New study explores the approach of young people in conflict mediation

Former child soldier Heritier Nguma telling students about his life story in Masisi, Democatric Republic of Congo. Photo: Ville Asikainen
Former child soldier Heritier Nguma telling students about his life story in Masisi, Democatric Republic of Congo. Photo: Ville Asikainen

Berghof Foundation and Finn Church Aid have started a research project to explore, through qualitative research, ‘youth spaces’ of mediation and dialogue – their characteristics, dimensions, challenges and potential. Stories from and on such youth spaces will be collected from different conflict contexts around the world and then reflected upon.

Youth-led social movements, change processes, violence-prevention and peacebuilding efforts have come to fore in recent years, partly due to the ‘youthfulness’ of the Arab Spring dynamics.
On the other hand, youth are also prominently featured in mainstream media in reporting socio-political violence such as those usually characterised as ‘violent extremism’. These are however neither new phenomena nor balanced perspectives. While there are many examples of youth transforming conflict across the globe, too often they go unnoticed or compete against the perspectives of youth as threat or at least trouble-makers. Having said that, there are impressive youth initiatives, many of which are guided by approaches of mediation and dialogue.

In conflict research however, there is a lack of reflection on the particularities of the youth approach to/in mediation and dialogue and on how this situates itself in the broader mediation and dialogue context involving other non-youth actors.

The study by FCA and Berghof Foundation is an attempt to fill this research gap.

This study situates itself within the broader follow-up of the recent United Nations Security Council Resolution (UN SCR 2250, December 2015) on youth, peace and security, which urges greater representation by young men and women in the prevention and resolution of violent conflict. It is also anticipated to contribute as a thematic paper to the Progress Study on youth, peace and security mandated by SCR 2250. In addition, stimulus from the process of this study will provide further justification for suggesting additional research of this kind and for concrete pathways towards a comprehensive (and/or follow-up) action research proposal.
The study will be ready in the fall 2016.

Text: Matthias Wevelsiep