Peacebuilding has increasingly recognised the importance of ‘the local’ as a crucial site in responding to conflict in ways that build durable and relevant peace. Yet theorising about ‘the local’ or ‘the everyday’ has often still overlooked children and youth as marginal and of little concern. I argue that international relations has long considered youth of peripheral concern and this is inadequate. If we are serious about building meaningful and enduring peace we must account for those experiences often marginalised, including those of young people.
Youth, Peace and Security
Most recently my work explores the question of young people’s role in formal peace architecture at the international level and its impacts on local-level youth activism and practice. Taking the groundbreaking 2015 UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) as the pivot point, this work explores the role of young people, and particularly youth-led organisations in advocating for the YPS resolution and subsequent agenda as well as the influence of the YPS agenda in national and local contexts where they work.
I am currently an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow, working on the project Youth Leadership and the Future of Peace and Security. This project explores the role of youth-led advocacy and engagement in the context of the emergence of an international ‘Youth, Peace and Security agenda’. It seeks to examine the role of youth in local, national and international contexts to contribute to more inclusive, durable peace.
In March 2019 I was an invited participant at the First International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes in Helsinki Finland, co-hosted by the governments of Finland, Qatar and Colombia and co-organised with the UN. From January-June 2019 I conducted interviews with advocates for the YPS agenda as part of QUT funded research leave. In November 2019, along with my co-conveners Dr Caitlin Mollica and Professor Jacqui True, we held a workshop on ‘Youth and Peace in the Indo-Pacific‘ at QUT, funded by the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.
Lesley Pruitt and I commented on the passage of the 2015 UNSC Resolution 2250 for The Conversation. In early 2018 the UN held the first Open Debate on YPS, and I wrote for AIIA’s Australian Outlook about why Australia is well positioned to be a regional leader in this space.
This attention to the interaction between the international and local in relation to youth peacebuilding has emerged from earlier work that was committed to making visible the agency of young people in violence affected contexts. My PhD work was grounded in the stories and experiences shared with me by young people who lived in an informal community on the outskirts of Colombia’s capital Bogota. It explores how young people in this community are active meaning makers in their everyday life, and engaged participants of their community. While protracted conflict and profound precariousness have a significant impact on young people these experiences are not totalising. Young people find ways of resisting violence and building collective resilience amidst the everyday violence of their lives.
My 2018 book Young People and Everyday Peace: Exclusion, Insecurity and Peacebuilding in Colombia, which builds on my PhD work, argues that centring the margins, taking seriously the lived experience of young people who live in liminal spaces, opens up a conceptual space that allows a rich, irreducible account of efforts to build peace within the everyday, amidst violence. Young People and Everyday Peace was reviewed in the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding as “convincingly argu[ing] that it is necessary to ‘repopulate’ understandings of peace and violence with the lived and embodied experience of those who are most affected by these terms”
I have published other work on young people and peace in Colombia, including pieces in Peacebuilding, International Journal of Children’s Rights, and Critical Studies on Security. I have written with Charlotte ten Have on understanding citizens’ responses to insecurity and violence in everyday life in Colombia and Mexico as ‘skilled navigation‘. In 2012, I was an opinion columnist for Colombia Reports, including writing on the then-proposed framework for peace, of encompassing peace frameworks, and the inclusion of women in peacemaking.
With Siobhan McEvoy-Levy, I co-edited a special issue of Peacebuilding on Youth and Everyday Peace bringing sustained attention to how to pay meaningful attention to youth in peacebuilding.
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