Around the world, more than 600 million young people live in fragile and conflict-affected contexts today. Despite being deeply affected by violence in a myriad of ways, young people’s voices are not sufficiently heard in the processes of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The active role young people play as peacemakers, mediators and peacebuilders at grassroots and local levels are under-acknowledged. Beyond peacebuilding, young people display ownership, agency and leadership in diverse areas that are of significance to local, regional, national and international peace and security, ranging from climate change to tackling inequalities. Yet, the achievements of young people are hindered due to the absence of adequate recognition, protection, funding and meaningful partnerships.
Developed as a result of a youth-driven advocacy process, the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) agenda of the United Nations for the first time recognises “the important and positive contribution of youth in efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security” (UNSC Resolution 2250).
It is within this context that our research investigates the role of youth as agents of peace, exploring a range of interconnected issues including peacebuilding, justice, development, humanitarianism, migration, conflict and security, and human rights with a youth-participatory and multidisciplinary approach.
THE ROLE OF YOUTH IN PEACE PROCESSES
Principal Investigator: Dr Asli Ozcelik Olcay
This research stream, led by Dr Asli Ozcelik Olcay in collaboration with researchers from the University of Glasgow and non-academic partners (United Nations, conflict resolution organisations and youth organisations), investigates youth inclusivity in peace processes.
An initial project, “Youth-led peace: The role of youth in peace processes”, examined the barriers to and strategies for youth inclusion in official peace processes. Investigating youth leadership as peacemakers, mediators, and peacebuilders at grassroots and local levels, the project explored pathways for promoting and investing in youth leadership in peace processes through meaningful partnerships, capacity building, and protection.C
The project involved consultations with representatives of eight youth-led organisations from Afghanistan, Kenya, Liberia, the Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, and Turkey, as well as a knowledge exchange workshop that brought together representatives from the UN, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, conflict resolution organisations, and youth-led peacebuilding organisations. A summary of the project findings is available here and here.
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (2020-21), the project team included Dr Asli Ozcelik Olcay (Principal Investigator), Dr Yulia Nesterova (Co-Investigator), Dr Graeme Young (Co-Investigator) and Mr Alex Maxwell (Research Assistant).
Currently, together with Dr Yulia Nesterova, Dr Asli Ozcelik Olcay leads the ESRC-funded project, “Meaningful youth engagement for peace and security: Strengthening capacities of international partners for youth inclusive peace processes”. Cutting across the partnership and participation pillars of the YPS agenda, the aim of the project is to develop a capacity development resource for international actors that are involved in peace mediation, facilitation and assistance, with a view to providing guidance on meaningful engagement with youth, establishing fair and effective partnerships, and identification of entry points for procedural and substantive youth inclusivity in peace processes. The project aligns with the capacity strengthening stream (stream 4) of the 5-year Strategic Action Plan launched at the High-Level Global Conference on Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes co-organised by civil society and UN partners in January 2021.
YOUTH AS AGENTS OF PEACE AND SECURITY: PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH AND EMBODIED EMOTIONS
Principle Investigator: Dr Rebecca Sutton
Dr Rebecca Sutton embarked on this applied, youth-oriented research project in 2019 with funding from the University of Edinburgh, the Leverhulme Trust, and the UK Global Challenges Research Fund. The first research phase (2019-2022) focused on developing and pilot testing a participatory methodology for engaging youth living in refugee camps so that they could develop their own research and advocacy projects on themes of humanitarianism, peace, justice, security, citizenship and human rights. To build the foundation for this engagement, Dr. Sutton travelled to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in 2019 and trained Rohingya youth in research skills such as project design, data verification, and reflexivity. That visit led to a modest project focused on camp-based education for Rohingya youth; this gave the opportunity for Rohingya researchers to present community views on education to stakeholders such as UNICEF and the FCDO.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the engagement shifted to focus on Rohingya experiences of the pandemic and, more specifically, of coping with lockdown in the Cox’s Bazar Camps. A series of community-led research reports were produced by Rohingya (youth and adult) researchers with support from an international coaching team based in Myanmar/U.S. and Scotland. This series of reports established that displaced youth have the potential to not only play an important role as community researchers, but also to serve as conduits and points of contact who can communicate clear information about Covid-19 to their fellow community members.
The second phase (2022-2025) will explore youth leadership at the intersection of three overlapping domains: (1) education and pedagogy; (2) peace, security and development; (3) human emotions. To launch this new project phase, Dr. Rebecca Sutton is collaborating with Professor Christine Bell (University of Edinburgh) and Dr. Jaramey McMullin (St. Andrews) to hold a participatory workshop for youth and youth-oriented researchers and advocates working on issues of youth peacebuilding in Scotland and beyond. This youth peacebuilding event, held at the National Museum of Scotland, will help to mark the launch of the new Scottish Council on Global Affairs and put youth peacebuilding squarely on the agenda.
NEWS & EVENTS
- On 21-22 January 2022, Dr Asli Ozcelik Olcay attended the High-Level Global Conference on Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes, co-organised by civil society and UN partners, as an invited YPS expert. A 5-year Strategic Action Plan for youth-inclusive peace processes was launched at the Conference.
- The first-ever Global Report on Protecting Young People in Civic Space was published in January 2021. The report identifies the barriers and threats against youth in the civic space and puts forward recommendations for youth-sensitive protection mechanisms. Commissioned by the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the research report was authored by Ambassador Rita Izsák-Ndiaye (former UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues and the current Personal Representative on Children and Security at Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), with the support of the Protection Working Group of the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security. Dr Asli Ozcelik Olcay contributed to the development of the report as a member of the Working Group.
- Knowledge Exchange Workshop, University of Glasgow (29-30 October 2020): The Role of Youth in Peace Processes
- Knowledge Exchange Workshop on “Youth and Peace Mediation” ( 28 March 2023)
- In 2023, Dr Asli Ozcelik Olcay joined the International Steering Group of the Five-year Strategic Action Plan for Youth-inclusive Peace Processes. The Steering Group is co-chaired by the United Nations (the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs) and Search for Common Ground.