Africa: Why Youth Are Integral to Shaping Peacebuilding Processes as Leaders, Not Only Beneficiaries

25 January 2022
broadcast transcript

Hello and welcome to Allafrica's focus on peacebuilding and Africa, Silence The Guns. I'm Juanita Williams and today we speak about the role of young people in peacebuilding, made all the more critical because of the continent so-called youth bulge, which means that now more than half of Africa's population is under the age of 25. And by 2030, that population will reach over 830 million at the World Innovation Summit for Education aka WISE Summit, held in December 2021. One of the highlights was a session on peacebuilding as a way to explore the role young people play, and how it affects education, Lakshitha Saji Preylis, Director of Search for Common Ground and Co-chair of the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security moderated that discussion, first introducing Irena Grezelj, who co-authored the collaborative five years strategy for the high-level global conference on youth inclusive peace processes in Doha, Qatar, in January 2022.

<Excerpts edited for clarity>

Irena Grezelj

I want to just highlight and emphasise some of the background to this output ahead of the Doha Conference, which Saji has presented, noting that this strategic roadmap that I'll get into really focuses on more specific components within the youth peace and security agenda, and complements the YPF guidelines that Selena will come in on in a moment, through focusing on the more specific area of peace and mediation processes. And I want to recognise the three UN Security Council resolutions on youth peace and security, which call for the establishment of integrated mechanisms for meaningful participation of youth in peace processes, calling for inclusive representation of youth in the prevention and resolution of conflict, including when negotiating and implementing peace agreements. And recognising that the participation of young people in peace processes can significantly contribute to the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security. And this framework, roadmap that I'll get into really builds on the first global policy paper, which was launched two years ago in Helsinki, that really documented where and how young people shake, peace processes and peace agreements, and why youth inclusive peace processes are fundamental not only to the prevention of violence, but particularly to sustaining peace. So delving into that, and some of these points have already been raised. Why do we talk about youth and peace processes? Why does it matter? We know that young people are often the largest demographic in countries with ongoing peace processes.

LISTEN

And indeed, as Saji shared the largest in the world today. For example, 72% of South Sudan's population is under the age of 30 years old, 67% of Afghanistan's population is under the age of 25 years old. And while over 1000 peace agreements have been signed in the last 20 years, which is often the heart of peacemaking in a society that is undergoing conflict. There has been very limited attention and investments in the role and impact that young people have on peace processes. Young people also play an inherent role in the prevention of violence and sustaining peace. As documented in the We Are Here reports, young people demonstrate constructive and alternative channels to conflict resolution, often considered informal, really fundamental in shaping the ground for sustaining peace and these formal processes. Young people often have long-term mindsets on peace.

They focused on just issues that underpin healthy, peaceful, and equitable societies. Yet we find that they're seldom engaged as key peace strategic partners in building peace and co-leading conflict resolution. So really recognising that there is both a political then and a demographic imperative to ensuring that peace processes are shaped by and supportive of young people's participation. This agenda, the strategy also recognises that there's a rapidly changing conflict landscape. violent conflicts are increasingly fragmented, protracted, and transnational. There's a rising prevalence and misuse of digital technologies. There's an escalating climate crisis and a global health pandemic. Traditional approaches are no longer as effective as previously. And so there's an urgent need to shift to a whole of society inclusive and long term approach to conflict resolution, and sustaining peace. And so coming then into what is this strategy, what is this roadmap that Saji has opened the floor for? So this is really a Strategic Action Plan and builds on the title We Are in This Together. To realise more youth inclusive peace processes I want to emphasise that this has been a year-long, inclusive, transparent, and participatory process that has engaged almost 100 experts from across regional, international, and national organisations and contexts to really shape and take the strategy forward. Taking everything that's just been shared, the guiding vision is quite simple. The peace processes are supportive and shaped by young people's participation, ultimately realising more inclusive and peaceful societies.

