South Asia is home to 1.671 billion people also known as Youthful Region. People of different religion and ethnic identity reside in this region. In such a vast cultural diversity there are instances of violence against religious and ethnic minorities in South Asia. It may be violence against religious minorities in India, Bangladesh or Pakistan; ethnic clashes in the North East India; Naxalism in Central India or non implementation of Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord in Bangladesh. The crux of the conflict is violation against Religious and Ethnic Minorities. The LCP Network members collectively identified broad themes viz. Violations against women, Religious Minorities and Ethnic Minorities; and unanimously decided to initiate Collective Youth Program.
According to the UN report of 2014, India has the largest population of youth i.e. 356 million (28% of the total population) between the age of 10 – 24 yrs, and this is the reason why India is known as a Young Nation. Young people are an asset to a nation, because they are creative, resourceful, innovative, leaders and builders of the future. However, they can transform the future only if they have the skill, health, decision making ability and real choices in life. The question then arises is, how can youth be equipped and provided with the opportunity to reach their full potential? It said that developing countries with large youth population could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people’s education, health and protect their rights.
CNI SBSS believes that the youth can play an important role in bringing about positive change and can be good leaders. Youth needs encouragement and positive affirmation to move forward in life. However, we have seen that young people are known for getting into trouble for various reasons, in many instances they are misguided and influenced negatively to meet the interests of some individuals/ groups. So it is vital that the young generation is guided, supported and given opportunity to transform the future.
Believing that the youth can make a positive change in our community, CNI SBSS has initiated the process of working on a Collective Youth Program along with Local Capacity for Peace Project’s South Asian network partners (comprising of NGOs from South Asia), where the youth will be the focal point and will be banked upon, to take initiatives on working on conflict and conflict transformation in their own community with the goal: “To build a counter- culture of cooperation and cohesive communities through youth activities”.
In many of CNI SBSS’s project areas structured conflict and violence for various socio-political and economic reasons are observed. In such context, all development initiative has become an integral part and parcel of the conflict and tension. Community tensions or conflicts triggered by political or communal forces can jeopardize all developmental efforts. In this regard ‘Local Capacities for Peace (LCP)’ approach framework is a comprehensive tool to take up situational analysis of the context of conflict and find out options for alternative interventions in the project area. This tool is used as supportive strategy of the program and activities to address issues related to peace and harmony.
To take the process of Collective Youth Program forward, CNI SBSS has planned to select 5-7 youths from each DBSS. They will be trained and engaged in different capacity in peace building processes in their own community and will be nurtured to become peace builders. The youth will be mentored and trained by the staffs of CNI SBSS & DBSS who will be known as Youth Mentors. The youth mentors are trained in different conflict analysis, conflict mechanism tools and human rights mechanism by expert international trainers of Bread for The World and others. The process of training the youth mentors has started, the youth mentors were trained on ‘Conflict Transformation’ from 26th – 30th October 2015 and 27th – 29th January 2016; and on ‘Human Rights’ from 19th – 23rd November 2015. The youth from South Asian countries will be trained by the mentors after they receive training and the youth will be later sent to attend a Regional Youth conference. We hope that with this small initiative, we will be able to engage the youth in a positive exercise and encourage them to take ownership of the situation in their communities.