Young People and Peacebuilding Uganda
Sustainable Development Goals: 4, 16
- SDG 4 - Quality Education
- SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
In Northern Uganda, young people and adult facilitators shared their understanding of peace, discussed their contributions to peacebuilding, and analyzed the importance of those contributions. Experiences from Uganda illuminate the types of supports and opportunities that young peacebuilders can benefit from as they create positive change in their communities.
Young People as Peacebuilders
Consultations with children and adolescents demonstrate how young people promote peace and contribute to peacebuilding processes in post-conflict societies. In Northern Uganda, young people and adult facilitators shared their understanding of peace, discussed their contributions to peacebuilding, and analyzed the importance of those contributions. Experiences from Uganda illuminate the types of supports and opportunities that young peacebuilders can benefit from as they create positive change in their communities.
Consultation sessions took place during December 2012, facilitated by two UNICEF consultants. Sessions followed a focus group format, and employed qualitative research methodologies designed to facilitate participation and promote analysis. Participants responded to the following questions:
- What is peace?
- Is there peace in Northern Uganda?
- How do young people contribute to peace?
- What are the most valuable ways that young people contribute to peace?
The answers to all three questions give us a snapshot of how young people contribute to positive change in their community. During the course of the consultations, participants:
- debated the concept of peace: discussing what peace means at an individual, familial, and structural level;
- rated the level of peace in their region: exploring concepts of “positive” and “negative” peace as they considered advances in peace, as well as what remains to be done in Northern Uganda;
- described their contributions to peace: analyzing which contributions were the most important.
Consultations with young people complemented ongoing efforts to improve peacebuilding, adolescent participation, and life skills education within UNICEF.
Why did UNICEF do this study?
UNICEF wants to understand how children and young people promote peace and contribute to peacebuilding processes. That information will assist the organization in developing programmes and policies that engage, support, and inspire young peacebuilders, both in Uganda and around the world.
UNICEF Uganda hosted the research team and organized consultations with young people from partner organizations in Gulu and Kitgum Districts. These consultations complement the ongoing work of UNICEF Uganda in peacebuilding, education, and technology for development (T4D). The Technology for Development (T4D) team, Terra Weikel, Joy Birabwa, Janet Akao Abaneka, Shaban Mugweri, and Robby Muhumuza supported the consultations.
Consultations were part of a rapid research project conducted by a team from UNICEF’s Adolescent Development and Participation (ADAP) Unit. The research builds on ongoing global efforts to:
- to design programmes and policies that support adolescents and youth living in emergency and conflict-affected situations;
- improve life skills-based education for children and adolescents, with a focus on life skills relevant to peacebuilding;
- and develop meaningful opportunities for young people to participate in all levels of peacebuilding.
Uganda has experienced a long history of violent conflict. A twenty year insurgency led by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Movement devastated the Acholi region of Northern Uganda. The war displaced over 1.8 million people. The conflict disproportionately affected children and young people who were abducted into guerrilla forces. By 2008, fighting in Northern Uganda decreased, though a formal peace agreement was never signed. Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Movement retreated but remain active in neighbouring countries
Northern Uganda still feels the aftershocks of war. Formerly abducted children continue to return from “the bush” seeking amnesty and a return to normal lives. Families suffered, children were orphaned, and household livelihoods were disrupted. Participants in consultations (see “Is there peace in your area?”) noted that while they feel more secure, many aspects of peace are still elusive. Young people have much to offer as peacebuilders in Northern Uganda.