Democracy & Governance
Impact at a Glance
Peace, Stability & Transition
Democracy & Governance
|Peace, Stability & Transition (130)
| Democracy & Governance (45)
(Women & Girls)
RET’s actions using the Humanitarian, Development, Peace (HDP) triple nexus approach are complemented with a Peace dimension. The inclusion of the peace dimension in the nexus acknowledges the vital importance of conflict sensitivity and the role young people can play in consolidating peace, ensuring communities co-exist and diversity is respected.
RET has been working since 2000 in conflict, post-conflict, and fragile environments, in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to meet the needs of young and vulnerable people. As RET’s core mandate group, the organization developed several programs to provide adolescents and youth with opportunities to be meaningfully engaged in all phases of humanitarian actions and become actors of peace in their communities.
In the contexts of conflict, post-conflict, and fragile states, in which most of RET’s programs take place, the need to provide adolescents and youth with these essential life-skills, reduces their risks of succumbing to militarization and other harmful practices, while providing new pathways towards peaceful alternatives. Young people are key actors in conflict prevention, including prevention of radicalization, in peace building and conflict resolution, in community resilience and stabilization. RET uses different tools to promote the youth’s sense of community through “Responsible Citizenship Program”, and “Conflict Prevention” approaches to encourage “dialogue” and “intergenerational discussions” in a safe environment and to mitigate ethnic and political divides through the employment of a common form of work; eventually contributing to peace consolidation and reconciliation at the community level.
WHY is it important?
- 408 million young people aged 15-29 are affected by violence or armed conflict.
- 9.7 million young people are living in internal displacement because of conflicts, violence, or disasters at the end of 2019, of those 3.1 million are under the age of 18.
- 225 million young people in the developing world are not in education, employment, or in training.
Investing in young people breaks cycles of poverty, violence, and discrimination. Engaging youth in humanitarian action improves the quality, effectiveness, and sustainability of the action.
Since 2000, RET has been focusing its interventions on enabling and empowering young people through holistic multi-sectoral approaches as young people represent one of the most vulnerable populations during crises as well as the greatest agents of positive social change.
HOW does RET help?
Empowerment is as a way people gain control over their lives through active participation, with an emphasis on strengths instead of weaknesses, an acknowledgment of cultural diversity, and the use of language that reflects the empowerment ideals. Empowering people, it is about making them discover that they have the power to change themselves and change things around them. Youth empowerment is a process where children and young people are encouraged to take in charge their lives and contribute, at their level, to the development of the community.
RET Youth empowerment interventions are developed at two levels, and through a cascade process: 1) Selecting and training youth facilitators or youth workers. 2) Involving them in a series of youth empowerment activities allowing children and youth raise their awareness on social issues, acquire life skills and design, implement and evaluate social action projects in the community. In other words, young people are selected and trained to serve as facilitators or peer mentors for children, adolescents and other young people who in turn are trained to acquire the attitudes and skills to take on an active role in their groups, participate in decision-making and engage in community service. The concept of Youth Empowerment is very important because, on the one hand, it is one of the basic strategies for protecting young people living in crisis affected contexts, as it contributes to strengthening their resilience and, on the other hand, because all recent studies in Educational Sciences and Community Psychology show that Youth Empowerment and Youth Development are intimately interrelated.
KEY APPROACHES TO YOUTH EMPOWERMENT
RET’s approach focuses on establishing and fostering a welcoming and safe environment. Centers placed great emphasis on welcoming young people into secure environments to gain their trust. Recreational and psychosocial activities were instrumental in creating this welcoming and safe environment. Popular with young people as these activities allowed them to escape the stresses of life. They created a sense of belonging by fostering positive associations between young people and the Centre. Promoting gender quality was also important to creating a safe environment. Staff members, both men, and women acted together, and all youth, both boys and girls, participated in the same activities.
RET’s approach focuses on establishing meaningful youth participation and engagement. RET believes meaningful participation goes beyond simply having youth follow center activities. Meaningful participation contributes to sustained and prolonged engagement, necessary for skill development and mastery, and positive youth identity development. Centers made every effort to involve young people when planning activities, actively discussing their wishes and interests. Youth also participated in implementing activities, allowing everyone the opportunity to play a positive role and take a visible place in the group.
RET’s approach promotes equitable power-sharing between youth and adults by providing leadership opportunities. RET believes a key element to empowerment is providing youth opportunities to develop critical leadership and decision-making skills. In RET’s social action projects, young people occupied leadership positions and played active roles in preparation and implementation. For example, in one Centre, young people wanted to carry out a project on waste recycling. Staff provided guidance and advice, but decisions on carrying out the project from planning to implementation fell to the youth.
RET’s approach promotes social cohesion by encouraging engagement in critical reflection on interpersonal and social processes.
