In support of African Union (AU) Office of the Youth Envoy (OYE) call for collaboration on convening Inter-Generational Dialogues (IGDs) on Youth Silencing the Guns (STG) and the UN Secretary General’s call to hold UN75 dialogues, ACCORD working with Global Peace held a virtual IGD on the 5th of September 2020 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This IGD aimed to bring together diverse groups – especially those not often heard to shape a new global dialogue and crowdsource priorities and solutions to the challenges the world’s facing. The IGD was conducted under the theme of ‘Silencing the Guns by 2020” in terms of the AU’s Agenda 2063 policy document.
It was noted in this discussion that there is a need to look closely at issues of human survival, dignity, and eradicating poverty and inequality, as these are all issues which inevitably lead to desperate and vulnerable people picking up guns. When people feel threatened, or experience injustice, they turn to violence, further, it is difficult to address silencing the guns if the youth are not economically emancipated.
Many recommendations came out this IGD, but most were centred around ensuring youth participation, creating a collective, youth-driven vision for the future of Africa and the challenges posed in attempting to achieve the STG agenda in Africa. It was noted that research must be conducted to understand the reason behind why people, and young people particularly, pick up guns in the first place. It is essential to work on changing the mindset of the youth through peace education. This need to change the mindsets of young people should be focused on the notion that violence is not the answer to the problems we face on the continent, this must be driven home as something which is central to achieving the STG agenda. Changing of mindsets must start in the community first, where young people make efforts to change the mindsets of their immediate friends, family, or colleagues. Additionally, we should work to transform the mind of elders as well, this is imperative to really assessing and addressing the STG agenda. It was emphasised that even when positions of power are given to young people, elders are still not comfortable or adaptable, in this regard, we must encourage a transformation of their mindsets too.
Moreover, youth need to see themselves, and position themselves, as partners- they must be included in decision making and policy formulation so that they may be involved in the processes to eliminate the root causes of people picking up guns. The economies of African states need to be adapted to include the youth and deter them from turning towards crime or violence. Additionally, the AU should help create policy to mobilize the youth and empower them with skills so that they can be economically free and engaged productively- and in turn this will encourage peace on the continent.
In closing the dialogue, the youth articulated that there is a need to encourage African leaders to address the core aspects that have formed the foundations of our post-liberation governments, and to repeal these ideologies in favour of more progressive, youth-driven positions. The formation of new ideologies should ensure peaceful and sustainable societies in Africa, centred on youth participation and leadership, and a shift in this direction would be in line with ACCORD’s strategic objective to strengthen the capacities of youth to participate in peace and security initiatives.