Part 3: Participation (peace and employment)
The UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security recognizes the important and positive contribution of youth in maintaining and promoting peace and security. By including youth, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts are more inclusive and sustainable. The resolution also expresses concern that armed conflicts have a negative impact on young people’s lives, for example by forcing them to flee or disrupting their access to education and economic opportunities. This has a dramatic impact on the chances of durable peace and reconciliation.
The Youth, Peace and Security resolution therefore anticipates a two-way relationship between peace and stability and the access to economic opportunities:
- the lack of peace makes youth vulnerable to economic deprivation and unemployment
- the lack of economic opportunities makes youth more unlikely to be able to contribute positively to peace.
Based on this anticipated relationship, youth employment schemes are a common tool in the international community’s strategies for countries emerging from conflict or experiencing fragility and violence in different forms (Izzi 2020). The rationale is that if youth get a job, they will be more likely to contribute to peace and stability.
In the following, these two paths of youth inclusion are discussed – what does research say about how youth can meaningfully be involved in
- Peace building efforts
- Economic opportunities through employment, and
- What are the relationship between these?
Part 3 is of direct relevance to the Sudanese context in the following ways: Firstly, it recognises the importance of including youth in future transitional and peace processes, which young people in Sudan have been excluded from up until now. Secondly, in a context such as Sudan where youth unemployment is high, employment schemes specifically targeting youth can be a part of the solution. There is a risk, however, that such schemes can be used by political elites for co-opting and capturing the youth, thereby undermining their opportunities for meaningful participation.
Youth in peace building
There are two major reasons for including youth in peace negotiations and peace building processes in conflict settings:
- Young people constitute the majority of the population in conflict affected countries (Hagerty 2017). For the sake of representativeness, youth should be included.
- As young people usually make up a large percentage of combatants among warring parties in a conflict, the inclusion of youth in peacebuilding, peacekeeping and peace negotiations is vital.
Still, research shows that we have a long way to go in including youth in peace negotiations and peace building processes. In many conflict settings, youth groups are only invited into the process after the power sharing deals are settled, thereby excluding them from the most critical part of the decision-making (Altiok and Grizelj 2019).
In Sudan, youth groups were largely excluded from the transitional talks after the fall of President Bashir in 2019. While including the youth-dominated resistance/neighborhood committees in the talks was discussed, the committees hesitated, being cautious of the risk of being co-opted and pacified by the political elites (Aalen 2020, AlBattahani 2021).
- unless youth inclusion in peace processes is done in a conflict and context sensitive manner, political elites (political parties, military leaders etc) can use the inclusion to co-opt youth into their structures, thereby marginalizing youth interests and preventing youth from setting or challenging the agenda
- youth inclusion should not come at the cost of other inclusion agendas, such as women, civil society, or economically disadvantaged groups
- Research on peace processes where youth have been involved shows that youth, as a cross-cutting social and political constituency, naturally build connections between the formal and informal, and between different sub-groups in society, thereby contributing themselves to making peace processes more inclusive (Mubashir and Grizeli 2018)
Recommendations for Sudan
- Youth groups should be included in future talks on the transition to a civilian government and in the various peace processes around the country from an early phase, enabling youth to truly influence settlements from the start
- In the selection of youth representatives to transitional and peace processes, care should be taken to include youth from various backgrounds, taking gender, social, economic and ethnic background, and political affiliation into consideration.
- In the talks, youth’s autonomy and ability to set the agenda should be guaranteed, and efforts should be made to prevent political parties and/or military leaders from capturing youth leaders into their structures.
Youth in peace building
Altiok, A, and I. Grizelj (2019) ‘We Are Here: An integrated approach to youth-inclusive peace processes’ Report on Youth 2030: With and for young people https://www.youth4peace.info/system/files/2019-07/Global%20Policy%20Paper%20Youth%20Participation%20in%20Peace%20Processes.pdf
Herseth, Siril K. (2021) No peace without youth: Continued calls for change in South Sudan
Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (Sudan Brief 2021:3) https://www.cmi.no/publications/7973-no-peace-without-youth-continued-calls-for-change-in-south-sudan
Mubashir, M. and I.Grizelj. (2018). The youth space of dialogue and mediation: An exploration. Berlin: Berghof Foundation https://berghof-foundation.org/library/the-youth-space-of-dialogue-and-mediation-an-exploration
UN SG Report 2020 Youth and peace and security - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2020/167) [EN/AR/RU] https://reliefweb.int/report/world/youth-and-peace-and-security-report-secretary-general-s2020167-enarru
Hagerty, T. (2017) Data for Youth, Peace and Security. Institute for Economics and Peace
Youth employment schemes
Many of the youth dominated protests against the Bashir-regime in Sudan have been induced by economic grievances. A major protest in 2013, for instance, started off as demonstrations against austerity measures including lifting subsidies on vital goods such as wheat flour and medicines. Similarly, the current wave of protests that erupted among students in Atbara in December 2018 were against rising bread prices. It soon developed into a call for the fall of the regime, and wider political demands (Aalen 2020). Still, the call for a decent livelihood could be considered at the centre of youth mobilisation in Sudan.
In similar contexts around the world, one of the most prominent donor policies towards such situations are youth employment schemes. Youth unemployment is seen as having a profound impact on global issues such as poverty and migration, and is believed to increase the risk of social discontent (Cieslik et al, 2021). The creation of job opportunities is central to post-war reconstruction processes. Young people need meaningful jobs and an adequate income to be able to contribute to rebuild their communities after war (Aalen 2022).
