VIDEO CREDIT: UN Audiovisual Library
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 2 — Mobilizing youth and silencing the guns in Africa is not a choice but an absolute necessity, a senior UN official said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a Security Council debate on peace and security in Africa, Undersecretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa Bience Gawanas said it is a crucial pathway for the realization of the goal of “leaving no one behind” and achieving “the conflict-free Africa we want.”
Noting that Africa is one of the world’s youngest continents, Gawanas said around 20 percent of Africa’s 1.2 billion population, approximately 220 million, are aged between 15 and 24, and this number is projected to rise to about 350 million in the next decade.
Therefore, she added, it is imperative that Africa harness this demographic dividend in silencing the guns, in combating threats to peace and security, including radicalization, violent extremism, terrorism, sexual violence, and in addressing the root causes, including exclusion, inequalities, high unemployment and climate change.
If the right investments in youth are made, and their social, political and economic engagement recognized and nurtured, societies may reap a peace dividend, the senior UN official added.
According to Gawanas, African countries have taken important steps aimed at removing structural barriers that prevent or limit the inclusion and active engagement of young people in peace and security, political governance, and socio-economic development.
For instance, she said, several African countries have been implementing the African Youth Charter, and additionally, peace education is incorporated into schools’ curricula and efforts are being made to implement youth empowerment, including creating decent jobs.
However, more still needs to be done to bridge the gap between policies and plans and implementation to create impact, she warned.
She urged countries to invest in protecting and promoting the rights of children and youth.
The private sector, especially information and communication technology companies operating at country level, could be engaged to provide free SMS-based platforms through which youth can express their views on events in their localities and contribute to conflict prevention and peace building, she added.