Young people pledge to work for peace in Western Lakes area

unmiss South Sudan intercommunal violence Lakes Civil Affairs Division Communications and Public Information youth conflict mitigating peacebuilding

Some 80 youth in the Western Lakes area attended a workshop on how to improve their capacity to play a positive role in peace building.

The Rumbek Field Office of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has held a workshop with 80 attending youth on their role in peace building, and on the mandate of the peacekeeping mission.

There was consensus among participants that youth mobilization in peacebuilding efforts is more likely to be successful if young people are given the capabilities and opportunities to work with local and national governments. With few constructive avenues to influence local and national politics, young people tend to view governments as plagued by corruption. Conversely, governments often fail to take into account the views of youths in policymaking, and may have different priorities for peace.

“As young people we seek more inclusive means to express ourselves and participate in awareness-raising among the wider population,” Mr. Abraham Pieng, an articulate participant said.

“Youth voices in peace building are present everywhere, but sometimes not recognized,” Miss Monica Akol, youth leader of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan stated, adding:

“The creation of spaces for youth to express their opinions to decision-makers and broader society ensures that they have the opportunity to be heard,” she added.

Benjamin Makur, an UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer, said it is crucial not to reward “bad behaviour” and instead acknowledging young people who are positively contributing to their communities.

“In general, you young people feel marginalized and your voices are not heard or trusted as credible. But when you commit acts of violence, the government rushes in. You have to be more conscious, cautious and thoughtful in your approach and avoid sending the message that you only care when harm is caused,” Mr. Makur recommended.

The workshop was organized by the UN Mission’s Civil Affairs Division and Communications and Public Information Section in the wake of cycles of inter- and intra-communal conflicts in the area. These conflicts see youth being both major actors and frequent victims of violence.