A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
the choice of being ‘saints’ or ‘sinners’: either they are vulnerable child victims of senseless violence, or they are easily corrupted ‘spoilers’, who represent a possible trigger for warfare – they are either too helpless or too reckless. Stress in the international policy discourse on youth’s right to protection overlooks a right that is equally important: that of participation in the peace process and in programming that will directly affect their lives. The CRC demands that all parties involved allow children to express their views and to give those views ‘due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.’ (Article 12(1); 2) It also states that children ‘shall have the right to freedom of expression’, and that this right ‘shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers.’ (Article 13 (1); 3). Yet children remain spoken for, rather than spoken to, in post-conflict programming.
Young women and girls are especially silent in the peace process, despite being accorded the right to participation in peace-building through UNSCR 1325, which urges member states ‘to ensure increased representation of women at all decision- making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.’ (Article 1). It also urges UN member states to respect women and girls’ special needs during repatriation,
resettlement, rehabilitation and post-conflict reconstruction (Article 8a).
two international conventions are strong statements of young women’s rights that need to be translated into action.
The research described in this book addresses discrimination against young people in conflict and post-conflict situations. The evidence it has collected suggests that young people do indeed experience a wide variety of forms of discrimination at the hand of adults, including those with a duty of care. The authors of discrimination against the young people described in more detail in the following chapters include virtually all the adults that they come into contact with. Parents reject their daughters who come home with illegitimate children, neighbours give a wide berth to girl ex-fighters for fear of their potential violence, employers dismiss young applicants for jobs as unreliable, courts dismiss the property claims of child mothers, UN peace-keeping missions overlook the rights of girls in international law. These adults are able to exercise this power by virtue of attitudes to youth which both infantilise and demonise them, and indeed which exploit their labour, their bodies and their property.
Discrimination against young people operates at all levels, not only within their own communities and countries, but also among international assistance providers. Despite the clear guidelines set out in international legal frameworks, governments