Empowerment: Children & Youth: Children, Youth & Peacebuilding Processes

War experiences compromise children's humanity, and in most cases, subject them to physical and emotional extreme suffering. The rationale of giving strategic and programmatic focus to children and youth in the peacebuilding phase therefore lies in the obvious necessity to protect their rights, give them justice, and provide them with the support they need in terms of psycho-social and economic recovery.
Go to Human Rights promotion and protection and Transitional justice

But the goal is also to preserve the future human capital of the country. Mass exposure of children and youth to abuse and violence, lack of education, and poor nutrition, but also the disruption of role models and moral standards have long-term implications for governance and peacebuilding.

Timeline of international measures adopted to protect children affected by armed conflicts

1977: First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions (Additional Protocol I) provides that states shall take "all feasible measures in order that children who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities and, in particular, they shall refrain from recruiting them into their armed forces.
1986: Agenda on psychosocial impact of war on children.
1989: Convention on the Rights of the Child
1990: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
1993: United Nations General Assembly adopts resolution 48/157 on the Protection of Children Affected by Armed Conflicts, in which it requests the UN Secretary-General to appoint an independent expert to undertake a comprehensive study on the impact of armed conflict on children.
1996: First UN Secretary General Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children to the UN General Assembly (this was a ground-breaking report prepared by Mrs. Graa Machel, and was the first comprehensive human rights assessment of war-affected children).1
Following the recommendation in the Machel Report, the General Assembly adopted resolution 51/77, which recommended a three-year appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary General for children and armed conflict. (para 35. A/RES/51/77). The Office was set up in 1997.
1998: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted in 1998 (conscription of children under 15 is a war crime).
1999: International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor (the convention lists forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict among the worst forms of child labor).
Security Council Resolution 1261 formally affirms that the protection and security of children affected by armed conflict is an international peace and security issue.
2000: Security Council Resolution 1314 reaffirms this notion that situations where there is systemic flagrant and widespread violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, including that relating to children in situations of armed conflict, may constitute a threat to international peace and security.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (raising the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities from 15 to 18).
2001: Security Council Resolution 1379 urges member states to prosecute those responsible for [] egregious crimes perpetrated against children.
2003: Security Council Resolution 1460 adopt measures to ensure more systematic monitoring and reporting on the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, and other types of abuses and violations committed against children in situations of war.2

The protection of children's needs and rights in armed conflicts

The impact of armed conflicts on children

Compared to adults, all children are vulnerable by nature, but some children are more critically vulnerable than others. Many children find themselves in a downward spiral where each shock leads to a new level of vulnerability, and each new level opens up for a host of new risks.3 Indeed, children are disproportionately affected by armed conflicts in many ways:4

  • War orphans:Many children have lost their parents as a direct result of the violent conflict. In a country like Sierra Leone their number is estimated as of 60,000.
  • Refugees and internally displaced children: According to UNHCR, at least half of refugees and internally displaced people are children; many of them have lost their parents in the process of fleeing violence.
  • Child soldiers: ILO estimates that the number of child soldiers is currently 120,000 and that around 80,000 are so-called 'abductees,' that is, have been abducted to work with armed forces.
  • Injured and disabled children: Children who have become severely injured or permanently disabled from armed conflict are estimated to be 6 million, and WHO estimates that 4 million children live with permanent disabilities resulting from war. A large proportion of injuries and mutilations are due to small arms, landmines (the UN estimates that children in at least 68 countries live amid the threat of more than 110 million landmines still lodged in the ground, awaiting an unwary step), and items of unexploded ordnance. These continue their devastation long after a conflict ends, often for decades. Children are known to be particularly at risk.
  • Sexually abused: Girls and boys are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, including rape, sexual mutilation, and forced prostitution.5 As a result, there is also an increased risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS.
  • Traumatized children: War-affected children suffer from a wide range of symptoms such as developmental delays, nightmares, lack of appetite and learning difficulties.6
  • Increasing threats to survival: A large proportion of minors are alone, have lost their parents and other family members, and provide for themselves. In some cases, war-affected children may be heading households and taking care of their siblings. Child-headed households are particularly vulnerable to exploitative labor and prostitution. Children in conflict and post-conflict situations are also often more exposed to disease, malnutrition, poor hygienic conditions, and reduced access to basic health services. "Recent research has shown that during the first five years of peace, the average under-five mortality rate remains 11 percent higher than its corresponding level before the conflict."7 Many are also deprived of their rights to education (both because of the destruction of the infrastructure and the effect of violence on teaching forces as many teachers are killed or have fled).8

The international legal framework for child protection in armed conflict

Go to Human Rights promotion and protection

Over the last two decades, the issue of the protection of children in armed conflicts has attracted growing attention and importance on the international stage. The attention has focused on two key issues:

  • The mental health and psychosocial well-being of children affected by armed conflict;
  • The situation of child soldiers and, more particularly, the interdiction of conscription before the age of 18 (since 2000).

