“African Youth Want Peace” Remarks By AU Youth Envoy To The African Union Peace and Security Council, Addis Ababa, 15 November 2019
Distinguished Members of the Peace and Security Council and AU member states
Allow me to express my appreciation and thanks to the Republic of Algeria, the Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council, for the month of November, which also marks the celebration of Africa Youth Month. Because African youth deserve to be celebrated every single day, this year the commission did not only celebrate youth for only one day on Africa youth day but we launched a series of exciting activities throughout this month under the theme “1 Million by 2021: Count Me In!” mobilizing the continent to impact the lives of 1 million youth through employment, education, entrepreneurship and engagement.
I would like to commend the decision of the Peace and Security Council to dedicate an annual open session on youth, peace and security and I encourage the council to invite more youth briefers not only at this open session but in all relevant debates of the council that necessitate a youth perspective.
I am highly honoured to be here in this important opportunity to present for your comments the study report on the roles and contributions of youth to peace and security in Africa as well as for your consideration and adoption, the continental framework on Youth, Peace and Security. I want to thank the Youth for Peace (Y4P) Africa program of the Peace and Security Department with whom I work closely in mobilizing youth for the promotion of sustainable peace and development in Africa.
Today we are also inaugurating the African Youth Ambassadors for Peace from the five regions of the Union who have been selected among 1773 applications through a rigorous inclusive process and following three days Training and Assessment workshop that concluded yesterday.
The 15 young peacebuilders are present here today and ready to be engaged in this dialogue with the Peace and Security Council. Let us encourage this network to be instrumental in silencing the guns by 2020 and help our continent to be the Africa we want peaceful and driven by its youth and women especially by working with the Regional Economic Communities.
Since my appointment in November 2018 as the Chairperon’s Special envoy on youth, I have put central to my advocacy role, the youth, peace and development agenda.
In line with this agenda, my office organized a two-day workshop in Addis Ababa in August, in partnership with Baywood Foundation which brought together youth experts and practitioners from civil society and institutions active in the promotion of peace and good governance in Africa. The convening was designed to curate, consolidate and share lessons and experiences by young people in Africa and initiatives they have undertaken which if scaled up have the potential to strengthen and improve Africa’s democratic governance landscape.
The workshop “Young People Reimagining Today’s Politics” produced an anthology and photo exhibition on the contribution of youth to peace and governance that will be launched during AU Summit 2020. I believe you will agree with me that, this workshop was timely for our continent when it has become more evident than ever that where there is an absence of government delivery of services such as health and education, violent groups become economic and social actors. Therefore, good governance is a prerequisite to achieve peace.
During the past few months, I have also undertaken missions on the ground and seen first hand the work of my peers, young frontline peace builders;
- In South Sudan I met Jok who is replacing bullets with books at the Promise Land Secondary School, among many young South Sudanese who are at the forefront of disseminating the Revitalized Peace Agreement on South Sudan
- In Liberia I saw the mobilisation of the Federation of Liberian youth to unite young people despite their diversity
- In Morocco, I visited the Agenda 2063 Academy which is creating a common ground between youth and decision-makers to debate the strategies to achieve the Africa we want
- I have recently supported the Local Youth Corner Cameroon that convened the National Symposium on Youth Participation in the Peace Process which resulted in establishing the first Youth Mediators Network in Cameroon.
A clear conclusion from my missions on the ground is that African youth want peace and do not resign themselves to the hardships of their situation but they are very resilient. They want to spend their youth innovating and building their countries, not destroying them.
During my Briefing to the United Nations Security Council last month under the presidency of South Africa on “mobilising youth towards silencing the guns” I emphasized on the danger of the victimization disempowering narrative that overlooks youth agency. Many young people have internalised the idea that they are marginalised with no voice and now perceived to be heroic when they join violent groups. When we do not value our youth and their contribution to society, they will look for recognition somewhere else.
There is a misleading narrative that African youth are just perpetrators of violence, a number of unemployment, migrants dying in the mediterrenan, and a youth bulge. Young Africans are much more than this narrative they are the peace dividend.
Despite anger and frustration, the majority of young people are choosing not to fight but to create alternative spaces and livelihoods for themselves and the whole community. We must reframe this debate so African youth can be perceived as part of the solution, not the problem and build their trust in institutions.
It has become evident that inclusion of youth in the management of peace, conflict prevention and resolution in our continent and that support for programmes of disarmament, repatriation and reintegration processes will resolutely move us towards a peaceful and conflict-free Africa.