Youth employment schemes are also popular among national governments. By providing youth with loans or cash donations to start up their own businesses or enrolling them in government-run job schemes or co-operatives, political leaders are able to demonstrate that they deliver also in peace time.
Research from authoritarian contexts where former rebel movements have become government parties shows however that the regimes have opted for using the delivery of social and economic services through youth employment schemes as patronage and as a way of pacifying the youth (Oosterom and Gukurume 2019, Aalen, Dejen and Asnake 2021). In these regimes, representatives of the ruling party often play a dominant role in the economy and act as gatekeepers to job opportunities for the youth. This means that there is a high risk of a double marginalisation as politically excluded groups are also denied access to economic opportunities. It is therefore crucial to prevent job-creation schemes, whether funded by governments or external donors, to be monopolized by powerful interests so that they merely feed into pre-existing dynamics of favouritism and clientelism, tactically leveraged to advance their own agendas.
- Youth employment schemes, whether government or donor funded, can be used by the regimes to reward loyal supporters and dismiss dissidents among youth groups, thereby giving the regime another tool for co-opting, pacifying or excluding youth
- This can lead to a double marginalisation of youth: those included in the employment schemes are forced to be regime loyal, while those excluded are both politically and economically marginalised.
- If patronage use of employment schemes is to be prevented, employment schemes, including loans for establishing own businesses, can provide youth with the necessary start for gaining a livelihood
- If jobs provided give youth a living and decent work conditions, they will answer some of the major calls from youth today: economic independence and security
Recommendations for Sudan:
- Before youth employment schemes are to be introduced, a context-specific political economy analysis needs to be conducted, revealing potential patronage and clientelism
- Youth themselves should be engaged in research and policy design of employment schemes. This can further prevent the patronage politics around job programmes.
- To further avert political favouritism, the selection or recruitment processes into the schemes should be transparent and inclusive, focusing on vulnerability and risk, not political connections and sympathies.
Youth employment schemes
Aalen, L (2022) ‘Former Armed Groups in Power and Post-war Youth Policies’ Research Brief, RBA (forthcoming)
Cieslik, K. A. Barford & B. Vira (2021): Young people not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) in Sub-Saharan Africa: Sustainable Development. Target 8.6 missed and reset, Journal of Youth Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2021.1939287
Kefale, Asnake; Dejen, Mohammed; Aalen, Lovise ‘Neglect, Control and Co-optation: Major features of Ethiopian Youth Policy Since 1991’ Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI Working Paper WP 2021:3) https://www.cmi.no/publications/7829-neglect-control-and-co-optation-major-features-of-ethiopian-youth-policy-since-1991
Oosterom, M and S. Gukurume (2019) ‘Managing the born-free generation: Zimbabwe’s strategies for dealing with the youth’ Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI Working Paper WP 2019:02) https://www.cmi.no/publications/7000-managing-the-born-free-generation-zimbabwes-strategies-for-dealing-with-the-youth
Oosterom, M.A. (2019). Achieving Youth Employment in Contexts Where Patronage Rules. IDS Opinion, https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/achieving-youth-employment-in-contexts-where-patronage-rules/ (accessed March 11th, 2020).
The link between jobs and peace
As seen above, the international community’s concern with youth inclusion is highly motivated by the need to prevent large youth cohorts from contributing to instability and violence. Their answer, as formulated in the UN SC Resolution 2250 is to include youth in peace processes and provide them with employment. Underlying these policies is the assumption that the absence of peace undermines economic opportunities for youth, while youth without jobs will be violent.
Current research has however pointed out that the relationship between peace and jobs is far more complex that what is described above:
- There is no straightforward causal link between youth unemployment and violence (Izzi 2020). Even if employment schemes can improve the economic situation for the youth involved, there is no evidence that this will translate into positive impact for the society as a whole.
- The selection of programme beneficiaries plays a crucial role in relation to the political economy of jobs, as it inevitably generates ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Who gets which jobs, and how, is just as important, from a peacebuilding perspective, than the overall quantity of jobs created (Bhatia and Ghanem 2017)
- For many youth, the problem is not unemployment per se, but rather that the jobs are precarious, badly and irregularly paid, carried out under unsafe and exploitative conditions, mostly in the informal economy, offering little or nothing in terms of security and upwards mobility (Izzi 2020)
These findings indicate that youth inclusion is a complicated and multifaceted process, where genuine participation, both in political processes and in the labour market, is key. The risks and opportunities each listed under peace processes and employment schemes above point at the need for allowing youth to develop political and financial independence, avoiding the co-optation and exclusion from political elites. This is probably the most fundamental challenge that Sudan is facing at the moment, and therefore constitutes a key overall recommendation for a future youth inclusive Sudan.
Link between jobs and peace
Izzi, Valeria (2020) Promoting decent employment for African youth as a peace building strategy https://includeplatform.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Izzi-2020-Promoting-Decent-Employment-for-African-Youth-as-a-Peacebuilding-Strategy.pdf
Bhatia, K. and Ghanem, H. (2017). How do education and unemployment affect support for violent extemism?, Global Economy and Development Working Paper 102, Wasthington, DC: Brooking Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/global_20170322_violent-extremism.pdf