The mental health and psychological well-being of children affected by armed conflicts

In 1986, at a meeting of the UNICEF executive board and nongovernmental organizations, the agenda reflected concern for the psychosocial effects on children in war. In 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, providing a framework for considering the needs and best interests of children. The ratification of this convention by 191 countries has had a major impact on the work with children in all spheres. Article 39 specifically refers to children in armed conflicts and requires states to take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery of children who have been victims "of any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture, or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child."9 This imperative has helped to ensure that in recent times psychosocial work has gone beyond addressing the individual needs of children to enhance the environment and the social setting of the affected population.10

The prevention of the participation of children in armed conflicts

As illustrated by the timeline, the situation of child soldiers has gained increasing attention, in particular over the last decade. While all these steps have been instrumental in the protection of the rights of children in wars, and in preventing their participation in armed conflicts, three key international legal instructions can be highlighted:

The protection of children in armed conflicts has been supported by improved collaboration between UN agencies and organs, as well as with NGOs. Key partnerships have been developed, especially at the field level. Along with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are the most active. In the new human rights infrastructure of the UN, the Human Rights Council and the Committee on the Rights of the Child are also central in ensuring that the different legal instruments available are of some use.11  Go to main actors: outsiders

One of the major achievements by the international community was to raise the minimum age from 15 to 18. However, a central challenge now is "to make international humanitarian law understood, recognized, and enforced in places where children are recruited into armed conflicts on a daily basis. Beyond strengthening international laws and making them widely known, it is vital to reinforce local understandings and norms about notions of childhood and child protection from war, as well as to consider the intersections between international and local understandings. Local communities and civil society groups must become actively involved in monitoring conflict situations and making efforts to stop abuses of children's rights."12While many agencies, organizations, and activist groups have, over the years, been able to gather information about the situation of children in the areas where they operate, so far these efforts have not been effective in enforcing international laws and ensuring that violators cannot act with impunity.13

A series of recent judicial developments are, nevertheless, worth mentioning as they may constitute important precedents. The trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, founder and leader of the union des patriotes congolais (UPC), before the International Criminal Court, the first individual being charged solely for the conscription and use of children under the age of 15 years for active participation in hostilities, has been momentous for the message it sends to those who recruit and use children. Although the case has been suspended on technical grounds pending an appeal, the Court has indicated there are reasonable grounds to believe that Thomas Lubanga committed the crimes alleged against him. Similar commitments to address child rights violations by the Special Court for Sierra Leone and some national tribunals such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also important developments in the fight against impunity.14

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The roles of children & youth in conflict

Not only victims of violence

Experience of war is far from transforming children and young people into mere victims of violence. They have often been both victims of the processes of imposed militarization and violence, and at least in part, perpetrators of that violence as well. Some of them may have also voluntarily enrolled and participated in violence. It is not rare to meet former child soldiers who have gone to several DDR processes and ended up returning to fight because they felt that they could have a better life and a social status that civilian life would not afford them. It is also often "youth who socialize the new recruits and who sometimes identify which youth are to be abducted. Having themselves been inducted in this manner, they reproduce the conflict both through the brutalization of their peers and by creating supportive 'family.' Indeed, it is often the promise of new 'family' or community that attracts youth to armed groups, particularly those who have been displaced by war. Youth may enter armed groups for a meal or shelter or clothing. Or, asserting their own power, they may enter as substitutes for peers, siblings, and adult family members, or to save whole communities from attack. Voluntary enlistment of youth in armed groups is also influenced by peers."15 Indeed, what motivates young people to co-operate with armed groups is as varied as the individuals themselves, and as the huge variety of educational, developmental and personal influences in their lives.16 Now, this experience blurs the usual categories (in particular victim/perpetrator), creating new social status and hierarchies, and may transform drastically the way these boys and girls (re)adjust or not to the post-conflict environment and the roles they are assigned.

That armed conflict affects children and child development is well-documented. "That involvement irrevocably leads to broken souls and moral dissolution is, however, up to debate."17 Social anthropologist Jo Boyden was among the first researchers to challenge the view of war-survivor children as traumatized individuals, victims in need of remedial care. She called for a paradigmatic shift that would involve "thinking about children as agents of their own development who, even during times of great adversity, consciously act upon and influence the environments in which they live."18She argued that children were able to negotiate a landscape marked by violence and limited resources without losing their humanity. In fact, research suggests: "children may not be as liable to moral disorientation as many imagine."19

Roberto Beneduce, an ethno-psychiatrist who has researched the situation of former child soldiers in different conflict and post-conflict situations, also agrees that this participation in war violence does not always and necessarily imply psycho-pathological effects or damage. 20 These researches also emphasize the diversity of child soldiers situations. Among them, the experience of girls is often badly understood and they are often even more reduced to a victim, even more so than boys.21  Go to Women and girls as former combatants

A transition of youth to adulthood affected by violence

As stated in a Report by the UN Secretary-General, "all cultures recognize adolescence as a highly significant period in which young people learn future roles and incorporate the values and norms of their societies. The extreme and often prolonged circumstances of armed conflict interfere with identity development. Despite all of this, adolescents, during or after wars, seldom receive any special attention or assistance. This is a matter of urgent concern."22 Indeed, the transition of youth to adulthood may be severely compromised or at least affected by the violence, which justifies that this group receives specific attention. In many cases, children and adolescents are forced to take on adult roles and responsibilities long before they reach the age. Yet, social and economic constraints, in particular, may affect that transition.23 The dislocation of people from their homes and communities may have disrupted normal patterns of social interaction, notably disrupting the transmission of cultural knowledge and social practices to youth and children. Some traditional community leaders may no longer command respect and authority because of their perceived complicity in the war. Children and young people may have also seen their role models that include parents, teachers or elders, torture and kill each other while some trade their children for food and security. "This act of breaching the expected moral standards of behavior by authoritative figures are translated by children as betrayal, which in turn, are manifested in themselves, as they grow up."24 Studies have shown that, even when the war is over, these effects continue, influence children and youths occupational choice and relationships with others later in life.25

A number of studies have also shown that child soldiers develop a new relation to violence and some sense of separation between the "entity" who commits the violence and their true "self."26 This does not mean that they do not feel guilt and self-loathing,27 but this may change their relationship to violence. "A common feature of the post-war landscape is the evolution of gangs, community defense organizations, and vigilante groups made up of marginalized youth, many transitioning from militaries and rebel groups, or returning from exile."28 In post-conflict countries, "young men represent a disproportionately high share of the perpetrators and victims of gun-related, lethal violence. Yet, it is important to stress that only a small minority of young men becomes involved in armed violence."29 For those young men, the recourse to violence is learned. "If unable to fulfill socially defined masculine roles, they adopt violent alternatives as a mean of asserting their place in society."30 However, these gangs also count girls among their members, even though youth violence is often wrongly associated with young men only.

This phenomenon may have harmful consequences as there might be a tendency to associate youth with violence and to treat this category mainly in terms of threat to society, overlooking its positive contribution.31 Youth are important agents of social change and have central roles to play in reconstruction, peacebuilding, development of participatory democracies and the achievement of positive outcomes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.32 This also goes with a tendency to treat youth "as a single identity group."33 Youth are not a homogenous group that necessarily aligns with stereotypes. An understanding of youth, differences between youths, and appropriate responses is critical to developing strategies that address youth issues.34

Easy to mobilize

Often socially excluded in the peacebuilding phase, having little or no voice in policymaking, young people will try to find a sense of belonging elsewhere; they may also be easier to mobilize by power brokers, sometimes cutting across different socio-economic strata and ethnic, linguistic or geographical identities.35 Recruitment mechanisms used during the war may also be at play in political mobilization campaigns, in particular in electoral contexts. As some studies have stressed, "when paths to legitimate status in defense of the community are blocked [...], there appear to be two main ways in which adolescents can channel their energy and impulses to fight for the cause of their community: either through participation in paramilitary organizations, or in protest movements and popular insurgence, where they may conduct attacks on state forces, and engage in rioting and street violence."36 This does not only mean that youth can be easily manipulated by political actors; it means that they can play crucial political roles, in particular in pre and post-electoral periods.  Go to Democracy & Governance: Electoral processes and political parties

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Children and youth as actors in peacebuilding processes

"While young people are seen as agents of violence, they are not necessarily identified as full actors in peace settings, and they are not recognized as having an active role as civil society actors, political constituents or participants in measures to redress violence. Young people are sometimes urged to be peacemakers, but they are seldom mentioned in responses to conflict through governance and political measures."37 This assessment by a UNDP report summarizes the challenge face when talking about children and youth in peacebuilding processes. This perception has been evolving as the notion of youth empowerment and the call for their full participation in post-conflict recovery processes have now been endorsed by most actors. At the UN, governments are encouraged to involve youth in policy making through consultations with youth-led organizations and delegations to UN forums.38 Another UN report encourages governments and international actors "to engage youth as essential civil society, reconstruction and development partners. [...] If a national youth strategy does not exist, engage youth in developing one, as well as policies and programmes that immediately support their well-being and ownership of the political processes."39 Burundi, one of the countries who benefits from the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), has youth (as well as women) specially called on as actors to strengthen peace and social cohesion in its PBF Priority Plan. However, despite all these declarations of principles, much of the potential of this empowerment agenda is yet to be realized.40

This section does not speak to how peacebuilding programs address victimization and marginalization of children and youth affected by war violence (an aspect which is developed in other subsections of this portal), but rather how children and youth are asserting themselves as true actors in the process. It deals with the reasons why children and young people should also be viewed as peacebuilders, the ways in which some of them are actually endorsing this role in a number of cases, and provides concrete illustrations in different areas, namely: in civil society and democratic decision-making, in media production, in conflict transformation and reconciliation programs, in psycho-social recovery, in human rights and transitional justice, on security issues, and in economic recovery.

It is worth noting that emphasizing this role does not mean that the need for protection should be underestimated. A decisive factor in peacebuilding programs engaged with children and youth as with any other group of the population is the need for a safe environment; this has to take into consideration specific risks that children and youth may face, in particular when they are former combatants.

Children and youth as peacebuilders

Children and youth can in each case, be considered as peacemakers and peacebuilders, or conversely, as troublemakers. They represent the future of the country; therefore, engaging them in peace processes and socializing them as peacebuilders early on is important. Bringing their perspective on the conflict as well as on how peace can be built, their experience and resources, not only help having access to a new set of knowledge but constitute an important experience of inclusion.

Anthropological studies have revealed the existence of supporting networks and communities by children themselves in war-zones. In Angola, during the war, street children created supportive communities in the storm drains beneath the streets. They shared limited resources and created their own system of ideas governing the community. Carolyn Nordstrom, who has studied this, explained that youth provided each other with surrogate family and community, physical protection, and emotional and economic support in ways that are also part of a peacebuilding continuum.41 In Sierra Leone, Wessells and Jonah found that a dominant girl soldier, nicknamed 'Mommy Queen,' protected younger girls in an armed group and she reported reuniting 130 children with their families after fighting was over.42 Youth in Bosnia rebuilt a fountain to recreate an historic meeting place for youth of deeply divided communities.43

Relying on that experience and that potential in the peacebuilding phase can be crucial not only for their own individual recovery but also for the benefit of their community, as exemplified by experiences undertaken by organizations such as Save the Children who have involved children in decisions that affect them and, more broadly, in the community recovery program.44 Meaningful participation in community life appears to be an effective way to develop the potential of young people, especially during times of social conflict and crisis. As noted in a UNICEF publication, "whether the community is a war-torn village or a refugee camp, young people will need encouragement and guidance to develop their potential and contribute to their communities. With adequate support and access to necessary resources, they can become agents for change and provide a foundation for rebuilding lives and communities, contributing to a more just and peaceful society."45 With children who still leave with their family, empowering family members is a crucial component of the strategy to empower children, through educational programs. For instance, in Sri Lanka, "Little Elephant Finds His Courage" illustrated storybook and discussion guide formed the cornerstone of a family empowerment project for 20,000 war-affected people living in displacement camps and villages.46

A report published by Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, an independent affiliate of the International Rescue Committee, based on action-oriented studies designed and led by adolescent research teams in Kosovo, northern Uganda and Sierra Leone, present the following summary of what had motivated young people to be engaged in peacebuilding related activities and what has been the impact on their lives:

Young people in emergencies and post-conflict said they undertook research, advocacy and engaged in humanitarian programs to:
  • overcome boredom, and to distract themselves from thoughts of war and loss;
  • make friends;
  • connect with the international community;
  • gain status and a sense of belonging/inclusion as part of a group;
  • help themselves and their communities;
  • develop leadership, research and other skills.

They said they emerged with:

  • increased self-esteem;
  • communication and social skills;
  • knowledge about themselves and their peers and community;
  • solutions and ideas for action;
  • connections to one another and key adults;
  • improved community status;
  • a sense of identity and direction;
  • a sense of being better understood by some adults.
Womens Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Youth Speak Out: New Voices on the Protection and Participation of Young People Affected by Armed Conflict. January 2005, 30.

Children and youth's participation in civil society and democratic decision-making

Young people also have their own organizations and movements which are an important part of local civil societies. A number of international networks have also emerged, which support this general movement. These are concrete avenues through which children and youth start having a voice in the democratic life.  Go to Actors and Activities

Go to the Key websites for youth-led organizations and youth empowerment programs

Meaningful participation of children in democratic decision-making is a relatively new concept and still subject to experiment; the movement for child participation in the developing world is gathering momentum. Paradoxically, the case for youth participation is even more difficult. "Child participation forums, as are becoming more common in advocacy circles, will likely exclude over-18s. Youth have neither the special status nor the legal protection that may eventually guarantee children a voice in policymaking."47 This reality is slowly evolving, as the use of youth councils has been increasingly favored by different actors of the international community, in particular in economic recovery programs. One of the motives for that inclusion is the conscience that "young people acquire a status through conflict, and if they are defrauded of this status when peace returns, they can turn into 'spoilers.'"48 The Youth Employment Network, a consortium of The World Bank, the ILO and the UN, strongly advocates for the use of youth councils. UNDP also promotes the use of youth forums, and identifies support of youth forums as one its main areas of work on youth.49 UNDP cites declining political engagement of youth, as evidenced by disproportionately low numbers of youth in local and national government,50 as the primary reason that the organization supports and promotes youth forums and councils as a way of getting youth involved in decision-making.51 But disagreements exist about the actual functioning and impact of these councils, sometimes pushed by outsiders. 
Go to Key debates and implementation challenges

Children and youth in media production

Children have also been increasingly involved in media production, particularly radio programs dealing with peacebuilding issues and addressing people of their age group. Peace media also produce youth programs, which often involve teams of young journalists (adolescents) and target audience of children and youth. In Bukavu (East of DRC), the radio of the Centre Lokole (Search for Common Ground) has special programs for children and youth produced by a team of children and adolescents (Sisi Watoto). They address topics that matter to young people of their age. A guide for youth radio production for peacebuilding published by Search for Common Ground examines the big positive impact youth radio can have on young people in the midst of terrible circumstances. Youth radio can:

  • "Fill the information void that most young people experience in conflict zones. Young people say that the lack of access to accurate information leaves them vulnerable to manipulation;
  • Help youth to understand root causes of conflict. Youth are often pulled onto one side or another without understanding why there is conflict in the first place.
  • Teach youth about their rights and how to protect those rights. In situations where young people's rights are so severely violated, it is important that they know what rights they have;
  • Help youth make good decisions in response to things that are happening to them. Young people often feel that they have no choice but to respond with violence;
  • Spark youth to action so that they take on positive roles in their own communities;
  • Create outlets for youth voices, helping them communicate with each other and with adult decision-makers. Radio programmes which put young people's voices on the air help them speak directly to their elders about the issues that they face. And when young people hear themselves on the radio they begin to feel that someone does care about the issues that concern them;
  • Model positive responses which youth can have to conflict, showing all listeners that youth dont have to be seen as The Problem, that they can play a positive role in building peace." 52
Go to Public information and media development

Children and youth engaged in conflict transformation and reconciliation

A wide range of organizations are engaged in international youth exchange programs, aiming at reconciliation and confidence-building (See Key websites). The NGO Seeds of Peace is dedicated to empowering young leaders from regions of conflict with the leadership skills required to advance reconciliation and coexistence. The organization first focused on Middle East but has expanded its programming to include young leaders from Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Its leadership network now encompasses over 3,500 young people. The organization is famous for its Seeds of Peace summer camp in Otisfield, Maine (U.S.) which has served as a 'safe place' for Israeli and Palestinian teenagers to spend extended periods of time together. This NGO also organizes international youth conferences, regional workshops, educational and professional opportunities, and an adult educator program. Participants are lead to "develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills -- all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation."53 Many of those young leaders have been developing their own initiatives in their communities.

Other organizations are involved in the support to youth centers, such as the organization CARDI in Indonesia. They are used to spread tolerance and information about problems facing young people. They are also a meeting point where young people from both sides of the religious divide can exchange ideas over a board game or after a volleyball match.54  Go to Reconciliation

Some programs also aim at allowing children and youth to take on a different role in the society. "Too often, history is presented as a rigid concept and children are led to believe that their place in history and their associated roles cannot be challenged, let alone changed."55 To give children a sense that this can be different is to invite them into a transformative process. Peace education programs contribute to that goal; they share many of the characteristics of skills-based programs. Peace education refers to "the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behaviour changes that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup, national or international level."56 Programs undertaken under this rubric are also sometimes referred to as civic or human rights education programs. They seek to educate children and youth about resolving disputes through peaceful means, the importance of human rights, and the virtues of dialogue, tolerance and diversity.  Go to Memorialisation, Historiography and History Education

Youth organizations are also involved in all kind of cultural and artistic activities to promote reconciliation. In East Congo, the Chem-Chem is a theater group composed of former child soldiers (male and female children and youth who are now between 15 and 21 years old). They use the techniques of theatre of the oppressed and participatory theatre for conflict transformation to raise awareness on issues close to youth concerns but which also refer to the peacebuiding process at large in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo: rapes, war orphans, child prostitution and sexual exploitation of minors, accusation of sorcery against kids (a widely spread practice in that area of DRC), street children, discrimination practices, AIDS, war crimes and massacres, etc. They play for young people in schools and youth centers but also entire communities, in public places (such as market places), and are particularly brave in bringing issues which are often very sensitive at the time. They are also excellent drummers and create their own songs to tell their story of former child soldiers now engaged as peacebuilders.57  Go to Reconciliation

In very similar ways, sports have been increasingly used as a tool for development and peace. While many programs are initiated by adults and NGOs who bring young people together, less known experiences are also initiated by small youth associations, with sport competitions, soccer games, outdoor activities.