The strategy has four key aims or objectives, to lead us towards this vision. And that is that by 2026, we have established and strengthened political and institutional commitments to implement full and effective meaningful participation of young people in peace processes, developing youth sensitive and gender-responsive capacity strengthening resources and knowledge tools to support youth engagement and peace processes. Developing really a collaborative effort, a community of practice and partnerships to take the strategy forward to implement, monitor and collaborate and finally mobilising, sustaining sustainable resources and financing to realise the strategies vision. But the target really is the wide spectrum of actors, governments, mediation support units, civil society, international and regional organisations that are engaged in peace processes. And the aim is really to move from policy and norms to practice, from the why, to the how of youth inclusive peace processes. And that's to reflect the lived reality of young women and men in conflict-affected settings, really generating this holistic, long-term, intergenerational strategy that will create this environment for more youth inclusive peace processes. Moving into briefly some of the substance of the strategy, it is founded and shaped by four key pillars are interconnected streams. And this is around institutionalisation and policy, which is the systematic mainstreaming of youth inclusive policies and practices within organisations and institutions, capacity strengthening, which is about shaping and strengthening the attitudes, skills, and knowledge for more youth inclusive practices, not only of young people, as is often assumed, but also institutional leadership, politicians, policymakers, civil servants, and civil society. Knowledge solutions are around building an evidence base, when we know more, we can do better. So this is around documenting the impact and best practice on how to include young people and how peace processes can be shaped by young people's participation. And finally, the strategy builds on the principle and the spirit of the youth peace and security agenda, which is founded on collaboration and partnerships, for collective impact, really recognising that our collective efforts together generate a stronger and a more sustainable impact than working in silo are segregated efforts. And this is the backbone through which we really want to take the strategy forward.

There's a number of cross-cutting issues that underpin how to implement this strategy that really seeks to do no harm in young people's participation and ensure that this is a meaningful strategy. And I can go into these perhaps in the question and answer, but this is around, firstly, recognising that security and protection of young people is fundamental and supporting their participation. Secondly, that recognising young people are diverse, and so young people need to be considered from their different lived realities and experiences in conflict. Third, a strategy is only effective as it is funded with adequate resources to implement the actions, forth communication, that's around harnessing the power of communication and shaping a new set of societal norms, and be institutional acceptance of young people as necessary agents in the prevention of violence and political decision making and building foundations for peaceful societies. And finally recognising the potential of technology to both disrupt and facilitate peace processes. This is around harnessing innovation and digital technology into design and implementation of more use inclusive processes. A few then closing considerations before we open the floor. The first is that we need to have a holistic shift in how we perceive and engage with young people. We must move beyond seeing you as beneficiaries of peace processes, but as necessary partners and co-leaders are essential in the prevention of violence and reconstruction of just and inclusive societies. This must be taken forward together and working together with young people, there must be buy-in from youth and to ensure there is buy-in from young people, governments, international, regional and national institutions responsible for peace efforts really need to reaffirm their relationship with young women and men as part of weaving a new social contract.

The strategy has four key aims or objectives, to lead us towards this vision. And that is that by 2026, we have established and strengthened political and institutional commitments to implement full and effective meaningful participation of young people in peace processes, developing youth sensitive and gender-responsive capacity strengthening resources and knowledge tools to support youth engagement and peace processes. Developing really a collaborative effort, a community of practice and partnerships to take the strategy forward to implement, monitor and collaborate and finally mobilising, sustaining sustainable resources and financing to realise the strategies vision. But the target really is the wide spectrum of actors, governments, mediation support units, civil society, international and regional organisations that are engaged in peace processes. And the aim is really to move from policy and norms to practice, from the why, to the how of youth inclusive peace processes. And that's to reflect the lived reality of young women and men in conflict-affected settings, really generating this holistic, long-term, intergenerational strategy that will create this environment for more youth inclusive peace processes. Moving into briefly some of the substance of the strategy, it is founded and shaped by four key pillars are interconnected streams. And this is around institutionalisation and policy, which is the systematic mainstreaming of youth inclusive policies and practices within organisations and institutions, capacity strengthening, which is about shaping and strengthening the attitudes, skills, and knowledge for more youth inclusive practices, not only of young people, as is often assumed, but also institutional leadership, politicians, policymakers, civil servants, and civil society. Knowledge solutions are around building an evidence base, when we know more, we can do better.

