Worldwide an estimated homicides occur among youth 10—29 years of age each year, making it the fourth leading cause of death for people in this age group. Youth homicide rates vary dramatically between and within countries. Rates of youth homicide among females are much lower than rates among males almost everywhere. In the years , rates of youth homicide decreased in most countries, although the decrease has been greater in high-income countries than in low- and middle-income countries. For every young person killed by violence, more sustain injuries that require hospital treatment.
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Firearm attacks end more often in fatal injuries than assaults that involve fists, feet, knives, and blunt objects. Sexual violence also affects a significant proportion of youth. Physical fighting and bullying are also common among young people. Youth violence increases the costs of health, welfare and criminal justice services; reduces productivity; decreases the value of property. Unfortunately, this lack of distinction can also help local leaders justify repressive policies towards youth whose politics threaten their interests.
Governments defining non-violent protesters as 'thugs' or 'terrorists' illustrate how those labels are often convenient and politicized. Yet, none of this should be surprising. This dynamic of youth-to-adult subordination simply mirrors other arenas in which adults are reluctant to share power with youth or to incorporate young's people knowledge into their projects unless its suits their interests and mirrors their own views.
Within academic, research and policy development circles, we also need to be alert to how we keep this division alive as well. For instance, the language of youth 'crisis' or 'harnessing' youth as 'assets' can be a double-edged sword.
These labels command attention and rightly identify youth capabilities. They get youth on the policy agenda. But they also, in a way, reproduce the logic of the military recruiters, in that they engage in a cost-benefit analysis that employs youth as means to an end. Should this kind of instrumentalization of youth matter when the laudable end is 'peace'? Is positioning youth as the solution, rather than the problem, not a clever counter strategy? It may persuade elites to, in their own self-interest, take youth on board.
Presenting youth as 'assets' or 'resources' to encourage their invitation into power-sharing situations is a way of acknowledging young people's right to participation. However, if youth are framed as 'resources' rather than 'rights holders,' their inclusion may be short term.
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The costs of youth involvement may at some point seem to outweigh the advantages. Since in the first place, their inclusion was predicated upon a view of preventing a youth 'threat,' it will not be hard for political elites to make the switch to containment of youth. Viewed now as 'liabilities,' young people will be handled, rather than engaged.
If young activists incite fear or often end up marginalized or out-played as other, older actors take control, what can be done? First, for genuine participation to happen, young people need to be better prepared to engage in conflict, not avoid it, through political training, apprenticeships and mentorship in how to effect political change with groups who don't have a vested interest in using them for their own agendas.
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Instead of creating underfunded and politically peripheral youth ministries or shadow youth parliaments, real expansion of political space could be fostered through: - lowering voting ages; - ensuring high-level access and roles for youth representatives in decision-making about policies that affect their lives: these include security policies as well as those on education, health and employment. Young people growing up in conflict zones are already politicized.
For instance, in my research, many cite the opportunity for international travel to be part of youth conferences or to get training in non-violent techniques or community development, as events that made the difference between their adopting violent or non-violent techniques of struggle, or falling into apathy and despair.
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Second, sharing political power, in the broadest sense, means co-creation of plans for the future, and, crucially, co-curation of knowledge about the past. War losses and trauma have trans-generational effects, including mental health and relationship problems, and an inability to think and act in future-oriented ways.
Forgetting also leads to glamourizing past conflict, denying atrocities, valorising the fighter, and sowing seeds for new cycles of violence.
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We need to know more about young people's roles as social connectors and ideological reproducers, who create, shape and pass on social meaning. Networks of youth, including, but not limited to, social media networks, are some already existing conduits for peacebuilding messages and they offer much more potential. Some will argue that it is too risky to expand political space to include youth. More research to distinguish between real and perceived risks would be useful.