Youth & Consequences: Unemployment, Injustice and Violence – Afghanistan, Colombia, Somalia

Youth & Consequences: Unemployment, Injustice and Violence – Afghanistan, Colombia, Somalia
Mercy Corps
February 2015 :: 60 pages

Our new report…tackles some of the most persistent assumptions driving youth programming in fragile states. Drawing on interviews and surveys with youth in Afghanistan, Colombia and Somalia, we find the principal drivers of political violence are rooted not in poverty, but in experiences of injustice: discrimination, corruption and abuse by security forces.

In light of these findings, many familiar approaches — vocational training programs, for instance, and civic engagement — are unlikely, in isolation, to have much effect on stability. We need a new approach, one that tackles the sources of instability, not just the symptoms.

In addition to documenting our findings, and the risks of getting youth development wrong, this report provides recommendations for getting youth-focused programming right, including:
:: End siloed, single-sector programming, and support multi-sectoral, multi-year programs that create systems within which youth can thrive;
:: Target the most vulnerable youth – and be vigilant about ensuring programs don’t just reach privileged youth in urban centers;
:: Shape future “countering violent extremism” (CVE) strategies through rigorous, iterative analyses of the political, social and economic factors that drive youth to support political violence; and
:: Increase investments in two-track governance programs that connect youth “voices” with meaningful reforms on issues of corruption, predatory justice systems and exclusive governance structures.

[Excerpt from press release]
…With more than half the world’s population under 30 and 300,000 child soldiers fighting in conflicts around the globe, Mercy Corps urges the international community to reevaluate its collective approach to deterring youth from engaging in political violence….

“With youth forming the backbone of many paramilitary and terrorist organizations, efforts by the Obama Administration and others to counter violent extremism must recognize the critical importance of addressing the underlying grievances driving young people to join these groups,” says Neal Keny-Guyer, Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Corps. “The Administration’s renewed focus on approaches to preventing violence presents a golden opportunity for the U.S. to invest wisely and appropriately in adolescents living in fragile states.”