So this is around documenting the impact and best practice on how to include young people and how peace processes can be shaped by young people's participation. And finally, the strategy builds on the principle and the spirit of the youth peace and security agenda, which is founded on collaboration and partnerships, for collective impact, really recognising that our collective efforts together generate a stronger and a more sustainable impact than working in silo are segregated efforts. And this is the backbone through which we really want to take the strategy forward. There's a number of cross-cutting issues that underpin how to implement this strategy that really seeks to do no harm in young people's participation and ensure that this is a meaningful strategy. And I can go into these perhaps in the question and answer, but this is around, firstly, recognising that security and protection of young people is fundamental and supporting their participation. Secondly, that recognising young people are diverse, and so young people need to be considered from their different lived realities and experiences in conflict. Third, a strategy is only effective as it is funded with adequate resources to implement the actions, forth communication, that's around harnessing the power of communication and shaping a new set of societal norms, and be institutional acceptance of young people as necessary agents in the prevention of violence and political decision making and building foundations for peaceful societies. And finally recognising the potential of technology to both disrupt and facilitate peace processes. This is around harnessing innovation and digital technology into design and implementation of more use inclusive processes. A few then closing considerations before we open the floor. The first is that we need to have a holistic shift in how we perceive and engage with young people.

We must move beyond seeing you as beneficiaries of peace processes, but as necessary partners and co-leaders are essential in the prevention of violence and reconstruction of just and inclusive societies. This must be taken forward together and working together with young people, there must be buy-in from youth and to ensure there is buy-in from young people, governments, international, regional and national institutions responsible for peace efforts really need to reaffirm their relationship with young women and men as part of weaving a new social contract.

And finally, and this has been raised before, there need to be resources and serious commitment to this agenda. This includes mainstreaming of youth inclusive and gender-responsive practices, but also investing sufficient resources to ensure that peace processes respond to the realities, challenges, and needs of young people of all genders, within conflict societies, ultimately bringing us forward towards our common guiding vision of more peaceful, representative and inclusive societies. I pause there, and I thank you all, I open the floor for some questions and reflections.

LISTEN

Lakshitha Saji Preylis

I hope you can hear the enthusiasm of the audience who is applauding to you. And I'm also hoping the online audience who is joining us also is applauding to you, because it's a very thorough presentation that you gave about a sneak peek and sneak peek. It was a really detailed, powerful presentation about what's going to be launched next month here in Doha, Qatar. So I'm going to open up for a few minutes to see if anyone from the audience has questions. There are mics on both sides. If you want to raise your hand, someone will come to you. And you can ask questions. This is a conversation. This is not a one-way presentation. This is a conversation.

Question from the audience:

I was listening to you and you were talking about the no harm policy. I love everything that's going on. But as a teacher, there is a part of me that you've been beneficiaries, because we're afraid we want to protect them. And so if you could just elaborate more about the No Harm Policy, and how we can have youth as equal partners, without exposing them to unnecessary harm. That would be wonderful. Thank you.

Lakshitha Saji Preylis

Fantastic. Was that the thank you for the question. It's an important question. Leonardo has a question. And then I'll give a chance to Irena to respond.

Question from the audience - Leonardo

My question is, how to ensure the commitment of institutions and different governments to implement this agenda. We have been going with this for five years, six years already today's anniversary. But when we see the progress on the ground and how meaningful is the participation of young people, that's the missing piece. That's something that's still lacking. So how can we push forward governments to really take this as a deep commitment that they have

Lakshitha Saji Preylis

Two important questions. I'm going to ask Irena, to see if you can answer it. But also, Selena can also come in, because you're developing another guidance that you will, the audience will hear from, who can also climb into this. So start with Irina,

 Irena Grezelj

Thank you so much for those questions. Those are really excellent points that you raised. On the points of Do No Harm. This is really fundamental. We find that young people are already active and mobilising and across different spaces. And I think it's the realisation that we need to take that more seriously. It's not that young people are on the streets are seeking participation or mobilising different initiatives, because they feel like it but because it really has such essential contributions, and it's a necessary component to an inclusive and peaceful society. And so in the Do No Harm component. Unfortunately, we find that young people in their striving for participation in different arenas, there are repercussions that there face serious risks to their lives. And the various UN Security Council resolutions are calling for greater investment in the protection of young people. So I see it as two ways, one is realising that young people need to be taken seriously as partners as co-leaders. And secondly, that in young people's participation, in creating spaces and opening these spaces, we cannot allow risks and repercussions in those spaces, we need to make sure that they're safe spaces in the negotiation room as well as on the streets and civic spaces. So I hope that answers your a little bit your question. And I think it's, it's something that we need to continue to work on throughout this agenda, and ensuring these commitments, and thank you for raising that Leonardo. That's critical. And that's what we're looking to do. And that's part of this events, and also in the lead up to Doha. Recognising that, of course, change takes time. But also noting that there are small incremental steps we can take to not only commit, but then implement those commitments. And that's what the strategy seeks to do. We have, you know, next five years that we are looking to take steps towards more youth inclusive peace processes and the commitment of governments of different institutions is fundamental in that because partnerships and ensuring we do that together. It won't go far if we're not partnering. So I think it's again, taking this seriously, making sure the commitments are serious and the investments and taking those steps from the commitment to the implementation, that's a that's a necessary step that needs to be taken moving forward. Thank you.

