Engaging Youth to Build Safer Communities
August 16, 2006
Post-conflict environments are inherently insecure. Although cease-fires and peace agreements formally signal the end of large-scale fighting, periodic violence usually continues, and communities suffer in the absence of reliable and effective security forces and rule of law. These environments tend also to be home to large populations of youth; some perpetuate violence, others contribute to rebuilding, and still others are marginalized. Yet the youth group in its entirety represents enormous untapped potential that could help in the reconstruction process, particularly with regard to improving security. Unfortunately, youth are typically viewed as part of the problem and not considered as possible positive actors.
The CSIS Post-Conflict Reconstruction (PCR) Project posits that youth can play a constructive role in building safer communities. The process of working with youth communities to increase safety includes reducing one potential driver of conflict—youth—by providing opportunities for those who might otherwise engage in violence and crime, as well as engaging youth in specific programs to help improve the safety of communities. From taking part in foot and bicycle patrols, neighborhood watches, and early warning systems to providing crime reduction education, prevention strategies, and escort services, youth have the capacity to contribute to safety and security when official mechanisms are absent, ineffective, or in need of extra support. This report recommends that these opportunities should be included in the spectrum of activities in which post-conflict youth could engage. In addition to reviewing methodologies and specific programs, the report highlights core principles that have led to long-term success with youth in helping build safer communities.
Frederick Barton and Karin von Hippel are codirectors of the CSIS Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project. Steve Seigel is a research assistant with the project.