joined the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre in May 2010. Prior to this he completed a PhD in the Development Studies department at the School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London, entitled “Negotiating war and the liberal peace: national NGOs, legi...
Youth, armed violence and job creation
Oliver Walton, 13 October 2010
In response to growing claims in the social science literature about the links between large youth populations, youth unemployment and armed violence, there has been a proliferation of donor programmes designed to reduce armed violence and conflict through youth job creation programmes. This paper examines the success of youth job-creation programmes in reducing armed violence. It finds that both the theoretical and the empirical basis for using youth-employment programmes as a tool for reducing armed violence and armed conflict is extremely weak.
Theoretically, the notion that job creation alone could reduce armed violence is unconvincing. The literature suggests that there are multiple motivations for youth engagement in armed violence, and that there may be considerable variation in these motivations within any given context. In-depth case studies suggest that while youth unemployment may provide part of the explanation of why armed violence occurs, this factor is rarely a main or direct cause of violence. Even where youth employment may be a factor, its relationship to violence is complex and multi-faceted and should not simply be understood in opportunity-cost terms.
Job-creation initiatives alone are unlikely to generate a reduction in armed violence, even if they are successful in creating job opportunities. Evidence suggests that although frustration at a lack of livelihood opportunities can play a part in motivating youth violence, social and political grievances are usually more central.
Donor interventions have been poorly evaluated and evidence of success is usually limited to demonstrating increases in employment levels, with little effort made to assess the impact on violence. What little evidence there is tends to show that the impact of these programmes is quite limited.
The evidence on using job creation as part of an integrated or comprehensive armed violence reduction strategy is stronger: some government-led initiatives in countries that experience high levels of armed violence (such as Brazil and South Africa) have shown clear positive results in reducing these levels.
The research finds that donor approaches to reducing armed violence through job-creation schemes have become more nuanced and sophisticated. There has been a growing emphasis on ”holistic”, ”comprehensive” and ”integrated” approaches that go beyond simply addressing a lack of economic opportunities and seek to address the more complex array of factors that cause social exclusion for young people. Despite this progress, there is a still a significant gap between donor rhetoric and practice in this area.
The paper concludes by identifying a number of best practices from the academic, evaluative and policy literature.
- Youth job-creation schemes should be based on thorough contextual analysis of the local economic, social and political conditions.
- Donors should pursue comprehensive or holistic approaches that integrate youth issues into existing development programmes.
- Young people should be involved in project design, monitoring and evaluation.
- Youth employment programmes should involve strategies for addressing the social and political marginalisation of young people.
- The private sector should be involved in programme design; particularly in ensuring that training courses are relevant and meet market demands.
- It is important to balance a “deficit” or security-oriented approach to youth with a focus on the positive role youth can play as peacebuilders or engines of social and economic recovery.
- Youth employment and DDR programmes should involve conflict-resolution training components.
- Donors should seek to build the capacity of youth organisations which provide a space for young people to meet and express their views.
Report also available on the website of the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre