United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

On December 20, 2015, the United Nations outgoing Secretary General, Banki Moon during presentation of the ‘Plan of Action to prevent violent extremism’ described youth as an ‘untapped resource’ that must be empowered to make positive contributions to the development of their nations.

The term ‘youth’ generally is defined by age; as occupying the transitional stage between childhood and adulthood. The UNSCR 2250 without prejudice to national and regional variations defines youth as persons between the ages 18-29.

The United Nations has called the attention of the world to the fact that more than 600 million young people live in fragile and conflict affected societies. Youth are considered to be arguably the most affected; either as victims or as perpetrators of the myriad of violent conflicts in the world today. This minimalist interpretation has contributed in securitizing them as a rising threat to global peace and security.

While it is obvious that a lot of youth are engineers and perpetrators of violent crimes, it is also true that majority of youth are contributing to peace building and they remain an essential instrument for sustainable peace. This new narrative supported by the United Nations Security Council challenges the former.

The importance of engaging young men and young women in shaping lasting peace was recognized by the adoption of UNSCR 2250 in December 2015. This global policy framework spotlighted the nexus between youth, peace and security and also emphasized youth inclusion into institutions and mechanism for conflict prevention, resolution and building sustainable peace.

This article primarily is aimed at raising awareness for this policy framework and also to call on all Local, States and the Federal Government of Nigeria to put their commitments into actions.

Experts in early warning systems have consistently posited that the increasing rate of youth dominated population matched with high level of unemployment is a challenge for national security and sustainable peace. For example, in Nigeria, an estimated 70% of her populations are below the age of thirty (30) years while she also boasts of a 13.3% unemployment rate. The inability of the government to productively engage and cater for her surplus populations continually threaten internal security and automatically provides the pool for mobilisation by armed groups.
During and after conflicts, young persons are the most hit. They are faced with death and injury, loss of loved ones, halt of education, destruction of homes, risk of displacement, forced recruitment into armed groups as soldiers, sexual abuse and are also forced to take up responsibilities attributed to adults such as raising their younger ones and so forth.

In the case of Boko Haram, it has been established that poor governance, perceived marginalization, high rate of illiteracy and the mesmeric preaching’s by religious leaders have been identified as one major reason for the successful mobilisation of youth into the sect. Although there are variations as to the reasons why youth join and get involved in organizations that use terror. These reasons are however summarized into religious, political, economic, social and emotional.

On December 9, 2015, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2250. This global policy framework, which is binding on all member states of the United Nations, was sequel to the Global forum on youth, peace and security held in August 2015 in Amman, Jordan. Its adoption was celebrated by youth across the world because it recognizes the actual potentials and x-rays the impact of conflicts on young people and how they can be included in the quest for sustainable peace.

Components of UNSCR 2250

There are five (5) main components of this resolution. These are participation; protection; prevention; partnership and disengagement /reintegration.

Participation: Government at all levels has been asked by this resolution to increase the representation of youth in decision making institutions and mechanism for the prevention and resolutions of conflicts. Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated a committee to be chaired by Professor Oshita O. Oshita, (Director General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution). This committee was charged with the responsibility of drafting a tentative strategy to deal with the incessant Fulani herdsmen and farmers crisis ravaging the nation.

In contradiction to the resolution, no young man or woman was selected for this committee. Despite the UNSCR 2250 making it clear that youth must be included and given a seat at tables like this.

Protection: The resolution asks member states including Nigeria and parties in armed conflict to ensure the protection of young men and women during armed conflicts and post conflict reconstructions. It emphasized that children should not be recruited as soldiers and they shouldn’t be the target of violent attacks. The protection especially of girls and women from all forms of sexual and gender based violence should be the priority of all.

The inability of security agencies to protect her citizenry manifested in the abduction of over two hundred (200) girls by members of the proscribed armed group (Boko Haram) from Chibok Secondary School in Borno State. Though, government recently secured the release of twenty one (21) of the girls, she must intensify efforts in rescuing others.

The rights of everyone within the nation must be respected. She must ensure that the people retain the rights to choose freely their leaders and representatives in free and fair elections.

Prevention: By signing this resolution, government agrees to support youth engagement and empowerment programmes. She must provide enabling environment where businesses and other violence prevention and peacebuilding initiatives can strive. These initiatives must be targeted at identifying and supporting structures which will strengthen and solidify peace.

Partnerships: This resolution, in recognition of the fact that only in partnerships would sustainable peace be achieved, therefore calls on government to strengthen partnership with relevant stakeholders in combating and curbing violent conflicts and extremism. Government must partner civil society, religious, cultural, education leaders in countering violence and promoting social harmony.

Disengagement and Reintegration: The only way to disengage and demobilize youth from using terror is to engage them positively; not as political thugs and destabilizers. The resolution urge member states to create enabling environment through the provision of jobs, infrastructure, skills acquisition and training programmes, agricultural schemes and so forth. Government must do everything within her power to support the ideas and aspirations of young men and women.

Finally, youth in Nigeria constitute an estimated 70% of the population. Given this demographic advantage, the youth are a major stakeholder in Nigeria quest towards achieving sustainable peace and development. It will be myopic to hold on to the fallacy that youth are mere victims or perpetrators of violent conflicts. Nigeria youth must henceforth be seen as a necessary and powerful tool if sustainable peace and development would be achieved.

LAWAL, Rafiu Adeniran
National Coordinator, Nigerian Youth 4 Peace Initiative
4, Taiye Alabi Avenue, Basorun, Ibadan, Oyo State.