Economic Citizenship for Conflict Affected Youth

Economic Citizenship for Conflict Affected Youth

Authors: Alberto Sostre and Shaireen Moon, Interns, Global Engagement and Evaluation, Child & Youth Finance International

The population of young people is the largest it has ever been, and one third of them live in countries affected by violent conflict. Additionally, around 75 million youth are unemployed. There is a strong likelihood that any ongoing conflict will involve the considerable participation of young people. Over the past decades, more than a hundred armed conflicts were reported, occurring primarily in developing countries.

Compounded Adversities

Countless children and youth have not only sustained physical, but also psychological and economic damage. The outbreak of war compounds the adversities that many children and youth already face in developing communities. Conflict further magnifies existing socio-economic issues and decreases available opportunities for social and economic empowerment. The youth population tends to be particularly vulnerable as they are frequently targeted for recruitment and abductions during periods of conflict. Although creating employment opportunities is essential for youth, it is not always sufficient to promote economic stability and peace. Essential lifeskills and Economic Citizenship Education (ECE), especially for the youth population, are also critical to mending communities broken by years of conflict and survivalist economics. Additionally, children and youth are at risk of being drawn into illegal activities to support themselves, and turn to conflict as a means to vent their frustration with the government or to survive in communities prone to violence and lacking tangible economic opportunities.

Youth Economic Empowerment

Child and Youth Finance International (CYFI) strives to empower children and youth around the world by enhancing their financial capabilities and economic citizenship. Financial inclusion and Economic Citizenship Education (ECE) are integral themes that CYFI emphasizes in its various child and youth targeted activities. To further spread ECE, CYFI has collaborated with various national stakeholders in its network such as government authorities, education providers, NGOs/youth organizations, financial service providers, and academic institutions. ECE on its own is not as effective without the incorporation of financial inclusion, and it stresses the importance of delivering integrated educational and financial services to children and youth.

Youth Demand Improved Livelihoods

Often the primary source of discontent from youth in conflict areas stems from the demand for improved livelihoods. In 2011, various young Yeminis took to the streets in the hope of obtaining greater employment opportunities. Stability in the context of Yemen and other conflict areas lies in rejuvenating economic growth, stimulating livelihoods, and promoting improvement of social cohesion. Through the Youth Economic Empowerment Project (YEEP), the Yemini government in collaboration with UNDP, has endeavored to reduce the risk of conflict by fulfilling the employment demands raised during the uprising. Creating economic opportunities for youth not only relates to economic growth, but also to restoring and maintaining their faith in political, social, and economic structures.

Investing in Youth Projects

Mercy Corps, a partner in the CYFI network, invests in youth projects as a way to socially and economically engage young people as a means to create and secure productive livelihoods for themselves and their families. Mercy Corps has worked extensively in conflict stricken areas such as Afghanistan and Colombia. In Afghanistan, Mercy Corp has implemented the Introducing New Vocational Education and Skills Training (INVEST) program. The primary objective of INVEST is to increase youth employment in Helmand province through the offering of technical vocational education and training. The organization has also been involved in various reintegration programs for former child soldiers in Colombia. Mercy Corps has worked diligently on enhancing its five-year Protecting, Educating and Advancing Children and Youth in Colombia (PEACYC) program. PEACYC targets youth between the ages of 15 and 19 years old and consolidates educational programs, psychological support, and in-school and after-school protection measures.

Mercy Corps acknowledges that increasing youth employment alone does not decrease participation in violent conflicts. While youth compose a majority of the population in transitional and fragile states, they often do not have an outlet to influence local and national governments. As a result, governments do not create policies to meet the most pressing needs of youth. Disillusionment with the government may often make youth more vulnerable to recruitment by violent movements. It is essential that youth, along with securing greater economic opportunities, have the opportunity as well to engage with governments on their primary concerns and grievances.

Conflict will continue to affect vulnerable communities, especially children and youth, if an active approach is not pursued to uncover primary sources of discontent. Young people, particularly in developing areas, do not ordinarily have access to the necessary resources needed to recover after the initial outbreak of conflict. Economic opportunities and ECE enable young people to become more empowered economic and social citizens. Various NGOs and international organizations in the CYFI network are collaborating with local and national governments to provide greater economic and political opportunities to youth in conflict affected regions. As improvements to youth livelihoods increase, the risk of youth involvement in violent activities will gradually diminish.

This blog is the first in a series of summer blog articles related to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and are authored by youth interns at Child & Youth Finance International. Join the discussion on social media by following @ChildFinance and using the hashtag #cyfiyouth.

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