The month of November, dubbed, Africa Youth Month by the African Union (AU), has become symbolic for the continent’s youth, peace and security agenda. Since 2018, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) has conducted an annual open session on the issue.
On the 15th of November, during the 2nd annual open session, the first ever African Youth Ambassadors for Peace (AYAPs) were presented to the PSC by the AU Commission’s Peace and Security Department (PSD). Most importantly, progress made on recommendations from last year’s session was presented. This was an opportune moment to analyse the willingness of the continental body in entrusting its youth as the face and mouthpiece for the continent’s peace and security aspirations.
In September 2018, as part of the AU’s efforts to contribute towards its flagship project- Silencing the Guns by 2020 (also part of its long-term Agenda 2063 development vision), the PSD launched the Youth for Peace (Y4P) Africa programme. The programme’s intentions are to effectively engage, involve and collaborate with young people, aged between 15 and 35 (individual and organized groups) in the advancement of peace and security in Africa. In essence, the program aims to implement Article 17 of the African Youth Charter as well as United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2250 and 2419.
The Y4P Africa programme has recorded good progress in its first year of existence. The programme advocated for and secured the first open session on youth, peace and security which was held at the 807th PSC meeting on the 8th of November in 2018. Key decisions from the meeting included a request for the AU Commission to select five regional AYAPs, to work with the AU Chairperson’s Special Envoy on Youth, Ms Aya Chebbi in championing the cause of youth inclusion in peace and security on the continent; finalize the ongoing framework on youth, peace and security; and conduct a study on the roles and contributions of youth to peace and security in Africa and to submit to the Council for consideration and appropriate action. All these are efforts at creating a visible role for young people in the Silencing the Guns initiative by the AU Commission. The initiative calls for increased partnerships with marginalized groups such as women and youth in achieving its goals.
In the second quarter of 2018, a call for applications for eligible African youth to become AYAPs was launched. A training and assessment workshop for fifteen shortlisted candidates, three from each of Africa’s five regions was recently conducted in Addis Ababa. The five selected Ambassadors of Peace were presented to the PSC by the Y4P Africa programme during the just concluded open session. These young individuals have a 2-year mandate to work with Ms Aya Chebbi, as well as their Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) to increase the role and visibility of youth in peace and security processes.
They will be afforded an opportunity to create and push the implementation a region-specific project geared at youth interventions in the pursuit of peace and security. Selected AYAPs are Alhafiz Hassan Ahamat from Chad, representing Central Africa ;Ng’ang’a Emma from Kenya representing East Africa ;Edabbar Mohammed from Libya representing North Africa; Mokgonyana Karabo from South Africa representing Southern Africa and Kane Moctar from Mali representing West Africa.
As 2020 approaches, the AU theme of the year will once again be focused on the continent’s need to silence the guns. The AU will review its progress of the Silencing the Guns initiative and the focus will be on how to address the shortcomings of the previous six years and also to monitor recorded achievements . One of the key challenges for the AU’s peace and security agenda has been the persistent exclusion of the continent’s youth from important peace and security processes. Now that the AU has selected their AYAPs, it will be wise to ensure that throughout next year, the role of youth in silencing the guns is prioritized and mapped out.
The selected AYAPs have the role of ensuring that young people in their regions contribute towards the efforts to silence the guns and create peaceful environments conducive to development. The success of their work is partly dependent on efforts at better restructuring the RECs/RMs relationships with the AU. The AU should be able to work hand-in-hand with RECs towards further popularizing the silence the guns initiative in the 5 regions of the continent. That way, AYAPs will be able to engage their RECs for community level youth participation. They will not be based in Addis Ababa but will perform their duties from their regions of origin.
The soon to be published PSC mandated study on the roles and contributions of youth towards peace and security revealed poor knowledge amongst African youth on the AU’s peace and security agenda as well as existing frameworks on the discourse. In that regard,
the AU and its RECs/RMs still need to further capacitate the AYAPs to ensure that they are knowledgeable of the thematic areas of the AU’s peace and security agenda i.e. Peace Support Operations; Post Conflict, Reconstruction and Development; Conflict Prevention including Early Warning; Security Sector Reform/Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration and Crisis/Conflict management and Resolution. This will equip them to further the AU’s peace and security agenda, as intended.
The establishment of ambassadorial roles for young people in peace and security is a step in the right direction for a youth focus by the AU and its RECs/RMs. In that regard, it attests to the fact that more attention needs to be paid to the development of more robust peace and security-specific normative frameworks by the AU for young people. UN frameworks complement the work of the AU but young Africans need to be inspired by locally contextualized frameworks and action plans that speak to their various regional contexts of peace and security.
Africa’s youth continue to wait for the issuing of the long-awaited continental framework on youth, peace and security and a subsequent strategy or action plan for its implementation. This eagerness reveals that what is needed more than anything from the AU is a guide for young people to beef up the potential of their existing activities in line with expectations of policy makers at the AU level.
Muneinazvo Kujeke, Institute for Security Studies; Junior Researcher: Peace Operations and PeacebuildinG
Image: AU Youth Envoy