Youth empowerment requires critical reflection. RET believes empowerment involves increasing youths’ understanding of community problems/ challenges, participation in assessment of community resources, and reflecting on challenging events to define, design, and propose subsequent corrective actions. RET’s Centers offered a series of activities and training modules focused on the issue of social cohesion to discover problems/challenges faced by both Turkish and Syrian communities in the context of the refugee crisis. Social cohesion modules enabled youth to reflect on these social problems and reduced prejudices between different groups.
RET’s approach enables youth participation in social processes to effect change, integrating individual and community level empowerment. Youth participation within the community is essential to youth empowerment, including engagement in social processes and social change. RET believes youth are truly empowered when addressing the structures, processes, social values, and practices of the issues at hand. Thus, Centers helped young people develop and implement social action projects addressing the identified challenges and needs faced by both Turkish and Syrian communities.
Since 2008, RET has been implementing, within Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, and Costa Rica, a strong multi-sectorial, youth empowerment approach to support the social and cultural Integration of young people through promoting and supporting their meaningful participation within the community and to identify and implement the solutions to successfully address the issues affecting their lives. RET believes by providing young people with trainings, mentorship, and a dedicated space to be creative, young people will quickly demonstrate their full potential and capacity to be self-reliant and leaders for positive social change. RET‘s regional Intervention enabled young people to work together to bridge the divides of age, gender, nationality, religion, and language and form effective youth networks. The intervention also enabled youth networks to design community-based projects to promote social change activities to build inter-community understanding and peaceful coexistence. This good practice intervention is recognized by UNHCR in the context of the Global Refugee Forum.
All youth networks within Latin America collectively designed, implemented, and led a regional campaign to end xenophobia and discrimination across four countries. These youth networks organized their own local campaigns, under the slogan ‘All that unites us!’, effectively utilizing social media, street theatre and artwork alongside more traditional awareness-raising mechanisms in coordination with public entities and humanitarian organizations. The youth network´s leadership successfully mobilized their communities to facilitate positive social-cultural integration of youth from all backgrounds.
An inspiring youth network in Costa Rica is the “Jovenes Madiba”-network which consists of young men and women refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+, and persons with disabilities from all over Latin America, as well as local Costa Ricans. Their mission is to promote the human rights of young migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Costa Rica. RET’s leadership, trainings, and mentorship helped Jovenes Madiba harness their leadership skills and break through several social-economic barriers to develop the self-confidence and leadership capacity to become more autonomous and successfully enter different social spaces to engage their community positively. The group eventually obtained the legal status to operate as an independent entity and they continue to this day participating and leading different initiatives at the community level to promote human rights and peaceful co-existence.
Youth as Actors of Positive Social Change
One of RET’s transferable models of intervention has been to train youth to become actors for positive social change in their communities.
This successful method of Youth Empowerment has been adapted to several contexts: to prevent the militarization of vulnerable youth in at-risk communities of Eastern DRC; to prevent militarization and harmful practices amongst Somali refugee youth in Dadaab camps, Kenya; to prevent violence and promote peaceful democratic processes in Burundi; to promote inter-community tolerance and harmony amongst Lebanese and Syrian youth in non-camp settings.
The Basic Model: A core training for youth takes place on the following topics: concepts of good leadership; how to build successful strategies for youth and adult partnerships; understanding the causes of conflict and exploring ways to reduce and resolve conflict; Asset-Based Community Development, namely using only the assets of the team and the community to ensure sustainability. During the training, participants must begin to design a project for positive social change, incorporating the principles explored in the training. The themes and activities for the projects must be their own decision. At times these follow a ‘quick impact’ style, engaging large numbers for a one-off activity or short project, such as in Lebanon and in Dadaab camps in Kenya.
By working together across divides of age, gender, nationality, religion, and language the youth engaged in social change activities are building tolerance and understanding which will ultimately promote and foster peace.
The youth who receive the training are involved in designing and implementing the activities and community projects, which will promote the concepts covered in the training. Where the projects are over a period of time, rather than a quick impact one-off event, the youth will also be trained and engaged in management and monitoring of the project activities to deliver the desired outcomes.
Youth Networks to ‘End Xenophobia and Discrimination’
In Latin America, RET’s 3-year regional program for displaced and refugee youth in Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and Costa Rica has included a component dedicated to youth. In the first year RET organized recreational and activities and thematic days to promote successful social integration of refugee youth into local communities. From these events, youth networks were founded, some more formal than others, which committed to continuing activities for inter-community understanding and peaceful co-existence. The regional campaign was ‘to end xenophobia and discrimination’ across the four countries, and these networks have organized their own local campaigns under the slogan ‘All that unites us!’ The youth have been innovative in their use of social media fora, street theatre and artwork, alongside more traditional awareness-raising mechanisms. To support the networks, RET has organized 3 regional youth meetings in Panama, where a representative from each network attends a week of exchange with each other. This has increased cross-border understanding and networking, as youth have shared and developed ideas for future campaigns for peace. By providing youth with the space to be creative, RET has discovered that youth quickly demonstrate their capacity of leaders for positive social change.