Empowering children and youth in psycho-social recovery programs

The past decade has seen dramatic progress in the way children are approached in peace processes, notably efforts to 'mainstream' child protection in United Nations peace mission mandates, specialized, separate DDR programs for under-18s and in the improvement in of family tracing and reunification programs. But most practitioners stress also the need to help children and youth construct a positive reality, (re)-establish positive bonds with families and communities, and ultimately fully reintegrate into community life. The fact that many child soldiers, for instance, "were victims as well as perpetrators" is a reality that families and communities need to understand.58 This "involves the rebuilding of trust within and between communities-- something from which children will not only benefit greatly but to which they are well able to contribute, given the proper encouragement and support."59

Interestingly, among the rare true 'success stories' of reintegration and reconciliation are those occasions where the communities themselves have utilized local resources in order to reinterpret traditions and rituals of reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing to support the healing and reintegration of former combatants, in particular former child soldiers. These communities generally approach return as a process not just of reintegration into the community, but as further reconciliation between families, clans and sub-clans which are integrally tied up in the reintegration and reconciliation process.60 In those ceremonies, children and young people are generally re-introduced in a local order (which may sometimes include a hierarchy) but they are not only treated as victims, and are rather considered as true actors and full members of the community.
Go to Trauma, Mental Health & Psycho-social well-being: Case studies: Mozambique: Community reintegration of child soldiers and traditional rituals and Uganda: mato oput ceremonies 

Children and youth involvement in human rights and transitional justice

Youth organizations often pursue some human rights activities (in terms of monitoring, advocacy, lobbying and education) even though the focus of their work is informed by their constituency. In various countries, they have also been involved in discussions about transitional justice mechanisms. Not only does this offer children a sense of empowerment, but it can be of use to the overarching realization of justice, as children are present witnesses, victims, and even perpetrators of violence. For instance, in June 2004 a children's summit was held in Rwanda and "the children stated that Gacaca (traditional judicial system) did not include the participation of children. Children mentioned that they saw what happened during the genocide of 1994 and knew that some of the adults were not telling the truth. The children wanted to be involved as protected witnesses. As a result, UNICEF has been discussing child participation with the Ministry of Justice.61 Young individuals have also appear as witnesses at the United Nations or tribunals of inquiry, such as the Northern Ireland youth delegation to the International Tribunal for Children's Rights in Colchester, UK, in 2000. These are other constructive examples of youth utilizing and developing their skills in meaningful peace building activity: in this case awareness-raising advocacy."62 The United Nations has developed guidelines encouraging the mainstreaming of children's issues in all rule of law efforts. The UN Secretary General has recently published a guidance note to that respect.63   Go to Security and Public Order: DDR

Youth organizations engaged on security issues

Youth organizations are also engaged in guaranteeing the security of their neighborhood or raising awareness about small arms and violence. One such example is the UNDP's "Illicit Small Arms Control (ISAC) Project" in Kosovo.64 The project had three regional "Youth Awareness Projects," and involved 38 youth groups and 18,000 young people. To mobilize youth against illicit small arms and violence, the project members were involved directly in implementing and participating in coordinated campaign events using radio, television, public demonstrations, concerts, community forums, sporting tournaments, art and photography exhibitions, concerts, and dramatic presentations. An important result of this initiative was the Kosovan youth documentary, entitled "In the Hands of Youth," "which broke taboos on speaking publicly about the possession, use, and effects of arms" and has been used in Police training curriculum.

Youth organizations engaged in economic recovery

Young people-- and sometimes children who have to take care of their own living and their siblings-- are also very concerned by economic recovery. While there has been a growing awareness that young people should not only be important beneficiaries of economic programs but are useful as true agents for economic recovery, the process of engaging or consulting with youths has been uneven.65

However, they are directly concerned by a series of very concrete economic challenges such as land and property issues, in particular for those who have been refugees and internal displaced and are returning to their community. Mechanisms for restitution or the return of land and property, whether there are formal or informal titles- are critical to successful reconciliation and reintegration, and to give youth a sense of security.66 This right is particularly critical for children who are among "those who stand to inherit property from deceased members who were displaced."67 They often face difficulties in claiming property, especially when there are informal titles to land and property.68

Specifically relating to post-conflict economic recovery, employment strategies are increasingly focusing on capacity building for youth.69 Unemployment is, indeed, one of the most critical challenges facing youth. In 1996, the World Programme of Action for Youth began to note "the increasing difficulty for young people returning from armed conflict and confrontation in integrating into the community and gaining access to education and employment."70 This represented a trend towards attention to young ex-combatants and their needs in promoting peace. In 2001, several international organizations established the Youth Employment Network (YEN) "to bring together policymakers, employers and workers, young people and other stakeholders to pool their skills, experience and knowledge in order to find new, innovative and sustainable solutions to the youth employment challenge."71 International organizations such as UNDP seek to address the problem through employment generation programs, microcredit, and skills training.72 The promotion of entrepreneurship and self-employment is also part of those programs as it can serve as "major sources of employment opportunities"73 for young people-- a key issue in promoting peace. Vocational skills training programs are also developed but young people often complain that either they do not correspond to their aspirations or are not relevant to the realities of the labor market. The creation of youth councils have been encouraged by outsiders to involve young people themselves more directly into these choices but their actual influence is disputed. Economic recovery and youth employment is clearly an area in which young people are trying to be more into the driver seat.

