By 2015, two-thirds of all poor people will be living in fragile and conflict affected states (FCS). Currently, over 600 million youth worldwide live in these fragile and challenging contexts. They are the future generation, the potential game changers for their countries. However, fragility hinders young people’s sustainable development into the independence of adulthood. In the midst of violence and uncertainty, a key period in their transition to engaging with society and the world of work is being blocked.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon believes young people around the world are the ‘torch bearers’ of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. To capitalize on the huge potential of young people, it is now more crucial than ever to devote attention to their unique position. Especially in situations where progress and change are most needed to achieve stability, productivity and equity.
Youth are both vulnerable…
A major factor contributing to young people’s vulnerability is unemployment. In the absence of thriving businesses and decent jobs, young men and women are forced to work for poverty wages. Vulnerable youth are more likely to be susceptible to violence, and to recruitment for electoral disruption, city gangs or rebel groups. In fragile contexts, young people’s frustration is often underpinned by perceptions that society or the political system is unjust and corrupt. In such contexts, it is dangerous for them to organize themselves and speak up against issues like corruption.
…and game changers
As young people are our future leaders, their contribution and leadership in preventing and resolving conflict and violence are essential to building sustainable peace. With their creativity and energy, they have the potential to be strong drivers of economic growth, development and innovation. Countries with large numbers of youth – which is the case in most fragile contexts – can reap a ‘demographic dividend’ for national development. This refers to a potential boost in economic productivity that occurs when there are growing numbers of people in the workforce relative to the number of dependents.
Cordaid positions to include youth not just as beneficiaries, but as partners and leaders in the process of building peace and development. Young people who become active members of their societies will contribute to restoring the social contract that has been eroded by conflict and insecurity. Cordaid’s support for youth in fragile contexts is based on three principles:
emphasizing the need for social change that is embedded within local communities where young people live, go to school, work and plan for their futures.
cooperating with a variety of local, national and international stakeholders to address youth issues.
ensuring that efforts are focused on all three cornerstones that concern youth in fragile contexts: governance & services, economic opportunities, and security & justice
Examples of Cordaid’s focus on youth and governance & services are the provision of sexual and productive healthcare (SRH) and preventing teenage pregnancies. Cordaid’s partners on the ground help young people to establish a solid foundation for their lives by providing safe spaces and high-quality, relevant and affordable education.
Efforts focused on youth and security & justice aim to achieve equal possibilities for young women and men, include youth in social and political participation and efforts to improve the rule of law, and restore trust in post-conflict situations.
To improve economic opportunities for young people, Cordaid invests in providing them with the practical and marketable skills required to earn a decent living and move into adulthood. The new skills will also increase their access to credit and finance.