LISTEN

Juanita Williams

That was Irena Grezelj, researcher, consultant, and trainer on youth peace and security, who co-wrote the five-year roadmap after engaging with governments, mediators, young people, the European Union, African Union, and the United Nations. More than 50 countries are committed to joining the youth peace processes conference online, with foreign ministers, prime ministers, and presidents being present. The WISE Summits peaceful session continued with Cameroonian peacebuilder Dionne Sharon Epie who is a project manager for local Youth Corner Cameroon, a youth lead peacebuilding organisation with over 20 years of experience. She also ensures gender mainstreaming at the organisation and serves as the national programme manager for the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors.

 Lakshitha Saji Preylis

You've been at the forefront of taking these global policies, continental frameworks and saying what does this mean to us in Cameroon? And how we as young women and men lead a process and bring the government on board. Share with us what lessons you have learned and how you are leading this process. In the country. Sharon, you do some amazing work with young people affected by terrorist activities also. So share with us what you're doing and what you're learning from it.

Dionne Sharon Epie

Well, thank you very much. First of all, for the opportunity to be here. I think that this is one of the reasons why young people want to be heard, because they want platforms like this where they can do to express themselves and show what they have. So thank you to the WISE Foundation for this opportunity. And before I get to the lessons learned, I'm going to talk about the reason why we even decided to engage in the localization of the YPS in Cameroon. Cameroon, young people have been very much involved in peacebuilding processes in preventing and countering violent extremism and even in transforming conflict and transforming violent extremism and de- radicalization processes. We as young people, we as youth actors, we involve ourselves in prisons, for instance, where we support violent actors or people who have been engaged in radicalization, in transforming them by vocational training activities within those prisons where they can be able to learn that there are alternatives to violent extremism. We also do community dialogues, improbable dialogues, and so many other things which are related to building peace and countering violent extremism. But we realise that there are so many young people who are actually involved in these processes. We have a young person in the Northwest region of Cameroon where there's conflict in the funnel, doing the same thing, but because we are kind of disunited, because we, we have so many great ideas, we have the energy, and the energy is not canalised into something big that we can actually be able to, you know, put ourselves together to be heard. It's always difficult for us to actually respond and, and have like the impact that we really want to see. So we decided to engage ourselves with the African Union, UNFPA and other international organisations to localise the African Union's continental framework on youth peace and security.

And to ensure that the voices of young people, irrespective of where they are in different communities from across the 10 regions of our country are actually heard and to ensure that their opinions on what they want to see within the National Action Plan are taken into consideration. So, in October, we organised the first ever National Symposium on localising the African Union continental framework on youth peace and security, where we mobilise over 100 young people from the 10 regions, and particularly young people from the far north region, which is affected by the Boko Haram crisis. And those in the Northwest southwest affected by the Ambazonia crisis felt college like that. And here, this was a platform where the different young people that were engaged, express themselves, they spoke about the importance of us young people collaborating and working together to ensure that government takes seriously what we want to see within the national action plan. And some of the lessons that we learned that we developed into some sort of roadmap towards which we'll be able to implement the or develop the national action plan to inform over the next five years for Cameroon, was that we need to be able to build capacity, just as Dr. Ross was talking about ensuring that young people have the necessary skills to be able to take action, because it's one thing to have the energy, it's another thing to know how to effectively organise mediation processes to be able to organise, to be able to monitor and even evaluate your actions at community levels. So that was one of the main things that the young people said they really wanted capacity, and also at the level of seen how we can be able to mobilise resources, we so many, let me just say that there are more than 500 civil society organisations in Cameroon, and among these 500, young people are very much active in them. And majority of them are very small, and having access to resources usually makes it challenging because because you're too small, they don't, they cannot trust you with those kinds of huge funds.

