Youth and Conflict

child-soldier-young (1) (1)Like everything in life, youth is faced with conflicts and one of these conflicts, which might be the most dangerous conflicts, is armed conflict. What makes it dangerous are the deadly and various consequences. What is armed conflict?

Armed conflict is the use of manufactured weapons by different parties against one another, with at least one of the parties being the Government of State.

Youth armed conflict is when the youth either volunteer or are forced to join a conflict whether on a national, international, or regional level by using weapons. That conflict has many causes and effects; they are categorized according to the following dimensions: social, health, economic, political, and psychological and cultural.

Socially, the youth face death, injuries, physical abuse, torture, abduction, drug use, rape for boy or girls, trafficking, humiliation, and many others. Drugs are used to shield them from the physical and emotional pain they go through and since they are still very young they do not know of the dangerous effects.

With all these, consequences will take a major toll on the health dimension. Not only is there no or little adequate sanitation, clean water, or health care facilities especially during conflict, but the easily preventable diseases like malaria will become the main reasons of death and HIV/AIDS will increase because of lack of contraception and sometimes even rape.

From the economic side, when the conflict happens, the civilians are left to fend for themselves to provide social welfare, jobs, basic health services, and education. The youth will be the most vulnerable because of abductions and recruitment; because of anger, the youth will turn to armed conflicts as a last resort. Even if job opportunities were to be created, the economic situation will not be solved but only stabilized a little. The economic problems do not stop with war but continue on because of death, starvation, severe injuries, and diseases (HIV/AIDS) that were caused. These will mean less people in the labor force and consequently a lower GDP. The destruction of resources of the country during the war will not help with the GDP’s level. Illicit drugs can be the reason and result of armed conflicts. The reason is “violence is often used to protect their business interest”. The result is “the profit from making are used to fund fighting by insurgent and guerrilla groups”.

Democracy and political stability are closely associated with maintaining peace and preventing the eruption of violent conflict. Injustice and the lack of transparency in local and national governments create an environment in which corruption, covert markets, and crime can take root and flourish because non of the legal or traditional justice systems are effective. When that happens people decide to rebel and get their voices heard through media. The rebel’s leader(s) will start to communicate with the youth because they are the most vulnerable and attracted to ideologies. Through the ideologies he can manipulate the youth into thinking that he’s the best and that they should imitate him. The imitation usually results in armed conflict.

Psychologically, conflicts start when a host of people is being excluded from social, economic, and political spheres. Historically speaking, it was proven that all of the rebel’s leaders had felt, at some point in their earlier lives, victimized and humiliated. Therefore, youth that feel or have felt insecure and inadequate in their lives are more prone to engage in violent acts. Mostly the conflicts happen because people’s human dignity is being violated for example, through lack of job opportunities or poverty… in general, these acts of violence are made to vent anger and frustration and assign blame.

The dimensions mentioned above are not the cause of armed conflicts alone on their own but they are all interrelated like a giant spider web that no one knows how it began or ended. They all affect the other majorly. For example the health dimension could have affected the youth when their health is so bad that they can’t cover their health expenses and sometimes die (social dimension), can’t get a job (economic), realize that the system is corrupted (political), having bad health affects the health of the mind negatively (psychological).

To stop all those dilemmas, there are some possible procedures that will help prevent these conflicts. The ways to prevent it are securing universal compliance with international norms and standards, ending impunity for violations against children, strengthening the monitoring and reporting mechanism, promoting justice for children, supporting inclusive reintegration strategies, integrating children’s rights in peacemaking, peace-building, and preventive actions, and increasing the participation of and support for children and youth.

Beneath all these solutions, youth must be understood as human, in all its dimensions and must be understood, treated and helped with this basic humanity in mind.

By Maya Beaini, an intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.