Youth Civic Empowerment & Responsible Citizenship Programs
Youth as Agents for Peace and Positive Social Change
RET has developed a youth-led methodology successfully applied in Americas and EMEAA Regions to reduce the potential for conflict through engaging young people to become agents for peace in refugee camps and host communities. For instance, in the South of Chad, RET youth animators are trained on human rights, responsible citizenship, positive leadership, successful youth-adult partnerships, conflict mitigation and resolution, and on developing and managing youth-led community-based projects. In this framework refugee and local youth have become local communicators and set up a youth journal initiative through which they have issued the “Chad Peace Journals.” This journal collects information and news from their communities aiming at advance tolerance, social cohesion and development for its members. Moreover, under the guidance of youth animators, engaged young people then develop small but results-oriented Quick Impact Projects to promote peace and co-existence in their communities (Burundi, Chad, Kenya, Lebanon & Türkiye, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela.) Examples of such projects are cleaning the village football ground and market area, or the construction of a podium for theatre and other cultural events. Lastly, these young people raise awareness amongst their peers of the personal and social benefits of community engagement and demonstrate the positive role of youth in society.
Empowering Young People and Addressing Negative Perceptions against Youth in Dadaab, Kenya
In the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, youth face barriers towards inclusion in their communities and particularly in decision-making processes. This is often due to the negative perceptions that many community members have towards them. RET sought to address this issue by empowering young people and youth-led associations through training, coaching and so-called ‘youth-adult partnerships. In such partnerships, youth and adults explore concepts like respect and tolerance, conflict resolution and peace-building, to enable them to subsequently lead concrete social change initiatives. Through these partnerships the adults who participate, such as camp leaders, have become significantly more positive towards youth, seeing them as active and socially engaged members of the community. The partnerships have enabled many young people to become actors of positive social change in their communities over the years, which in turn further enhances more positive perceptions of youth by their communities and hereby facilitates their inclusion.
The evidence suggests that the participants engaged by these programs have improved levels of self-esteem and motivation and are assuming positive leadership roles amongst their peers and within their communities. They are more tolerant of differences and have greater resilience to resist harmful behavior and engage instead in peaceful conflict resolution. It is RET’s belief that carefully designed programs for adolescents and youth, such as the ones described in this paper, are crucial, not only for unleashing individual creativity and self-fulfillment, but for future peace and stability, at local, national and regional levels.
Prevention of Radicalization
The root causes of violent extremism are complex, diverse, and intertwined and relate to the structural environment in which radicalization and violent extremism can flourish. Violent extremism is the result of historical, political, economic, and social circumstances, including the impact of regional and global power politics. Growing horizontal inequalities are one of the frequently cited push factors of violent extremism. Unemployment and poverty alone are not the only push factors that stimulate violence and radicalization: perceptions of injustice, human rights violations, social exclusion, widespread corruption, or persistent mistreatment of certain groups are also considered important factors. When all these horizontal inequalities come together for a particular group, radical movements and violence are more likely.
People are drawn into radical and violent movements through deliberate manipulation and accompanying processes (socialization), which are often influenced by personal, emotional or psychological factors such as alienation, search for identity and dignity, revenge for the previous mistreatment, rupture in communication between authority figures and young people as well as virtual communities in social media (pull factors).
RET’s approach is to tackle these “push and pull” factors simultaneously. To this extent, RET implements a three-axis model that takes into account vulnerability at the micro-level of vulnerable individuals and the meso.level of marginalized, underprivileged communities.
DDR (Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration)
Eastern DRC is said to have more than 130 active armed groups particularly in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri provinces that have been responsible for violence, deaths and general community instability. Although there is no precise data on the number child soldiers in the 130 active armed groups, the UN documented 6,168 children (549 girls, 5,619 boys) recruited by 49 different armed groups or militia in DRC. Several interventions have been made to bring peace and development in the Eastern DRC and key among them is the DDR activities.
Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of both adults and child soldiers associated with armed forces and groups is a process that support laying down of weapons and transitioning to civilian life, often times through rehabilitation. DDR goes a long way in stabilizing communities through peace building interventions as no development can take root in the midst of instability. Therefore, DDR is at the core of community stability, consolidation of peace and rebuilding and development.
Peace, Stability & Transition
Democracy & Governance
- RET has implemented 175 projects with Peace, Stability & Transition (130) and Democracy & Governance (45) components to date.
- RET has implemented projects with Peace, Stability & Transition, and Democracy & Governance component in 18 countries across Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
- More than 1 million direct youth (53% female) participated in RET programs under this sector.
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