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Responsibility to protect youths

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Why should we care as a global community what happens to our youth? How do we bridge the gap between the experiences of youth population in Africa, Latin America, Middle East and South East Asia? How do I as a citizen of the world help you as a reader to understand that the fate of our future lies in the hands of our youth population? Possibly after reading this article you will have a better sense of why it is our collective responsibility to protect our youth, no matter the location, the gender, or ethnicity.

Young people are uniquely affected by violence be it structural, cultural, direct or indirect. Overlooking the plight of young people is no longer reasonable on a global scale. Political leaders can no longer ignore the needs and flat out statistics that clearly state young people are disproportionally affected by war or conflict. Most importantly, young people suffer the most in countries where rule of laws are not properly enforced, codes of conducts are not upheld and the judiciary system is open to manipulation. More than war or conflict, corruption has caused the breakdown of positive social values in society and the very institutions that are to serve as moral pillars in the lives of young people is responsible for the socialization of deviant behavior. No matter where we place the blame or point the finger the responsibility to protect our youth should be a collective agenda.

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a global political commitment endorsed by all member states of the United Nations at the 2005 World Summit to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes against humanity. R2P serves as an international human and security norm that states each state has a responsibility to protect its population from severe crimes against humanity. This enabling principle calls upon the moral consciousness of nation states to intervene if a state fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of such crime. If so, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council. Although R2P outlines that intervention is needed only to protect a large number of people from environmental disaster or mass atrocities inflicted by its government…I would like to extend the concept of R2P to include state failure to providing the necessary social and political support to protect one of its most vulnerable population…the youth.

Marginalized or vulnerable groups in society are typically categorizes as the elderly, women, children, the disabled, refugees, minorities, and young people. The list can be extended to incorporate other groups of people in society whose fundamental human rights have been abused or violated. Young people are particularly vulnerable to economic shocks, political and social instability, and conflicts. In addition to, the needs of young people are often ignored and not included in the decision-making and governance processes.

Globally, only 1.65 per cent of parliamentarians are young people in their 20s and 11.87 per cent are people in their 30s according to a 2012 UNDP Global Parliamentary Report. Global youth unemployment rate is on the rise again. The International Labor Organization estimates that the global youth unemployment rate is expected to reach 13.1 per cent in 2016 and remain at that level through to 2017 (up from 12.9 per cent in 2015). This presents a huge problem. The future of every country lies in the hands of their youth population. About 156 million working youth are in extreme or moderate poverty. Many of the millions of working youths are considered “young professionals” who have obtained some level of education even perhaps a college degree but due to state failure (not just an economic crisis), structural violence, lack of security and more, our young people are facing uncertain times.

Why should such issue be of concern for the international community? Why would I invoke the theory or framework of R2P regarding youth population? Of course, military intervention is not an option but it should be the priority of all countries to ensure that the needs of young people are addressed. There needs to be a reconfiguration of the political systems in many developing countries where grandfather politics and corruption still serve as a barrier to the participation of educated, intelligent, morally conscious and socially empathic young people.

Despite the conditions in which young people are living today in the developed and developing world, millions are still resilient, entrepreneurial and remarkably optimistic. With more than half of the world’s population under the age of 30, the future of global security rests upon how well we treat young people today. How well governments provide social services, job opportunities and the ability for them to live up to their potential will be paramount to combatting the growth of young people joining terrorist networks. By doing such, we are able to destroy the countering narratives of terrorists groups whose aim is to lure young people into their networks by offering them a supposed better vision of the future.

Studies have shown that high levels of youth unemployment can likely lead young people to enter the criminal economy. Such deviant crimes are often committed out of need or survival. The responsibility to protect should not be just a doctrine that calls upon the moral consciousness of humanity to protect those who cannot protect themselves but to shed light on structural violence that specifically harms young people. Structural violence encapsulates many different forms of various social and institutional failings that have real consequences in peoples’ lives.

By mitigating that causes of joblessness, enforcing codes of conduct in the workplace and in institutions of education, providing opportunities where youth population can engage in formal political processes, and where psychosocial development programs are present these are the ways to combat injustice. This is the way in which we protect our youth. This is the way forward in which we can leave a healthy, safe and productive society for the next generation to come. It is our collective responsibility.


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