Young people have said their efforts to stem extremism and build peace remain largely overlooked at the national and global levels.
Last week, youth delegates from Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Uganda and the United Kingdom met with government and civil society officials to highlight the key challenges barring them from making a more effective contribution to ending extremism.
They called on governments to work with young people as their “strongest asset” in delivering peace, upholding the rule of law and preventing extremism.
Charles Kajoloweka, a civil society delegate from Malawi, said: “Wherever you look, young people are at the forefront of those advocating for change.
“But so many young people feel that, no matter how hard they work, they cannot get ahead. They do not feel that they can have their voice heard in the classrooms, boardrooms or parliaments of their countries.”
The Commonwealth hosted the meeting in partnership with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s executive agency Wilton Park from 11 to 13 December.
A 2018 UN report reveals that young people involved in violence are a tiny fraction of the youth population but many policies assume they, as a group, are involved in conflicts. The report urges all actors to invest in young people to boost their transformative potential for peace.
The Commonwealth’s head of Countering Violence Extremism unit, Mark Albon said: “We are working with our young people to ensure their contributions are recognised and voices are heard at all levels of decision-making.
“This is an essential step in halting the violent extremism that has devastated many parts of the world and reversing the trends of exclusion that has held back young people, who are our greatest asset for peace, security, climate change and more.”
Mr Albon said the Commonwealth will include this perspective in its peace and security work and will put this issue on the agenda for the 2020 Commonwealth Youth Forum.