Youth, Peace and Security - A Programming Handbook

Manual and Guideline
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Executive summary

Youth, Peace and Security: A Programming Handbook, developed by the United Nations with the generous support of the Folke Bernadotte Academy – the Swedish Agency for Peace, Security and Development – seeks to contribute to the operational readiness and capacity of United Nations practitioners to implement the youth, peace and security (YPS) agenda.

For the United Nations, the development of the handbook was led by the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Development Programme and the Peacebuilding Support Office in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, in consultation with a task force including various United Nations entities represented at global, regional and country levels, as well as Folke Bernadotte Academy partners.

The handbook is intended to be used by country, regional and global teams in the United Nations system, but it can also provide insights and guidance to field practitioners beyond the United Nations, including other international or regional organizations, national counterparts, youth-led and youthfocused organizations, movements and networks, and peacebuilding organizations.

The programming handbook builds on recent evidence and increasing momentum to prioritize youth-inclusive and youth-sensitive peace and security programming, as a core element of more sustainable and long-lasting peacebuilding efforts. It follows the interagency Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding and expands on the promising practices and limitations that the subsequent Practice Note on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding identifies. The findings and recommendations from The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security also serve as a basis to guide youth-led and youth-focused peacebuilding programming. In addition, the handbook builds on a review of existing guidelines and lessons learned from previous youth-focused peacebuilding efforts, both by the United Nations system and by partner organizations. The objective of the handbook is therefore to complement existing guidance by filling the gaps and responding to the priorities identified by young people and partners in a concrete and user-friendly way.

At the core of the handbook are approaches to meaningful youth inclusion throughout the analysis, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of peacebuilding programmes and projects. Meaningful inclusion entails identifying the specific needs and potential of young men and women of diverse backgrounds in relation to sustaining peace.

Following an overview of the YPS agenda and background on changing attitudes towards the role of young people in peacebuilding in the Introduction, the handbook offers strategic guidance and practical advice on its operational implementation.

  • Chapter 1 provides directions to ensure meaningful youth participation, arguing that youth engagement makes projects effective. This chapter proposes specific recommendations on whom to engage and how to engage, and formulates specific assessment questions to consider.

  • Chapter 2 introduces tools and operational steps for undertaking a youth-sensitive and youth-inclusive conflict analysis, and aims to provide insights into the specific situation of youth, the context, and how age interlinks with conflict dynamics and opportunities for peace. Youth can lead or co-lead the analysis process, and should be engaged to ensure conflict sensitivity and doing no harm.

  • Chapter 3 spells out approaches for developing YPS strategic priorities and theories of change, with examples related to political participation, economic empowerment and decent jobs, education and gender. Youth-sensitive theories of change help make programming assumptions explicit and increase the effectiveness of projects. Collaborating with youth in the formulation of these strategic priorities and theories of change can reduce the risk of teams making assumptions inconsistent with the lived experience of youth.

  • Chapter 4 addresses the formulation of YPS outcome statements and indicators, highlighting the importance, when developing a YPS project, of focusing on “positive peace” outcomes and conflict transformation for longer-term solutions. Working with youth in the indicator design process can help identify what needs to be measured.

  • Chapter 5 provides guidance for monitoring YPS projects. Monitoring schemes should be created to include sources of youth-specific information. Partnerships with youth can improve the understanding of the contexts through shaping and carrying out monitoring.

  • Chapter 6 explores how to evaluate the impact – and not just direct outputs and outcomes – of YPS programming and meaningful youth inclusion. It discusses youth-sensitive, youth-led and youth-focused evaluations. Working with youth in monitoring and evaluation heightens the organization’s transparency and accountability towards youth, and can improve uptake of recommendations.

  • Chapter 7 proposes a series of YPS programming entry points, illustrated by concrete project examples, structured in accordance with the five pillars of Security Council Resolution 2250: participation, protection, prevention, partnerships, and disengagement and reintegration.

The successful implementation of this handbook will ensure that projects and programmes are informed by a full understanding of the ways in which young people experience and participate in their societies, and their interaction with peace and security matters.