In addressing the opportunities for peace, we must first and foremost identify the challenges of non-involvement of young people in peace building processes. These challenges include, but are not limited to, attitudes of the youth to peace and to peacebuilding initiatives that is further curtailed by the lack of cooperation between local non-government and the international donor community, which to date has failed to produce strong partnerships with youth led organizations.
Other challenges include the lack of donor coordination and the disbursement of funds directly to youth led non-governmental organizations. Many International NGOs, donor programs and funds have very little to offer to their direct beneficiaries. These groups control their funds by using these funds for their own expenses and overheads that include payment of high rents for staff, vehicles and vehicle maintenance, etc., all to the detriment of local NGOs.
It is our contention that the donor community should channel funds directly to youth groups so as to keep youths engaged in peacebuilding activities.
We have opportunities for peace if and when young people volunteer for peace dialogue, peace advocacy, mediation and negotiation.
Opportunity for peace is lost when youths and youth based organizations are treated as individual contractors or sub-contractors when they do work with their international NGO or government agencies. This kind of approach not only weakens the capacity of youth to deliver on peace initiatives, it negatively impacts on the sustainability of programs and the ability of youth led NGOs to respond rapidly and effectively to the needs of the Liberian people. A strong case in point is the recent call by several NGOs for civil voter’s education as the country prepares for the forthcoming Presidential and Legislative elections in 2017.
The opportunity for peace is greater when government and the international donor community such as EU, AU, ECOWAS and others provide direct funds to engage youth in community activities that include dialogue, mediation, early warning and prevention and other peacebuilding strategies for resisting violence.
UNSCR #2250 provides young people the platform for peace engagement. Opportunity for peace exists when the international community integrates peace advocacy as part of their country programs. Donors should give priority to youth education about community peacebuilding issues.
It is equally incumbent on youth led organization to take advantage of the existing and emerging opportunities for peace by unleashing their potentials through registering their organizations with civil society umbrella groups and participating in social mapping exercise administered by UNOY.
The role of young people in peace and security matters must be strengthened and not weakened by the notion they are immature, naive and therefore should be controlled. I’ve heard on several occasions people say, “We want to help you but you must be under our control.” The opportunity for peace should not be controlling, rather, it should be to enhance cooperation with youth based organizations and capacity building to promote the role of young people in international peace.
And until next week when we come to you with another article on the opportunity for peace-PART 2, it is peace above all else, peace first, may peace prevail in our time.