So realise that coming together through this national action plan will permit us to be able to work, develop concrete programmes that can actually be be sponsored by these organisations or by these stakeholders, we also realise the importance of engaging in stakeholders mapping, because in Cameroon, for instance, we have a lot of international organisations, we have a lot of government actors who are working with young people who are supporting young people. But unfortunately, access is still difficult for youth, I remember, when we have a programme that we're doing, we had to go to local administrations about five different times soliciting just for access, just to present the activity to them. So you can imagine if it is that difficult at the local level, what more at the national level and even at the international level where you hardly see those, those big guys. So realise that engaging in a stakeholders mapping and seeing those actors who can be able to facilitate and even advocating that there are focal points for the youth peace and security agenda within those institutions that have been identified to actually facilitate access for young people. And, I mean, we realised a lot of different things that young people are interested in.

And we also realised within this roadmap, the necessity of having a monitoring framework for young people, a youth led monitoring framework, which would also involve evidence-based research that actually informs what we want to do. So in the scope of everything that we discussed throughout this, this symposium, we have started working towards actually developing a national action plan and in the next two, three months, we are going to be doing a national consultation, which is youth led also. So the 100 young people that were identified are also going to restitute these same conferences or these workshops at local level, and is not just going to be young people alone because in as much as we recognise, the young people make up 60% of the country's population, for instance, the remaining 40% is equally important, because they make the decisions they have, you know, the governance and everything. So we ensure that these restitutions include traditional authorities, religious authorities, it includes IDPs because they too have something to say and they're also affected by the conflict. It includes women, because women are also among the most affected people, you know, during such conflicts and also even includes children. Because children also have a role to play, and why not the military? Why not? the police forces, because they are also at the forefront of security. So during these recitations, we're going to do these consultations and find out what are the key things that we can be able to include within the National Action Plan. And also, these restitutions will enable us to be able to know that we have different conflict dynamics in Cameroon, the conflict in the Northwest southwest region has a different dynamic, the one in the in the far north region has a totally different dynamic. So we cannot say that we're just going to maybe do a national symposium and then impose it in the northwest, impose it in the far north impose it, we need to be able to actually take into consideration those different dynamics, and then bring them all together to be able to develop something that will reflect the diversity of young people, and at the same time ensures that they are responding to these issues with one voice.

So after the development of the national action plan, we don't want to end there. We don't want to say, Okay, fine, we have this paper, because it's going to be a paper. But after this, what are we going to do? How do we ensure that what is written down within this action plan is actually implemented. So we are going to ensure that we have, as I said before, a monitoring framework, a youth led monitoring framework, a reporting mechanism, that we can be able to show that, okay, those of those young people have the opportunity to meet those big guys can actually talk for us can be able to advocate for us, and can be able to report even to the lowest group of young people who are acting and they can actually justify the actions that are being done and even at the level of the government ensure that the state has focal points, where we can be able to reach out to them and work with them, which are targeting principally, the continent, the youth peace and security agenda, I strongly believe that without us having these mechanisms that ensure that we can be able to stay accountable, it will be very difficult for us to actually achieve a sustainable action plan and also be able to see how far we have come. Because when we develop the action plan five years down the line, we should be able to sit down and assess ourselves and say, okay, fine, this is what we achieved. These are the objectives we met. And this is what has to be done in the next five years.

Lakshitha Saji Preylis

Wow, where to come in? Where to come in. Thank you so much, Sharon, for your leadership and in this global agenda and how you're really taking ownership and making it yours. This is so critical. So thank you.

After listening to Epie's contribution at the summit, it was clear that she had more to share. So I asked her a few questions about her work, noting, of course, the ongoing Anglophone conflict in the northwest and southwest of Cameroon.

Well, my role entails developing projects, writing developing concern notes, and project proposals that are in line with community conflict prevention, conflict, resolution, conflict transformation. I also engage in implementation such as from developing activity work plans, logical frameworks. Yeah, and other planning tools. And then implementation on the ground, we go to the field where we, we engage with the community, we have organised activities, and then do evaluation at the end of every project, ensure that there is content monitoring, and follow up throughout the project. So those are some of the things that I do as project lead from within my organisation.

