. The symposium built on events held in Europe, the Middle East, and on the margins of the UN General Assembly in 2015 which produced frameworks and actions plans created by youth networks and were meant to continue raising awareness of the critical role youth play in CVE efforts. Over a 100 youth actors and representatives from Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Rwanda shared their experiences and presented ongoing work
The following themes emerged
Drivers and Programming
Though the individual factors vary from country to country, the broad drivers of radicalization and recruitment to violence are similar across the region. They include socioeconomic and political marginalization and disenfranchisement, corrupt governance, underemployment, etc.
- Youth are engaging in their communities using techniques that vary, from psycho-social support, to focus groups, to theater (‘edu-tainment’)- all to build peace and push back against violence.
- Programming must be supported by rigorous research and understanding of local/regional/country-wide drivers in order to effectively address and alleviate conditions conducive to violent extremism. A thorough understanding of the context, audience, and environment is vital.
- When it comes to developing counter-messaging programming, influential voices include parents, sports figures, entertainment figures – all who should be engaged.
Youth Inclusion and Participation
- The multilateral frameworks recognizing the role of youth are now in place (for example, the UN Security Resolution on Youth, Peace, and Security). Now is the time to move from talk to action and to identify resources for actors on the ground.
- Donors and funders need to listen to youth and take their thoughts and feelings into serious consideration. Do not develop and implement youth programming before consulting with youth.
- Youth are a diverse group and cannot be considered as one large group. Understand the different age brackets, gender, different socioeconomic backgrounds, the different needs they have, and the different solutions they develop. For examples, the use of images and short movies may prove very effective in rural areas where literacy may be low and pamphlets with extensive text may not reach their target audience.
- Many youth have formed themselves into groups and have developed their own frameworks and approaches but need to be able to access governments to share lessons learned and help shape the policy that impacts them.
- Governments should be aware of the youth organizations and make a concerted effort to reach out, provide entry points for them, and incorporate them in policy and programming discussions.
Training and protecting youth
- As donors and funders incorporate youth in CVE programming, they must also help develop ways to protect them. Training on risk management and ways to incorporate risk assessment strategies would be helpful to youth organizations.
- Youth organizations have good ideas on powerful and resonant counternarratives but need training on how to develop them and a platform through which to disseminate them. It is equally important to provide such groups with the skills to navigate the administrative processes and bureaucracies in order to successfully conduct and implement their programmes.
- Youth organizations could benefit from civic training that educates young people on their rights, duties, and moral issues on which they can engage in their communities.
- Donor funds for P/CVE projects are often too short-term. Longer-term projects are needed to begin to address the long-standing grievances of youth and also to demonstrate a long-term commitment to alleviate the situation at hand.
- Similarly, the time that passes between writing up a proposal and receiving funding is sometimes too long and hinders the effective and timely implementation of programmes which respond to urgent issues. As such, a programme proposal drafted in July 2016 may have little relevance in July 2017, when the implementation phase may commence.
- Many youth organizations approach CVE from a peacebuilding lens, an approach that donors and funders should be aware of lest they deny funding based on the premise that a general peacebuilding project is outside the CVE mandate.