‘There is no way to Peace, Peace is the way’, says Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)! This year’s International Youth Day 2017 theme on “Youth Building Peace presents a unique opportunity for young people to make a statement on how they can be part of the promotion and maintenance of peace and security in the country. The theme re-affirms the recognition of youth as agents of change and critical actors in conflict prevention and sustaining peace.
Young people have been ignored when it comes to addressing issues related to peace and security for their country. Policy approaches regard them as ‘a problem’. Often, male youths in the age group 16-30 have been observed as the main protagonists of criminal and political violence. Youth are viewed as vulnerable, powerless and in need of protection. On the other hand, they are feared as dangerous, violent, apathetic and as threats to security. They are also subjected to stereotypical images of being angry and much of contemporary thinking on youth and conflict tends to be overly negative.
However, it is very important for all Ugandans to underline the agency perspective, and acknowledge the importance of making the connection between youth and peace building for transforming the nation. Youth should be conceptualized and studied as agents of positive peace in terms of addressing not only the challenges of physical violence, but also the challenges of structural and cultural violence, and the broader social change processes to transform violent, oppressive and hierarchical structures. Youth can be brought together for the purpose of peace building, rather than violence.
The involvement of youth in non-violent politics and from a wider perspective, the enablement of their political agency in a more positive and peace-oriented role is likely to depend on how paths are shaped by the political and governance context. It is important to provide youths with training opportunities to take an active part in peace building. With their youthful energy and capabilities, and ability of adaptation to new technological trends, for example, youths could act as mediators, community mobilisers, humanitarian workers and peace brokers.
Lastly, in undertaking all of these objectives it is very important stop referring to youths as the ‘future leaders’. Leadership should not be considered as a factor of age and providing appropriate governance contexts would likely enable young people to flourish as leaders today. In other words, they need to be treated as leaders today without postponing it to an elusive future whether it is in governance in general or peace building programes specifically.
Uganda Youth Network sends sincere wishes of Peace and Good Will to all Ugandans.
We commit to fostering Peace and National unity in all our endeavours.