WiseYouth: Do Africa and its youth need another AU project?

The African Union (AU) has launched another youth initiative to promote peace. WiseYouth was backed up in February by state leaders and will create a network of practitioners under the age of 35 to join the AU conflict prevention and mediation processes. At first glance, WiseYouth shows the AU’s commitment to addressing young people’s complaints about their exclusion from peacebuilding processes. If done well, it could attract more young people to election observation, conflict mediation and dialogue. But will it be fully resourced and implemented, and can it help resolve Africa’s violent conflicts? The initiative aims to improve inclusion and participation at the continental level, but there is no guarantee that it will do the same at the country level. In the past, similar projects such as FemWise Africa have barely spurred action among African states. They have also struggled to overcome the AU’s limited funding and participation problems. However, WiseYouth could carve out a niche for itself and stand out among other similar youth initiatives at the UA. The membership will be comprised of young people with skills and experience who can initiate and sustain peace and security work. WiseYouth could attract young people to the AU’s plans to protect democratic values, especially against growing coups and unconstitutional changes of government. The job will mean working not only with the AU but also at a regional level. The regional economic communities of Africa should extend the WiseYouth initiative to their member countries. This will require allocating more resources and capacity to youth affairs. Some regional blocs like the Southern African Development Community have yet to establish projects larger than a youth office in their secretariat. WiseYouth should learn lessons from other attempts by the African Union to integrate youth into governance and security processes. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Youth The net It has been in existence since 2019 and has managed to get input from young people ahead of country reviews. The APRM has also consulted and documented vital issues related to youth. The AU Commission’s African Governance Architecture has done the same through its annual youth meetings. The AU must learn from these initiatives to plan a roadmap for WiseYouth. In particular, the latest project must accomplish more, both for youth and for stability in Africa, than convening meetings and drafting documents. Lessons from other initiatives of the AU Commission, such as the Panel of the Wise and its subsidiary, FemWise-Africa, are also worth considering. Both are made up of conflict prevention experts deployed by the AU to support peace efforts across the continent. Although they have the backing of the AU, they still fight for equal representation and effectiveness. WiseYouth aims to be a continental mechanism whose members represent the five geographical regions of the AU. AU Commission youth leaders are on short-term contracts to ensure opportunities for as many young leaders as possible. This needs to be adapted to allow for regional rotation to retain qualified young peacebuilders. Four steps can ensure that WiseYouth’s goal of sustainable and inclusive youth participation in AU peace and governance efforts is achieved. First, when WiseYouth is operational, the African Union Commission must make funds available to ensure that its members are present when peace and security issues are discussed and acted upon. New initiatives at the AU continue to be underfunded. A recent example is the Office of the Youth Envoy which, now with its second envoy in place, lacks funding and technical support to represent youth effectively. Second, WiseYouth could bring together the best staff from the AU Commission’s growing Youth 4 Peace Africa network. The network of young peacebuilders has been built over the last four years and includes young people who are already active in their communities. They should be given the opportunity to be a part of this new company. The first cohort of African Youth Ambassadors for Peace finished their terms in February, and their skills should be put to use as well. Third, the AU should urge African states to increase youth involvement in conflict prevention. This will allow WiseYouth to put down deep roots across the continent and capitalize on the enormous potential of young people. Finally, WiseYouth has time on your side. Young people are playing an increasingly important role in the AU system, with a Youth Envoy and a number of ambassador positions filled on a rotating basis with youth leaders. Instead of being seen as another ceremonial initiative, a well-planned campaign is needed to show countries the value of WiseYouth to Africa’s stability. Although the impact of conflict remains devastating, the exclusion of young people worsens the consequences of crises. Muneinazvo Kujeke, Research Officer, Peace Training, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Pretoria This article is published as part of the Training for Peace Program (TfP), funded by the Norwegian government. (This item was first published by ISS Today, a syndication partner of Premium Times. We have your permission to republish.) Read More Related News Here Let here it in the comment below if you do have an opinion on this; WiseYouth: Do Africa and its youth need another AU project?