There is a growing recognition of the role young people play in building peace in the African Great Lakes region. However, their participation and capacity to influence decision-making are often limited by structural barriers and insufficient investment in facilitating their inclusion and empowerment.
Interpeace is taking action, through a new regional initiative, to equip young people in Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda with the skills and knowledge they need to influence and play a more effective leadership role in regional peace processes.
The Great Lakes Youth Innovation Lab for Peace (YouthLab) project is a 30-month initiative implemented in partnership with Never Again Rwanda (NAR), the Pole Institute and the Centre d’Alerte et Prevention des Conflits (CENAP). The initiative is funded by the European Union.
Recurring and deeply interconnected conflicts have claimed millions of lives and disrupted social cohesion in the Great Lakes region since the 1960s. Conflict dynamics on one side of a border often have an impact on the other side, due to the interdependence between countries in the region. Young people, who make up the majority of the population in the Great Lakes countries, are severely affected by the cycles of protracted conflict. They face physical violence, forced recruitment into armed groups, intergenerational transmission of trauma, forced displacement and have lost access to schooling, job and livelihood opportunities. Despite these challenges, previous and ongoing peacebuilding interventions have not offered young people sufficient space for meaningful dialogue and shared peacebuilding action.
The Interpeace YouthLab project that was launched in January 2021, will provide a platform for young people in the Great Lakes to have dialogues and share a common voice for collective action as they engage policy makers to articulate their vision for peace in the region.
“This initiative will stand out as a shining example of how young people can be the difference between violence and peace. They need to come together in a more inclusive platform to act and make this work,” said Frank Kayitare, Interpeace’s Great Lakes Regional Representative.
The project will bring together young people from across the region to actively participate and lead initiatives that contribute to governance, peacebuilding, and development processes at the local, national and regional levels. It will also support youth leadership in peacebuilding and expand cultural and intergenerational exchanges.
Through a series of engagement activities, the project has been introduced to political actors and potential partners, shortly after a planning workshop, to make them aware of planned activities and to get these stakeholders from the different countries to actively contribute. A stakeholder mapping exercise, the identification of participants and a process to develop capacity-building modules and tools are ongoing.
The YouthLab initiative is part of our Great Lakes programme that works to promote peace, stability, and social cohesion by strengthening resilience capacities for peace and reconciliation throughout the region.