1. Graa Machel, The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (1996). UN A/51/306. Add.1.
2. Alcinda Honwana. "Children's Involvement in War: Historical and Social Contexts." The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 1.1 (2008) 139-149. Rachel Harvey. "Children and Armed Conflict: A Guide to International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law." The Children and Armed Conflict Unit and the International Bureau for Childrens Rights.
3. The World Bank: Vulnerable Children and Youth.
4. Daniel Toole, "Peacebuilding Strategies: Transition from Relief to Development: Why Children and Early Intervention Matter," (UNICEF: October 2006), 3. Free the Children, "War: Effects on Children." The World Bank: Vulnerable Children and Youth.
5. See: Lisa Alfredson, "Sexual Exploitation of Child Soldiers: An Exploration and Analysis of Global Dimensions and Trends," Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, 2001.
6. See for instance Julie Guyot, "Suffer the Children: The Need for Psychosocial Rehabilitation as a Function of Peace-Building," Child Justice, 2005.
7. Toole, "Peacebuilding Strategies: Transition from Relief to Development," 3.
8. The World Bank (WB), Reshaping the Future: Education and Postconflict Reconstruction (Washington, D.C.: 2005), 13.
9. Maryanne Loughry, Roundtable on the Demography of Forced Migration, Carola Eyber, Roundtable on the Demography of Forced Migration, Joseph L. Mailman, School of Public Health Program on Forced Migration and Health, Psychosocial Concepts in Humanitarian Work with Children: A Review of the Concepts and Related Literature (National Academies Press: 2003), 4-5.
10. Ibid., 4-5.
11. Report of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. A/63/227.8 (August 2008), 4.
12. Alcinda Honwana, "Children's Involvement in War: Historical and Social Contexts," The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 1.1 (2008), 143.
13. Ibid.
14. Report of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. A/63/227. 8, 4.
15. Siobhan McEvoy-Levy ed., Troublemakers or Peacemakers? Youth and post-accord peacebuilding (South Bend, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).
16. Angela McIntyre, "Rights, Root Causes and recruitment: The youth factor in Africas armed conflicts," African Security Review 12. No 2, (2003).
17. Guyot, "Suffer the Children: The Need for Psychosocial Rehabilitation as a Function of Peace-Building," 7.
18. Jo Boyden, "Children under Fire: Challenging Assumptions about Childrens Resilience," Children, Youth and Environments 13(1) (Spring 2003).
19. Ibid.
20. Roberto Beneduce, "Contested memories: Peace-building and community rehabilitation after violence and mass crimes A medico-anthropological approach," In Pouligny, Beatrice, Simon Chesterman, Albrecht Schnabel, eds. After Mass Crimes: Rebuilding States and Communities, United Nations University Press (2006): 55.
21. Susan McKay, and Dyan Mazurana, Where Are The Girls? Girls in fighting forces in Northern Uganda, Sierra Leone and Mozambique: Their lives during and after war ( 2004), 18.
22. Note by the UN Secretary-General. "Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children: Impact of Armed Conflict on Children." A/51/150 (26 August 1996), |-| 170.
23. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), "Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?," United Nations Development Programme (Geneva: 2006), 23.
24. Mary Yong Meng Yoong, "Child Soldiers: Problems of definition, Role and Factors for Recruitment," Journal of the Royal Malaysia Police Senior Officers College (2004), 8.
25. Ibid and Mona Macksound, Children in War, World Health Vol. 47, No. 2 (March/April 1994).
26. Boia Jr. Efraime, "The Psychic Reconstruction of Former and Youth Soldiers and Militia," Children, War and Persecution Rebuilding Hope Proceedings of the congress in Maputo, Mozambique, 1-4 December 1996.
27. Elizabeth Protacio-De Castro, Ph.D.,[46] "Children in Armed Conflict Situations: Focus on Child Soldiers in the Philippines," Kasarinlan 16, no. 2. Third World Studies Center, University of the Philippines (2001).
28. McEvoy-Levy ed., Troublemakers or Peacemakers? Youth and post-accord peacebuilding.
29.Small Arms Survey, Gender: Young Men.
30. Ibid.
31. UNDP, "Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?," 11.
32. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), "Guide to the Implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth," Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations (2006), 74.
33. UNDP, "Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?," 38.
34. Ibid., 74.
35. McIntyre, "Rights, Root Causes and recruitment: The youth factor in Africa's armed conflicts."
36. Marie Smyth, "Youth in Violently Divided Societies," USIP (April 24, 2003).
37. UNDP, "Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?," 33.
38. United Nations Economic and Social Council, Official Records (ECOSOC), "Commission for Social Development: Report on the forty-fifth session (22 March 2006 and 716 February 2007)," United Nations Economic and Social Council, Official Records, Supplement No.6 (E/2007/26), 2007, 19-20.
39. DESA, "Review of National Action Plans on Youth Employment: Putting Commitment into Action," Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations (2007), 76.
40. Youth at the United Nations, The United Nations Youth Agenda: Empowering Youth for Development and Peace, United Nations.
