Young Peacebuilders: Exploring Youth Engagement with Conflict and Social Change
Changes in the nature of war in the course of the last century are thrusting young people inevitably into more intimate relationships with conflict. This article builds on a critical approach to the issues of young people living in conflict zones which promotes their agency in conflict transformation and peacebuilding. ‘Participation’ is explored in the context of conflict transformation theory and is linked with child rights-based approaches to development. Examples of young people’s contributions to peacebuilding in several parts of the world are shared demonstrating their political and social capacities. The article concludes that there is a need to understand how young people perceive conflict and what drives some to become involved in violent conflict when others choose non-violence. It is argued that it is necessary to seek non-violent ways for young people to impact conditions that lead to, and out of, conflict. This will require young people’s empowerment. Development actors can look to models of conflict transformation and peacebuilding to better understand how to promote inclusion of young people in peace processes and their more constructive engagement with conflict.