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Historical appraisal of youth and its role in peace-building

By Asad Daudzai and Nasir Yousafzai-Youth is no doubt the precious asset of any society which today constitute the major part of total world population in general and Afghanistan in particular.

Young people are talented, equipped to be a powerful source of innovation – they are natural change agents. There are lots of amazing young people all around the world, willing to make a difference, willing to lead (and already doing so).

Almost one generation of Afghanistan, born and raised in wars and fighting, has been badly affected in all spheres of life ranging from educational to social, political, cultural and economic, hence the necessity of systematic reinstatement, guidance, consultancy and training is felt. The three decades of consecutive war have mentally and psychologically disturbed the youth. To recover back their mental and psychological soundness they need proper rehabilitation.

Likewise, despite their majority they have always been marginalized, overlooked and kept out of the decision making process at lower level in their community and in government at upper level. To tackle this issue there is a need of mainstreaming and empowerment of youth. Lack of awareness about their role, power and rights and duties have deprived the youth from realization and assertion of their genuine power, role, rights and duties, therefore, they need awareness initiatives.

Currently, humanity is disgraced with wars, economic exploitation, political and social dominance, violence against gender and violence against religion. In Afghan society, peace, has become a word that perhaps has slipped from lives. The Anglo-Afghan wars, the Soviet invasion, the civil war, the Taliban the US-led international war on terror have paralyzed this country. Last four decades turned out to be too miserable for the people of Afghanistan. The people of this war-wracked country were affected in all walks of life. Their fabric of life shook, from security, property, livelihood, agriculture, livestock and physical infrastructure, there is hardly a thing that is not affected. Millions of people were lost and many more millions were displaced; and are still being displaced.

Common man is in an extremely vulnerable situation. They are being exploited by the political elites, warlords and the affluent class. The average daily wage that a worker earns is below two US $ a day. They are deprived of basic necessities of life which include food, shelter, clothes and hygienic living. According to a survey conducted by Swedish committee for Afghanistan (SCA), 43% of Afghan population still does not have access to clean and safe drinking water; and 17.5% do not have access to improved sanitation.  25% of children die each year in Afghanistan due to water-borne diseases. The Asia foundation, in its report titled as “survey of the afghan people “ published in 2014, has identified key national-level issues of Afghanistan. They include unemployment, lack of electricity, roads, lack of clean & safe drinking water, insecurity, education and healthcare.

On the other hand due to the absence of true democratic order, there is no rule of law. The dispensation of justice is not within the reach of the common man. Corruption, nepotism, loot and plunder of state resources   at the hands of rulers, warlords and maliks are order of the day. The feudal impacts and medieval /tribal culture poses a serious threat to people’s right of life. This situation has weakened states institution and has increased its dependency on other actors such as western powers.  IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIS) with weaker structure of governance and institutions, Afghanistan cannot cope with the potential foreign aggression, infiltration or intervention.

Youth are a force for change in this world, but the role of youth in decision-making for their own futures and livelihoods needs to be better understood and strengthened. The fact is that youth represent almost a third of the world’s population. Moreover, the population of youth is growing, but not complemented with full representation; their voices should be heard.

Youth are also a group most affected by violence, both as victims and perpetrators. More importantly, the United Nations Study on Violence against Children indicated that “Violence against children exacts extraordinary costs to society, and is linked to lifelong social and health problems.” For these reasons, youth are major stakeholders. They are a crucial force in the betterment of their own livelihoods and their futures.

Youth are agents of social change! For decades, youth have shown that they have been actively engaged in transforming the world that they will inherit on a mass scale. For instance, many of the social movements of the 1960s were taking place on college campuses, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement. Nowadays, we have live global concerts campaigning for the eradication of poverty and raising public awareness of climate change. These concerts target a worldwide youth audience, in realization of their potential to address issues that are important to their futures.


Building peace through youth

Many great leaders begin “changing the world” at a young age – when they believe the whole world is open to them and they are free to chase their big dreams. Nelson Mandela was only 26 when he and Walter Sisulu established the ANC Youth League. Bill Gates established Microsoft at 19, and Steve Jobs launched Apple at age 21. Above all, the big name of our own land the great reformer, peace activist and icon of non-violence; Great Bacha Khan was only 21 who started his long journey and struggle of preaching ,disseminating and advocating education, freedom and non-violence.

The task for building peace has become enormous because the state actors have failed in their duty to protect its people. The forces of extremism and retrogression have unleashed a wave of terror in the society for implementing their doctrine based on bigotry and narrow insight. They refuse to accept logic and reason and employ sentiments and emotions to project and promote their own version of creed. They refuse to accept principles of equality as they hold that believers and non-believers cannot be placed on the same footings. They oppose gender equality because to them women were created weaker in terms of strength and wisdom.

During the last decades they have played havoc with our society. Both state and religion belong to independent spheres of life. Both must be separated from each other. Because of extremism and militancy in the name of religion, we are dubbed as terrorists amongst the comity of nations.

The defining moments need courage, honesty and will to act in earnest. This certainly needs political will to bring about change in our socio-economic and political state of affairs and make it pro-people who need peace and prosperity. The state rulers apparently appear to be the only stakeholders. But we have observed during the last decades that they have been responsible for this whole mess. Their undemocratic and anti-people actions and policies, their adaptation of policy of appeasement towards to the forces of retrogression, extremism, militarism and conservatism has brought this society to a stage of devastation. The biggest and real stakeholders are the young generation of Afghanistan. Therefore, it is time to prepare them to undertake this uphill task to clean the debris that has accumulated in the past. They need special attention, care and importance by the elders and the state as well. We need legislative, administrative and social measures to build the youth as leaders of tomorrow.

The first thing our youth need is the capacity to think and attain the power to question and probe. The doors must remain wide open for them to develop and flourish mentally and intellectually. They need a conducive and friendly atmosphere for research and enough avenues and facilities to undertake such an important task of nation building. Therefore the education syllabi need to be reformed but not by the bigoted with their narrow insight who read history with tainted glasses of ethnic and religious prejudices. The concept of education should not be for attaining college or university degrees but it should have a humane and global outlook. The education system should be built on scientific and progress lines which will enable them to build a social order on progressive and democratic policies and measures. The education should reflect diversity of life so that young honor the principles of pluralistic society, gender justice and equality amongst all citizens irrespective of ethnicity, caste, color or creed. These values will consequently promote human rights, equality, justice and of course peace in our society.

Afghanistan is left with no option but to educate its youth to change the direction of Afghan society towards peace, social development and democratic order based on human progressive values.  The progressive social and political forces can play a decisive role to bring back the nation on track.  The young must join tis political struggle, when through struggle the progressive forces become the dominant political force, the forces that promote the status quo will be naturally defeated.

Asad Daudzai and Nasir Yousafzai are the co-founders of PAYF-Pak-Afghan Youth Forum, PPCH –Peace Promotion through Composite Heritage, 21st SoL-School of Leadership and NIDA-E-Afghanistan respectively.

They can be reached at: [email protected]  / [email protected]

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