Children and Young People in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Claire O'Kane, Clare Feinstein and Annette Giertsen
Save the Children
Publication Year:
April 28, 2020
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


Armed conflict affects the lives of children and young people , as well as their families, their communities and their nations. The actions - and inactions - of a range of security actors have a different impact on girls, boys, men and women given the distinct roles they play during war, peacebuilding, and post-conflict reconstruction. Research suggests that around half of all armed conflicts that have ended will re-emerge within ten years . Many post-conflict states are left in a state of fragile peace with no real closure of the issues. Understanding how children experience conflict, post-conflict and peace building – and through this how they view and experience both insecurity and security - is vital in interpreting short-term and long-term consequences on their development. What happens to children in their early years significantly determines the way they grow and develop and, in turn, their cost or contribution to society. Children and young people have a crucial role to play in either taking forward peace or conflict. ‘I can help bring peace in Northern Uganda if only my views are heard and acted upon. I don't hold a gun anymore; I hold the power of my voice. When visitors come to see us in the centers they normally ask us about our experiences and how we managed to escape… But, they should also be asking us how we can participate in the peace process ourselves because we also fought in the war.’ Source: Formerly abducted girl associated with rebel group, Northern Uganda.


This paper reflects on the importance of finding out and listening to the perspectives of children and young people who have lived through and experienced the insecurities of conflict and post-conflict situations. It emphasises the importance of children’s participation. That is, of creating the space for girls and boys of different ages and abilities to express their views and experiences, so that these can be heard, listened to and acted upon by a range of adults to further the realisation of children’s rights. In particular, it highlights the contributions of children to peace building efforts such as reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation which bring with them the hope of a more secure world. It supports arguments that security sector issues affecting children can be more effectively addressed through strengthening the existing security governance framework, in particular through reinforcing the human rights perspective of security.


By sharing children’s perspectives on insecurity and practical examples of children’s participation the authors hope that more actors – governments, civil society, the UN system and security actors – will:

  • Recognise the importance and value of listening to children’s perspectives;
  • Recognise the practical ways in which children participate, including examples of how children are – and can be – engaged in efforts to enhance their own protection and their community’s security at local and national levels; and,
  • Respond to the roles and responsibilities of children and support and help to strengthen their peace building initiatives, promote the inclusion of children’s voices in peace processes and make commitments to comprehensive plans of action to fulfil children’s rights in peace agreements.

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