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 in association with Global Peace held a virtual IGD on the 28th of September 2020 in South Africa. 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. ACCORD was represented in this dialogue by Executive Director and Founder of ACCORD and Global Peace- Dr Vasu Gounden, and Senior Adviser to ACCORD- Ambassador Welile Nhlapo.
The dialogue highlighted that the STG agenda is especially important in the youth context because, in dealing with conflicts on the continent, it has been noted that youth are often at the forefront as victims, but also as implementers of change and adopters of strategies. To further contextualize the relationship between the STG agenda and IGDs, we must note that when the STG concept was conceptualized it was on the understanding that we were dealing with many conflicts on the continent and weapons were the enablers of these conflicts. Guns are not an underlying cause of conflict; but they are a mechanism by which to enable conflict. We see guns being drawn in as participants in enabling conflicts because guns are easy to operate, conceal and distribute. A further challenge which has been identified is that young people in this region often have issues of identifying with the specific terminology and agendas, thus there is an educational gap in this regard.
Hence, it was recommended that it should be the responsibility of the older generation to mobilize and mentor the youth and have them involved in finding solutions to the problems we face- a platform like this IGD serves that agenda. Additionally, it was emphasised that elders need to give the youth the agency to moderate/facilitate these types of conversations, instead of agency through giving weapons to young people to fight battles, we must give young people the opportunity to be a part of these types of platforms. If we are to co-lead and co-create then we need to give young people, the agency to contribute to turning the continent around. It was stressed that an end must be brought to giving young people agency through arming them with weapons, a failure to do this, will see Africa stuck in the cycle of conflict for years to come still. The intention to STG by 2020 is also to stimulate thinking and get people involved on the continent about the issue of small arms and weapons, and the effect it has on conflict on the continent. There needs to be greater emphasis placed on making young people understand concepts such as STG and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), so they may participate effectively, in peace and security.
In closing the dialogue, the importance of youth taking up positions of leadership was once again reiterated. In that, we must create a leadership path for young people which coincides with an exit path for older people, to create the opportunity for new entrance into the system, thus fostering new ideas and new solutions to age old problems, and as a result of this, inculcating ACCORD’s strategic objective to strengthen the capacities of youth to participate in peace and security initiatives.