Young people have a crucial role to play in breaking intergenerational cycles of conflict and impunity. They are not only potential victims of violence but can be powerful agents of change in their communities.
This is why youth participation is important for transitional justice processes and efforts to build sustainable peace in societies recovering from violent conflict. The challenge is to engage young people in a meaningful way and to connect them with local and national decision-makers.
Since 2021, Impunity Watch and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) have been collaborating to promote youth participation and influence on national policy processes in Africa. Impunity Watch is an international non-profit organisation working with victims of violence to deliver redress for grave human rights violations, uproot deeply ingrained structures of impunity and promote justice and peace.
CSVR is spearheading efforts to advance the African Union's Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP). Alongside pan-African collaborative alliances, it has established a platform for permanent civil society engagement with the African Union (AU).
In turn, Impunity Watch has contributed to influencing national policies on transitional justice and supporting AU-led regional policymaking inspired by the AUTJP. Moreover, we work closely at the global level with the EU and the UN.
Together, our partnership aims to create local ownership of the AUTJP and bridge the gap between communities (particularly youth and young women) affected by violence and policymakers at the AU to ensure their perspectives and needs are taken on board.
Why is youth participation important for the AUTJP?
Adopted in February 2019, the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP) was a momentous step on the part of the African Union (AU) in delivering on its mandate to end violent conflicts on the continent and ensure sustainable peace.
The specific objectives of the AUTJP include, among others:
- Improving timeliness, effectiveness and coordination of transitional justice (TJ) activities
- Enhancing social cohesion, nation-building and, where necessary, comprehensive State reforms as means of addressing the root causes of conflict
- Defining the policy agenda for holistic and inclusive post-conflict socio-economic transformation
- Planning and implementing reconstruction, national healing and accountability of actors for serious human rights violations
- Enhancing coordination among diverse actors engaged in TJ processes
- Establishing clear parameters to apply principles of complementarity and subsidiarity in the design, implication, monitoring and evaluation of TJ processes.
However, significant challenges remain:
- Few national-level efforts have yet been taken to implement the AUTJP. Even fewer efforts have been undertaken to raise popular awareness of the existence of the AUTJP.
- Civil society across the African continent, especially grassroots victim organisations, are highly under-represented in national and regional discussions on transitional justice. They also often find the AU difficult to access and influence.
We have learned that while youth are extremely appreciative of opportunities to participate in national and regional level platforms, transitional justice expertise among youth and women at the grassroots remained very limited.
While engaging the grassroots often requires significant investment due to language and cultural barriers, the impact is often considerable. Applying a victim-centred approach to policymaking positively shapes long-term justice and peacebuilding efforts.
Working with Impunity Watch to advance youth inclusion.
A collaborative policy brief between Impunity Watch and CSVR recommended different strategies to ensure greater youth representation in decision-making structures, but more needs to be done.
With Impunity Watch, we seek to focus on three key themes:
- Youth engagement in transitional justice
- Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS)
- Violent masculinities
In the coming months, we plan to work on trainings, advocacy, and research related to these core themes.
CSVR will focus on Mali and South Sudan. We will promote youth participation in community-based transitional justice and create space for youth to engage politicians in policy dialogues.
We will prioritise MHPSS for dealing with individual and collective traumas, as well as for ensuring the non-recurrence of violence. We will also scale up our work promoting positive masculinities through trainings, advocacy, and research.
More active youth participation in advocacy strategies will ensure that policymakers are well-equipped with concrete policy advice related to the transitional justice needs of African youth.
Together, we seek to ensure that victims of gross human rights violations can participate in justice and accountability.
For more information, please visit our partnerships page.