14 November 2023 by Anne Mugo*
In June 2023, residents of Mpondwe town in western Uganda woke up to a gruesome reminder of the impact violent conflicts have on young people. Students from 40 secondary schools were brutally killed in a horrific attack perpetrated by the terrorist-designated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Based in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the ADF’s attacks persist nationwide while recruiting and radicalizing Ugandan youth into violent extremism. Young people in Uganda, who represent 78 per cent of the population, continue to be severely impacted by this sporadic violence. Their situation is worsened by human rights violations, a shrinking civic space, internal conflicts, sexual and gender-based violence, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate-related crises. Young women are much more vulnerable to these threats and regularly face discrimination based on their age and gender. Furthermore, they are largely neglected in conflict discourses and formal peace and security initiatives and processes.
Between March and June 2023, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), partnered with the Coalition for Action on 1325 (CoACT) to bolster the efforts of the Ugandan Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) coalition in amplifying United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250’s recognition of youth in peacebuilding processes. The Ugandan YPS coalition comprises 9 civil society organizations alongside 106 trained peace ambassadors representing the conflict-prone districts of Amuria, Kabarole, Kaberamaido, Kampala, Kamwenge, Kasese, Kumi, Kyegegwa and Ntungamo. Currently, Uganda needs a national policy framework to guide concrete government action and the implementation of UNSCR 2250. To sustain advocacy towards developing a YPS National Action Plan (NAP), GNWP and CoACT partnered to build the capacity of coalition members to influence national and local policy processes. Over the course of four months, GNWP conducted workshops engaging the YPS coalition members in dialogues and campaigns to amplify the YPS agenda in local communities. They encouraged efforts towards its institutionalization in local and national development plans.
On 14 April 2023, nine coalition member organizations convened in a strategic planning workshop to share their experiences and present progress updates on the implementation of their local organizational action plans. Participants drew on lessons learned, embraced best practices and developed new cost-effective peacebuilding initiatives as part of their 2023 projects. Three young women-led organizations, hailing from Aburia, Kaberamaido and Kumi, joined the YPS coalition to elevate young women’s voices and share the multifaceted challenges that young women encounter in conflict-ridden settings and a blueprint to build peace at the local and national levels. During the workshop, member organizations also reported the recruitment of an additional 85 young people, demonstrating their ability to further promote YPS in rural communities. Workshop participants showed increased knowledge in identifying and addressing barriers hindering young Ugandans’ meaningful participation in local and national peacebuilding, crisis response and conflict prevention initiatives.
Central to GNWP’s Localization of WPS resolutions strategy is the convening of key local stakeholders to discuss and assess local security measures from a gender perspective. In Localization workshops, diverse actors gather to analyze local conflicts and craft Local Action Plans (LAPs) that address these challenges in an inclusive and gender-sensitive manner. The Ugandan YPS coalition organized 6 youth-led intergenerational peacebuilding dialogues with a total of 347 participants, comprising youth council leaders, district youth representatives, civil servant representatives, opinion leaders, security personnel, religious leaders, political leaders and presidential representatives. Participants discussed and exchanged valuable insights on the YPS and WPS agendas. Young women and men peacebuilders led peer-to-peer engagements, built partnerships and amplified their roles in the implementation of existing WPS LAPs in the Kasese and Kyegegwa districts.
Participants also underscored the synergies between the WPS and YPS agendas and urged authorities to employ gender-sensitive approaches in peace and security initiatives and processes. During the intergenerational dialogues, local authorities and key stakeholders committed to partnering with the coalition members to advance youth’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding. To ensure accountability, several YPS coalition members will regularly monitor the implementation of action plans and commitments in their districts. Participants also exchanged insights about the nexus between climate change, conflict, and peace and security, highlighting how climate change exacerbates the effects of conflicts and emergencies on young people and women. Demonstrating their commitment to environmental preservation and climate change mitigation, participants conducted community clean-ups and embarked on tree-planting initiatives in Amuria, Kabarole, Kaberamaido, Kampala, Kamwenge, Kasese, Kumi, Kyegegwa and Ntungamo districts.
Young women’s and men’s multifaceted roles are often misunderstood and misconstrued in conflict prevention and resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes. Emphasizing youth peacebuilders as critical contributors and decision-makers in local and national conflict prevention and peace processes can counter the stereotypes that often label them as victims. Members from the Uganda YPS coalition actively participated in radio talk shows alongside local government officials to enlighten thousands of listeners about the crucial intersectionality of the WPS and YPS agendas. Listeners demonstrated a willingness to support the meaningful participation of youth in peace discussions that were previously reserved for older community members. GNWP’s financial and technical support to the YPS project amplified the narratives of coalition members and underscored the imperative of providing platforms for youth to continuously engage in conflict prevention efforts. Their stories championed the fostering of a culture in which young women and men are recognized as decision-makers and leaders, steering the course toward sustainable peace.