Well, I work principally with Local Youth Corner but we co-collaborate with other organisations, other civil society organisations in Cameroon, especially those that are working on peacebuilding in the southwest, northwest region of the country, as well as in the far north region. And when we have activities, when we have programmes we engage with them, we collaborate and then implement at local levels, even at national levels, and we also work with other international organisations, specifically within projects or within programmes.

And so you say that you work in the southwest of Cameroon and I think probably a lot of people want to know what's happening there right now and what kind of work you've actually done in the southwest of Cameroon where the Anglophone crisis is happening. 

Basically since 2016 The crisis in the northwest, southwest region began and we've had a lot of clashes, specifically between government and what are called the secessionist and these crises have, I always like to talk about the consequences because a lot of people focus on. A lot of people are trying to find like the answers. And while you're trying to find the answers to the reasons why these things are happening, people are dying every day, whereas you can actually be able to focus on the consequences and see how to be able to respond to these consequences. So, I mean, what has been happening in the region has caused a lot of loss of lives, a lot of internal displacement. A lot of people, especially children, young people, and women have been affected. And, you know, the crisis only keeps getting worse. Attacks on schools, attacks on places that would rather not be affected actually been affected. So organisation Local Youth Corner since we began working there will be working specifically around engaging community dialogues, particularly improbable dialogues, where we have young people, we have bike riders, we have security actors, we have religious leaders, traditional authorities coming together to discuss and see how we can be able to get to common grounds to actually respond to the issues on the ground. We also have community mediation, we trained young people on community, youth-led mediation approaches, and these young people within their communities act as mediators, they act as people as liaisons to respond to those little crises that happened within the community that could spark into worse situations within the regions. And aside from the PBN aspect, we also do a lot of humanitarian work there, where we support children who have dropped out of school, because of the crisis with recreation. So within our office in the region, we have some sort of recreational centre with a library for children where they come and we teach them on how to engage in dialogues at an early age, the importance of the values of peacebuilding, as well as help them with, you know, reading lessons and other things in order to ensure that they reserve that in despite the crisis and despite the conflict, they can actually reserve that education in them and not face the consequences after probably the crisis has ended when we don't even know when it's going to end. So those are some of the activities that we do within the region, we also have some sort of social activities that promote social cohesion at community level, such as sports, sporting activities for peace, and this is mostly around other regions that I mean, those who are having space on the northwest, southwest, are usually displaced and end up in the literal region. So there in the literal, we have sporting activities, which are we were preparing between host communities and IDPs. Because one of the issues that we have noticed is that there's a lot of clashes between existing clashes between IDPs and host communities due to already limited resources, available resources, hate speech within those regions, and so on. So these little activities that promote knowing one another promote collaboration actually help, you know, as approaches of building peace, because it might be a bit difficult to bring them together to no dialogue, have community dialogues, but you know, sports is something that people connect with easily. And also even arts, you know, so those are some of the things that we do as young peace builders, and just to know that our organisation is mostly youth-led, everyone there is between the age of 15 and 35. So by the time you get to the age 35, you're no longer eligible to work there. So everyone, actually, another thing is that everyone there is from, you know, a conflict affected community. So they understand the dynamics, they have been there. And so we do a lot of most of our work with so much passion and commitment. So that's basically what we are doing within the northwest and southwest. And in as much as we also look at the consequences and try to respond to the effects. We also try to look at some of the causes of this crisis. And that is why we engage in community dialogues so that we can be able to understand the different sides and no try to find common ground to actually be able to respond to these issues.

So the people that are involved in the Anglophone crisis and have in Anglophone conflict Why do you think it's been going on for so long? Because the work that you that you are doing obviously has grown has helped the peacebuilding progress, but what is holding it back?

