What factors contribute to youth exclusion and increase the likelihood of youth engagement in violence? How can DFID effectively address issues of youth exclusion and violence? This report from Social Development Direct examines existing evidence and analysis on the links between youth exclusion, violence, conflict and fragile states. It highlights factors which can contribute to youth violence, and makes recommendations for DFID’s work on youth exclusion and violence.
There is statistical evidence of a link between high relative youth populations and an increased risk of armed conflict. Structural models which forecast these risks combined with early-warning systems that monitor known trigger factors can therefore help identify countries with higher risks of violence. However, statistical relationships have their limitations. They cannot be used as a sole predictor of conflict in specific areas and reveal little about the causal processes at work. It is also important that youth are not generally viewed as a security ‘threat’.
A key factor driving youth involvement in violence is the structural exclusion and lack of opportunities faced by many young people. These block the transition to adulthood and can lead to frustration, disillusionment and, in some cases, participation in violence. Key findings on youth exclusion and violence include the following:
- Key structural factors underlying youth exclusion are: unemployment and lack of opportunities; unequal and inappropriate education; poor governance and weak political participation; gender inequalities and socialisation; and a legacy of past violence.
- However, structural factors alone are insufficient to explain youth violence. Proximate factors, such as recruitment, coercion and indoctrination, identity politics and ideology, leadership and organisational dynamics and trigger events are also important.
- In any specific context, large numbers of youth often suffer the same conditions of exclusion, but do not get involved in violence. Factors that might foster resilience are migration opportunities and building social capital and strong communities.
Further research is needed in several areas, including context-specific assessments, linkages between different forms of violence, proximate factors and building resilience to involvement in violence. Key recommendations for DFID policies and programmes include the following:
- Look at opportunities for addressing youth needs in urban rather than rural contexts.
- Ensure the DFID-funded Youth Participation Guide includes a thorough directory of resources on violence prevention.
- Develop a ‘youth and violence prevention’ guidance note. Commission a fuller review on interventions to address youth exclusion and violence.
- At the programme level, undertake context-specific analyses of the situation of youth and key risk factors. Where possible, involve young people in analysis and programming.
- Do not assume youth will automatically benefit from general development programmes. Look for opportunities to integrate youth issues into existing programmes.
- If under-funded, consider funding community level initiatives through an intermediary.
- Ensure collection of age-disaggregated data.
- Be wary of employing a security framework towards youth – balance efforts to prevent involvement in violence with a focus on the positive role of youth. Work towards the inclusion of youth, rather than containment or appeasement.
- Consider the linkages between different forms of violence (e.g. political, criminal, interpersonal)
- Prioritise ‘youth bulge’ countries and countries with high youth involvement in violence.
- Support national youth policies, but ensure they are properly resourced and implemented.
- Where appropriate, conduct evaluations of the impacts of DFID’s work on youth.