41. Carolyn Nordstrom, Girls and Warzones: Troubling Questions. Life & Peace Institute (Uppsala, Sweden: 1997), and her contribution in Troublemakers or Peacemakers? Youth and Post-Accord Peacebuilding, edited by Siobhn McEvoy-Levy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).
42. M. Wessells, and D. Jonah, Reintegration of former youth soldiers in Sierra Leone: Challenges of reconciliation and post-accord peacebuilding, in Troublemakers or Peacemakers? Youth and Post-Accord Peacebuilding, edited by Siobhn McEvoy-Levy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).
43. Jeffrey Helsing, Namik Kirlic, Neil McMaster, and Nir Sonnenschein, "Young People's Activism and the Transition to Peace: Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and Israel," in Troublemakers or Peacemakers? Youth and Post-Accord Peacebuilding, edited by Siobhn McEvoy-Levy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).
44. Among the publications of Save the Children International, see in particular "So You Want to Consult with Children?," A toolkit of good practice: how to get started, organise a consultation, ensure quality follow up and more (November 2003); "So You Want to Involve Children in Research," A toolkit supporting children's meaningful and ethical participation in research relating to violence against children (2004). Save the Children UK has published: "DIY Toolkit: Improving your community - getting children and young people involved," October 2005 (This guide provides tried and tested methods for encouraging young people to become actively involved in local community regeneration), "Practice Standards in Children's Participation," January 2005 (This publication presents a set of practice standards developed by Save the Children on the basis of its experience in children's participation in countries across the world), "Empowering Children and Young People: Promoting involvement in decision-making," January 1997 (This is a practical resource for professionals and young people to help children contribute to decisions that affect them, as individuals and as a group).
45. UNICEF, "Map of Programmes for Adolescent Participation During Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations," (UNICEF: 2003), 3.
46. www.littleelephant.org
47. McIntyre, "Rights, Root Causes and recruitment: The youth factor in Africas armed conflicts."
48. UNDP, "Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?," 25.
49. Ibid., 45.
50. Ibid., 50.
51. Ibid., 25.
52. Michael Shipler, "Youth Radio for Peacebuilding. A Guide, 2nd Edition." Search for Common Ground and Radio for Peacebuilding Africa (Washington, DC: 2006), 15.
53. http://www.idealist.org/if/i/en/av/Org/5519-92; See also www.seedsforpeace.org
54. Peter Biro, "Mata Hari: The Voice of Reconciliation," International Rescue Committee (Indonesia: 9 July 2007).
55. Kenneth D. Bush and Diane Saltarelli, The Two Faces of Ethnic Conflict: Towards a Peacebuilding Education for Children (Florence, Italy: UNICEF Innocenti Research Center, 2000), 20.
56. UNICEF, Peace Education in UNICEF (New York: UNICEF Education Section, 1999), 1.
57. Batrice Pouligny, Thtre Participatif pour la Transformation des Conflits au Sud Kivu (Rpublique dmocratique du Congo : Juin 2007).
58. N. Boothby, "Working in the War Zone: A Look at Psychological Theory and Practice from the Field," Mind and Interaction 2 (1990), 30-36.
59. Jo Boyden, Jo de Berry, Thomas Feeny, and Jason Hart. "Children Affected by Armed Conflict in South Asia: A Review of Trends and Issues Identified Through Secondary Research," University of Oxford, Refugees Studies Centre (January 2002), 49.
60. See for instance in the case of Northern Uganda: Aki Stavrou and Angela Veale, "Violence, Reconciliation and Identity the Reintegration of Lords Resistance Army Child Abductees in Northern Uganda," Institute for Security Studies, 2003.
61. Ruth Kahuranaga, "Children Affected by Armed Conflict: Child Rights Law vs. Compliance," 4th World Congress on Family Law and Child Rights (Cape Town, South Africa: 20-23 March 2005), 23-24.
62. Siobhan McEvoy-Levy, "Children as Social and Political Agents: Issues in Post-Settlement Peace Building," Kroc Institute Occasional Paper #21 (December 2001).
63. UN Secretary-General. UN Approach to Justice for Children. Guidance Note of the Secretary-General, NY: United Nations, September 2008.
64. UNDP, "Small Arms and Light Weapons," Essentials, UNDP Practice Area: Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Synthesis of Lessons Learned, No. 9 ( October 2002): 6.
65. UNDP, "Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?," 38.
66. The Brookings Institute, When Displacement Ends: A Framework for Durable Solutions, The Brookings Institution- University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement, May 2007, 10.
67. Ibid., 10.
68. Khalid Koser, The Return of Refugees and IDPs and Sustainable Peace, The Brookings Institution (February 10, 2008).
69. DESA, "Guide to the Implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth," 73.
70. UNDP, "Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?," 36.
71. DESA, "Review of National Action Plans on Youth Employment: Putting Commitment into Action," 6.
72. UNDP, "Youth and Violent Conflict: Society and Development in Crisis?," 46.
73. David H. Freedman, "Youth Employment Promotion: A Review of ILO Work and the Lessons Learned," International Labour Office, Employment Strategy Department, 2005/1, 47.

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