Well, just to say that I mean, there are so many reasons why conflict not only in the Northwest always, I mean around the world actually protract, you have warlords, you have people who benefit from the economy of conflict. That's a fact. And that's something that is existence everywhere around the world. We have misunderstandings, you can have a community dialogue, for instance, among with a group of people, or not all of them agree to, you know, those kinds of things. So, I mean, there are so many dynamics are so many different reasons that actually prevent. And one of the things that I always like to say is that you're going to the community to build peace, to preach peace, and all of that it's not to solve the problem in one way, because the problem didn't start in one day, it's actually a process. And that is why we encourage many more young people to actually engage because the more we engage, engage ourselves, the more we take action, it is a process that will even become better five years down the line two years down the line, we can be able to see the outcome of the efforts of our peacebuilding efforts, and there is no direct way. I mean, if I tell you that I'm going to give you a response to why the conflict, it continues, I will probably be taking one person side or try to, to formulate something just to please you. But I would say that, you know, even, as much as the conflict is protracted, we're still doing our best. And we're still working very hard to ensure that those pieces of peace that we are building actually yield something in the long term.

You mentioned sport and art quite a bit in your peacebuilding work. What are those activities and what kind of fruit have they borne for your organisation?

Okay, so, for the littoral region, we are starting this particular activity in in January. But we have done this in the far north region, where we mobilise community security, I mean, military, police, and justice sector actors to play together. And what we do is that the approach we use is that these community, these police, these security actors, are put on the same team, so they get to play together. And while playing together, they get to know each other better, they get to collaborate, because you have to work together to be able to maybe score a goal. And when they score a goal, you see them hugging each other, something that would not happen, you know, in the norm, a police officer within currently in, in our context will not come and hug a young person just like that. But you know, when they are playing in this kind of informal context, they get to know each other better. And from there, it's easier to actually engage them in this community peace building processes and see how they actually work together. Another thing is that realise that engaging in such activities, where we include also young women, it actually shows the role that young women can play shows that young people, young women can also take part in sports activities, they can also engage in social cohesion activities. In the far north region, for instance, where we work in more, we, our sports tournament had both men and women, we had the women, the female handball team, and for the first time, after this person, I meant another sports tournament came in which initially never included women started, including women within those sporting activities.

And you realise that I mean, you those little actions, or those little activities of social cohesion actually yield fruit. There are also some young people who stated that they had never thought that they would actually play on the same thing with the military personnel because they know that military, its military, and you see that they actually connect. And when you connect, when you connect with one another, it makes it easier for you to respond to the conflict. Because you know that this conflict affects both the young people, the older people, and everyone within the community. So those are some of the things that these social cohesion activities actually help with.

We also have film production, community film screening and film production, where we, we develop a film within the community to reflect social cohesion and the role of different actors in peacebuilding. And when these films are screened, the community is able to see how and what role each of them can be able to play within the context of peace and security in their communities. So those are some of the things that sports and other art artistic activities actually do when it comes to peace. So it's not just about organising a sports tournament, but it's also about the approaches that we use, ensuring that both of them are engaged, you know, are able to collaborate within these sporting activities, ensuring that they're able to relay information that that project working together for a common good and project collaboration. At the end of the day.

We spoke about the importance of getting the young women involved and getting youth involved. Now, those are two separate questions. But can I ask you what is the importance of having young people involved? Specifically, why is that such a major, a major hurdle for peacebuilding to cross? And why is it important for more young women and more young people to be involved in peacebuilding?

I mean, young people are the crossroads of conflicts everywhere in the world, even in, especially in Cameroon outdated context of Cameroon, majority of those who are, who are fighting or who are in crisis or conflict or young people, majority of those who are even responding to these issues are young people. At the last conference we had during my presentation, I stated that we have over 300 organisations and these organisations, we have so many young people who are actually actively participating. It is very important to actually engage them to take action and to actually build peace because they are at the end of the day, they are the ones who are most affected. And we also have that the fact that young people are over 60% of the population of the country's population or even the population of Africa, you see, this demographic majority makes it important that they we actually pull them towards peace building.

And you know, providing them alternatives such as engaging them appeals vision processes means that we're actually reducing their rate of engaging in conflict or violence and extremism. So those are some of the vision for young people. For young women, it is very important for them to be engaged because I believe that personally for instance, as a young woman, women have more tolerance compared to men. And building on such tolerance actually makes it possible for them to, to actually mobilise community to take action in peace and security actions. And at the same time, we have young women who are also affected by gender based violence in conflict context, young women are the most affected when it comes to domestic violence, young women are the most affected. So it is but it is very important that young women also take action. And also when it comes to the radicalization processes in the far north for is that majority of those who drop their guns and all of that got their information about these centres, from their wives or from their girlfriends, or from a female partner. So you realise that there is it's very important to actually engage these young women within peace building processes.

