Atta Ullah Khan

There are 1.3 billion young people between age of 15 to 24 years in the world, the biggest population the world has ever, the UN World Population Prospects statistics estimate shows. The estimate further adds that nearly one billion of them dwell in those less developed countries (LDCs) ‘where conflict is more likely to have taken place’.

A recent research conducted by Yulia Nesterova and Asli Ozcelik claims that currently ‘more than four hundred million young people, between age of 15 and 29, live in fragile and conflict-affected contexts across the globe. This means that more than 400 million young people experience violence, face exploitation, miss out on education, and struggle to survive’.

Pakistan has one of the biggest youth populations in the world. More than half of its population is comprised of youth of age between 18 to 30. One estimate shows that 68 per cent of the total population of Pakistan is under 30.

For any county, youths are of colossal importance. They play a pivotal role in the development and progress of any county. They can play a crucial role in every facet of nation’s life including peace and security.

Peace is one of the most essential elements of a prosperous society. Without peace, development and transformation is unimaginable. To attain this objective, youths are required to actively participate in peace making and peace keeping processes. But unfortunately they have no ‘say’ in governmental institutions and organizations. They have frequently been ‘othered’. Their voices are often ignored in official peace processes. They are often vilified either as spoilers of peace processes or as inexperienced and irrelevant in peace-building. Although their trajectories for peace processes are more than important as they are the most affected part of conflict ridden segments of population.

Youth exclusion is detrimental to the very concept of peace building. Inclusion of them is conducive for conflict resolution, counter violent extremism, peace building, and can pave way for fostering peaceful and quiet environment. The major impediment in the process of peace-building is ignoring youth voices in post conflict situation(s) or war-torn areas across the globe.

The 2250 resolution of the United Nations Security Council is emblematic to the mission of “Maintenance of International Peace” struggle. The resolution is a milestone that was unanimously passed by the UNSC in Oct 2015 recognizing the positive role and acknowledging the potential capacities of youths to contribute in peace processes. The resolution is “recognizing the important and positive contribution of youth in efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security”.

This resolution not only acknowledge the positive contribution of youths but also calls upon all the member states to adopt inclusive policies that incorporate youths in peace-keeping and peace-building efforts.

The resolution “recognizing that youth should actively be engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation, and that a large youth population presents a unique demographic dividend that can contribute to lasting peace and economic prosperity if inclusive policies are in place”.

Most of the youths of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly erstwhile FATA, have been reeling from the menace of militancy and have been suffering from terrorism. Similarly, youths of other parts of the country have also been vulnerable to extremism and religious fundamentalism.

The resolution also calls on states for “developing strategies to counter the violent extremist narrative that can incite terrorist acts, address the conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism, which can be conducive to terrorism”.

The major threat to peace in Pakistan is terrorism and violent extremism. To the creeping extremism and rising militancy, a short-term measures are not the panacea. It needs a durable and long lasting solution.

The basic question is why Youths are important for peace-building? Firstly, they are the real change makers. But instead we put them in “future leaders” category. They should be the leaders of today. We live in present not in tomorrow. We need to ameliorate our situation today so we have a peaceful tomorrow.

Secondly, youth have a clear cue of future. Particularly, youths of conflict-affected areas have a clear vision of peace. They have witnessed conflict and war firsthand. Youths who have witnessed conflict and war firsthand better know what peace looks like than the people in power corridors. The latter does not have even rudimentary knowledge of peace and security situations.

What should be done? The society (Pakistani society) is barreling towards a turmoil and chaotic situation, given the bourgeoning extremism and terrorism in every corner of the country. The state needs to curtail conflict and curb the deteriorating situation from further exacerbation. We need to utilize the energies and hidden potentials of youths to make a peaceful society by empowering them.

Following steps can be taken for peace-building and peace-keeping.

1) Youth to be provided with adequate job and business opportunities in order to uplift their lives and embark their families on the path to economic prosperity. One of the major reason for youth are falling victims in the hands of terrorist organizations is lack of livelihood. Financial independence of youths is indispensable.

2) A public-private partnership for peace is need of the hour. Government and all other actors need to join hands to support peace-keeping and peace-building efforts. The former must provide every possible political, economic, technical, and logistical support, as enumerated in the resolution, to youth to boost up their pace.

3) Youth-led and youth-centric peace organizations should be encouraged, appreciated and supported morally, financially, politically as well as logistically.

4) Awareness regarding peace and security should be ensured. To inculcate the youths how much peace important is must be included in the syllabuses of all states.

5) Youth engagement in positive and productive activities to promote peace culture should be the priority of governments.

6) Governments must include youth in policy making processes. Youth should be included in every sector of government. They are energetic and eager to solve problems and can better handle matters.

7) The United Nations and other relevant bodies need to siphon off additional funds to peace-oriented projects and assist countries in this regard.

 The author is a graduate in International Relations from University of Sargodha.

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