Home | 2011 Workshop

Youth, Conflict, and Extremism:
Moving from Humanitarian Assistance to Sustainable Development
August 19, 2009 – 3:30 p.m.

Presenters: Lily Stern, International Rescue Committee
Sylvia Ellison, Creative Associates Inc.
Keri Lowry, USAID Africa Bureau

Discussant:John Grayzel, University of Maryland College Park

Moderator:Yolande Miller-Grandvaux, USAID Office of Education

In this session presenters offered their insights on the core question of whether youth programming can deter or mitigate conflict. The three presentations complemented one another thematically; describing what is believed to be solidly known about youth and violence, sharing lessons learned from efforts to help youth rejoin civil society and become productive members of society in post-conflict Liberia, and USAID Africa Bureau’s efforts to identify drivers of violent extremism among youth as well as a range of possible programmatic approaches to prevent or mitigate these drivers.

To date, there have been few rigorous evaluations of youth programs, especially longitudinal ones. This is particularly relevant because more than half of all the countries with a youth bulge are either in critical condition or in danger of failing, and 12 of the 15 countries with the largest bulges have been home to conflict. In most crisis countries, youth make up more than 20 percent of the population, and three quarters of all youth bulge countries at risk are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Although terrorism is unlikely to disappear, improving youth employment should help reduce some of the risks. Considering the many impacts disaffected youth can have on their societies, the Africa Bureau has seen youth as a major missing theme.

The combination of being young, uneducated, without dependents, and being and/or feeling marginalized makes people more likely to engage in violence and join extremist groups which give youth a sense of security. To counteract these potentials, it is necessary to help disaffected youth move from the margins to becoming resource providers with a sense of responsibility. However this should be done on a systemic basis rather than simply an individualized one, especially for countries with large youth bulges. Experience has shown that comprehensive approaches are far more successful than those which address only particular pieces of a problem. In Liberia, 70 percent of youth plan to move from their communities within three years. While motivations are not always clear, data does show that large numbers of children – boys and girls – have been the victims of rape. In an attempt to repair the damage, accelerated learning programs that separate youth from children (groups that have different perspectives and needs) combined with service learning to actively involve girls and women has improved community dialogue and inter-generational collaboration, keys to reintegration and gaining a sense of responsibility.

Key take away points from this session included the importance of providing multi-faceted support to at-risk youth to truly reintegrate them into their societies. Furthermore, it is critical to implement broad-based approaches that address both immediate and long-term issues. While the typologies of youth violence are still being developed and effective approaches revealed, it’s essential to keep in mind that in practice, issues and potential solutions must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

To view the presentations, please click on link below:
Creative, Ellison : Open
IRC, Stern : Open

For questions related to the 2009 Education Workshop,
please contact Rebekah Levi at rlevi@jbsinternational.com