Earlier you were speaking about the process of peacebuilding and the fact that people think that you go in and there is going to be peace. I know that it's quite a long process that can be quite involved - if you could just take us through an example of what the peacebuilding process is.

So as I was saying, building peace is not like a humanitarian work, where you just check, check the boxes, we gave these number of things and all of that it involves mediation, it involves dialogue. It involves bringing people together over and over people who in normal circumstances, will not seek to talk about an issue. It involves getting common grounds or finding, engaging people to find common grounds actually respond to the problems that they have. So at, at my level, as a peacebuilder, you're like a facilitator, you're not like the solution finder, you're the one who facilitates the process of finding solutions to the problems that two people to the disagreement that two people or more groups are facing with one another. And this could be done through, as I said, initially dialogues, engaging them mobilising them or bringing together, bringing them together, to organise, to take part in dialogue in conversations, which could be formal and informal conversations. Bringing them to as a mediator, you make these kinds of conversations with them.

Those are the processes of peacebuilding. And then we also have the aspect of transforming conflict or transforming violent extremism, where you talk about using more relatable initiatives or more related to action such as maybe we can talk about skills building providing alternatives to the portrait the those who are actually pushing forward the conflict or the violence within the communities. For instance, within our initiatives, we have this creative skills for peace, which is like a vocational training opportunity for young people who have had a history of violent extremism in and have been in prisons, where we provide the vocational skills in, such as transforming tires, to shoes, tailoring, hairdressing, and so forth. And through these activities, they're able to see that they don't necessarily need to be violent. They don't necessarily need to, to go towards conflict to make a living out of life, but they can actually be more useful citizens within their communities. So those are some of the approaches that we can be able to use when it comes to you know, peacebuilding conflict transformation.

Earlier, you were speaking about the effect conflict has on young people when they are still at school or university. And you attended the WISE Summit in Doha (in December 2021). And so I just want to I want to know about that experience, and what that's nice. Just meeting with all those there's education, and some peacebuilding experts as well. What was that like to attain that and to be on one of the panels?

Yes. So I mean, the WISE conference was a great opportunity to actually present the work that young people are doing and give an opportunity for young people to be heard, and for young people to actually show that they're actually taking action, wherever they're coming from, and especially when it comes to education. And I really, one of the things that I really particularly appreciated was the fact that within this education summit, there was a panel to discuss around peacebuilding. Because one of the main causes, or one of the main reasons why so many children are out of school, especially in Cameroon, we have more than 300,000 children who are dropped out of school as a result of violent conflict. So you realise that there is like peace building or peace is very integral to peace, to education, or to access education for children around the world. So the WISE conference was really a great opportunity to demonstrate how the importance of education and the importance of important role, young people are actually playing in ensuring that there is sustainable education for children around the world, and especially for children in Cameroon. And, for me, particularly was a wonderful experience.

After my presentation, a lot of young people came to me saying that they were very inspired. And they were very happy to have, you know, taken part and heard what I had to say. So just a single fact that I was able to contribute in a little way to inspire young people to also take action towards peace building, and ensuring there is youth-led community engagement across, you know, in otherwise, and even out of the wise conference, was really elating. For me, I was really, really happy that I had the opportunity to do that. And I believe that it doesn't just end at the level of making speeches in summits were actually coming back home and taking action or continuing the work that, you know, we have been doing even before we had the opportunity to talk within those platforms. So that's exactly how I felt within that opportunity of being given that opportunity. And they I said earlier, a lot of times we don't get the chance to actually talk about the work we do. And those are some of the reasons why young people feel discouraged and they don't feel pushed.

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Thank you so much for making yourself available to speak about your experiences as a peaceful there in Cameroon, as well as your presentation at the Wise Summit in Doha. You were listening to all Africans silence the guns podcast, focusing on peacebuilding in Africa, all Africa is grateful to the Carnegie Corporation for supporting its reporting on peacebuilding on the continent.

Allafrica is grateful to the Carnegie Corporation of New York for supporting our reporting on peacebuilding in Africa.

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