Excellencies and members of the council,
I have seven recommendations to put before the council.
- It is essential that all our member states sign, ratify and implement the African Youth Charter adopted in 2006, which will eventually help develop national youth policies, institutionalize youth participation and mobilize youth funds for effective engagement of the youth in mediation and conflict prevention efforts. 16 countries have not yet ratified the charter, 13 of them have not signed the charter and the implementation process is very slow and does not meet this generation’s needs and expectations.
- As emphasised by the Continental framework, Gender Based Violence including harmful practices must be a priority of the council. Preventive and peacebuilding programmes must be gender sensitive and gender responsive, that should avoid stereotypical assumptions about the gender roles; recognize the gendered impacts of violence; and develop strategies to engage with and meet the needs of young women and girls.
- There is an urgent need to institutionalize intergenerational dialogues (IGDs) in our peacebuilding efforts. In the first week of October my office Published 2019/2020 Youth Action Plan as mandated by the chairperson of the commission with a focus on promoting intergenerational dialogue, mentorship and co-leadership as a tool to bridge the huge generational gap in Africa, bring youth at the table of decision making and prevent conflict that may erupt from marginalization and exclusion.
- Employment and Empowerment;
We have a generation trapped in the state of waithood – waiting for adulthood – because they are in constant negotiation to find their political and financial freedom. Our youth in Africa are barely surviving, and do not understand the contradictions of our time, to be the most youthful population 65 percent under 30 and yet the most insecure and marginalized. More training, Skills development and matching education with employment is urgently needed, to reduce youth vulnerability to exploitation, manipulation and recruitment to violence; cross-border employment projects targeting young people within our Agenda2063 flagship projects such as Continental Free Trade Area are essential.
- The future of work is also about dignity;
Dignity means youth should be valued as drivers not subjects of development. The nexus with development and inequality has become evident, which necessitates to develop a clear legal framework on Youth, Peace and Development that provides correlation between peace and security on the one hand, and development and better distributed prosperity and wealth on the other, in order to move away from a reactive approach to conflict and engage instead in a proactive approach of peace, security and development. I call upon all of us to make sure that youth, peace and security Agenda never be looked at as an isolated or peripheral agenda that addresses only security, but should be integrated in the development agenda
- Funding for youth-led initiatives;
Because young people are hustling, ticking a young women empowerment box here, and a youth participation box there! with lack of resources, support and huge challenge with bureaucracy and limited documentation of their work. They hustle to sustain their impact from annual membership dues, training costs, and in-kind contributions. They hustle for funding as civil society, they hustle to participate in peace processes and hustle for representation. Therefore, financial and technical support for youth networks and organizations is needed and a clear percentage of the AU Peace Fund dedicated to youth along its 3 thematic windows would concretely show the council commitment to the youth, peace and security agenda.
- Lastly, promotion of a Pan-African transnational identity and global citizenship which is the foundation of this institution, the African Union.
We need to move beyond temporary responsive measures mostly militarized to fix conflict and put more effort into long term investment of nurturing the next generation of Pan-Africanists who are informed by multi-layered sense of identity, young, female, indigenous, refugee, migrant, with a disability, living in post-colonial Africa and so on. When youth think pan-African and global, it offers a place of belonging, to the Africa We Want as borderless, transnational, multilingual and multicultural community.This can be achieved by supporting the establishment of a continental platform or alliance of young peacebuilders that can unite our youth around the pan-african vision, become space of exchange, knowledge and solidarity, instill pride and empower the African child to combat xenophobia, hate and exclusion as well as support national efforts in implementing the continnental framework on youth, peace and security.
My generation is craving for greater political space to operate and drive the desired change;
My generation is ready to make an impact that may not be comprehended but still cannot be denied;
My generation is ready to put behind unhealthy competition and foster collaborative partnerships within innovative and sustained resourcing;
Young Africa cannot continue to be ignored as the most youthful population in the world,
young africa deserves a seat at the table and in decision making positions to make peace possible.
With Peace and Security Council support, I am sure that we will move with speed towards the realization this agenda.
Allow me to take this opportunity to thank departments within AUC and civil society organizations that continue to support and work closely with my Office in this endeavor.
And I look forward to working closely with the newly appointed African Youth Ambassadors for Peace to build the peaceful Africa We want.
Ms. Aya Chebbi
Chairperson’s Special Envoy on Youth
African Union Commission