A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
The international institutional context - what needs to change?
Policy is scattered, inadequately known, and inadequately monitored: The provisions of international law as it relates to youth and children affected by conflict, summarised above, deliver a clear enough message. However, the message is diluted by being scattered through a bewildering array of conventions, charters, protocols and resolutions. Nowhere are these provisions brought out into a single, clear statement. One of the consequences of this lack of clear policy guidance is the concomitant lack of monitoring of the work of UN agencies and other key actors; no one agency is charged with ensuring that the rights of children and young people in situations of conflict are being protected. At the same time, information about what exactly these provisions are is clearly not getting through to project managers and commanders on the ground. There appear to be no mechanisms whereby those responsible for executing the international community’s functions in periods of armed conflict and post-conflict reconstruction can be held to account.
Gender and youth perspectives are not being mainstreamed into interventions on the ground: Although these combined resolutions and other instruments mark a commitment to address the gendered nature of conflict, implementation has failed to address the different ways in which conflict impacts on men and women, boys and girls. Interventions in favour of people affected by conflict tend to overlook the special position and needs of young people and children. And interventions in favour of women in conflict-affected circumstances tend to overlook the separate needs of girls. Thus there has been a tendency toward a ‘women and girls approach’ in which the particular needs of girls and unmarried women are eclipsed by programmes that cater to ‘women’ as a single target group, notwithstanding differences in age, class, rural/urban background and so on (Kirk and Taylor n.d.). The needs of girls will continue to be overlooked, unless a ‘double lens’ of youth and gender analysis is applied, with a view to identifying the specificity of the needs of men, women, girls and boys (Kirk and Taylor n.d. and Zakaria 2006).
Funding deficiencies in DDR processes pushes women and children to the end of the DDR ‘queue’: Up to 90% of funding for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration is spent on disarming and demobilising ex-combatants, with little money left over for reintegration. Rehabilitation and reintegration is usually left to UNICEF and non-governmental organisations, and is usually under-funded. Despite a reaffirmation of the UN’s commitment to rehabilitating child soldiers, there are no clear funding mechanisms for youth (Kemper 2005).
Adult attitudes to youth preclude support to youth activism: Adults have ambivalent attitudes to youth, and those adults who work in the international peace-building and humanitarian fraternity are no exception. Youth seem to be presented with