Elections are inherently processes that lay bare differences within a society, and as a result, easily bring about tensions. Dialogues for peace may respond to this inherent tension, both in the pre-electoral period as preventive measures, as well as in the post-electoral period as conflict mitigation mechanisms. Youth have an important role to play in these structures.
Dialogue activities can be understood as actions aimed at increasing understanding for the variety of views and positions and to build acceptance and trust. They may relate to the everyday experiences and practices of people, while having the possibility of effecting public opinion [Fischer (1997). Interactive Conflict Resolution, in Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall (2016). Contemporary Conflict Resolution. Fourth edition.]. As such, dialogues can contribute to mutual understanding and respect, thereby fostering a culture of peaceful co-existence. When successful, they may bring awareness that dialogue, including political dialogue, is a peaceful means through which conflict can be resolved.
Dialogues specifically for and by youth can help amplify the stories and perspectives of young people as a way of contributing to attitudinal changes. Dialoguing is also an approach to bridge divides by providing an informal space to discuss electoral disputes. Furthermore, dialogues can contribute to the prevention of electoral-related violence by creating spaces where post-electoral grievances—as elections inherently come with winners and losers—can be discussed in a peaceful and respectful manner. As such, they may even contribute to building a post-electoral shared vision of the future. It is essential that such dialogue activities are safe and gender-responsive.
Young respondents to the SELECT youth survey see dialogues for peace as among the most valuable types of activities that can be implemented in support of young people. Furthermore, it was commonly mentioned as an activity the respondents were already involved in. The added value of dialogue, according to the respondents, includes its ability to foster peaceful coexistence and a culture of non-violence and the opportunity it offers to bring a variety of perspectives to the table. It was further mentioned that it allows for the promotion of a sense of belonging for young people, including in the public domain.
The young respondents referred to dialogue as a processes of bridging divides between generations, through intergenerational exchange, between or within communities through inter- and intra-community dialogue or between youth and decision-makers including at the local level. Some respondents also noted an opportunity to improve the relationship between young people and the security sector.
Respondents describe dialogue among young people as a way of resolving concerns relating to the electoral processes in a non-violent manner and an opportunity for youth to jointly identify solutions to issues of common interest. Through the survey, many young people describe how they as individuals raise awareness of the importance of tolerance and acceptance of different viewpoints; and as youth leaders of organizations, they promote trust building and acceptance of differences within their respective youth network.
This activity has a focus on dialogue as a tool to mitigate the potential for aggression and violence, while the programmatic option on youth engagement mechanisms provides further insights on spaces for engagement.
Dialogues may take place through peace committees, radio programmes, community meetings, youth spaces, multi-stakeholder workshops and digital platforms, and there are multiple forms including youth-specific dialogues or dialogue that includes youth participants. Dialogues may be pre-planned preventive measures or arise organically, for example in a post-electoral crisis requiring post-electoral healing. An example of planned dialogues could be the organization of a visioning exercise between groups with different visions of the future to foster a shared vision. Another specific type of dialogue is intergenerational dialogue, which aims to bring together different generations.
Dialogues may take place at different societal levels—from the grassroots level to formal processes at the national level. Dialogue activities may require the participants to have received training in skills relating to dialogue and fostering of a culture of peace.
Guiding questions for reflection on programmatic entry points to support dialogue for peace include [The guiding questions are inspired by the SELECT consultations 2022 and the recommendations from the UN Interagency Network on Youth Development, Working Group on Youth and Peacebuilding (2016). Practice Note: Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding]:
The type of actors engaged in the dialogue activities outlined in this activity would often be a part of the ‘grassroots leadership’ such as local leaders or leaders of local youth initiatives as well as ‘middle-range leadership’ such as religious leaders, academics and non-governmental organizations including legally registered youth CSOs. This type of activity could potentially also involve and reach ‘top leadership’ such as governments and political leaders.
The promotion of youth participation through dialogue for non-violence is an opportunity to enhance locally driven approaches to sustain non-violent approaches during elections with a focus on supporting national capacities and infrastructures for constructive dialogue and engagement at the community level. Therefore, it is important to consider how electoral-related programmes can support the platforms, groups and individuals who already contribute towards the prevention of violence in different communities. To this end, a youth-inclusive stakeholder analysis is key to understanding the situation of young people in relation to power and conflict dynamics as well as opportunities for peace at the local level. Furthermore, a conflict-sensitive approach can make sure that programme activities consider the specific-context to maximize the positive impact of dialogue on the prevention of electoral-related violence.
It is important to avoid perceptions of young people as a homogeneous group and consider how a diversity of young people can be engaged, as well as how they are organized in their particular communities. It may also be considered if dedicated dialogue activities are needed for young women and/or young people from marginalized groups, minorities, oppositional groups, political antagonists, etc. Overall, dialogue activities are a way of engaging young people at the grassroots level in sustaining peaceful responses during elections; a ‘multi-track approach’ may connect youth at the grassroots level with activities at the national level and/or formal processes.
Support to locally-owned and locally-led dialogue initiatives increases sustainability of such activities [EU and UNDP (2020). Engaging with Insider Mediators: Sustaining peace in an age of turbulence]. Several respondents to the SELECT youth survey noted the importance of continuous dialogues. It is likely that dialogue activities are already ongoing in many communities, and electoral-related programmes can build on such existing initiatives as well as support local actors in taking activities forward after the completion of programme activities, as relevant.
Dialogue with the intent to mitigate violent reactions to electoral dynamics as introduced by this programmatic option relates to attitudinal changes towards coexistence and fostering a culture of non-violence. Electoral-related violence is often driven by political actors, and unless included in one way or another, the chance of ending electoral-related violence is limited if initiated as a standalone activity. Furthermore, due to the intractability of many conflicts, continuous and long-term engagement of actors through dialogue may be needed to foster understanding and trust.
The primary objective of this Practice Note is to inform policymakers and donors of key strategic and programming considerations for supporting young people’s participation to peacebuilding.
This Guidance Note explores the relevance of insider mediation in 21st century practice-policy landscape, seeks to foster an understanding of the theoretical and practical underpinnings of the ‘insider mediation’ concept and provide practical knowledge and a step-by-step guide to engaging with insider mediators. Case studies are used throughout the Guidance Note to highlight how insider mediators work on a wide range of thematic issues, including peace processes, natural resource-related conflicts, electoral-related violence, building social cohesion and addressing religious and faith-related issues.
This toolkit has been developed for beginners and intermediate youth trainers and educators in the field of peacebuilding and is meant to serve as a useful tool for to start or further implement educational programmes on peace and transforming conflicts and narratives targeting youth through non-formal education.
The recently launched the Youth Breathing Spaces initiative for PVE with the aim of promoting youth agency and social cohesion. The initiative focuses on establishing local spaces of dialogue where young people can safely express their thoughts, design activities, and engage their peers in PVE. These collaborative spaces are also aimed at promoting interactions and strengthening relations among young people and other community members, creating mutual understanding and beginning dialogue to help address the local drivers of extremism. The ‘breathing spaces’ were launched in the Karmakol Festival in December 2017, using art, music and innovation as springboards for engaging young people on difficult issues related to the conflict and violent extremism, and for helping build resilience. One of the workshops introduced participants to songs from conflict-affected areas in Sudan, enabling them to learn the stories behind them, and encouraged them to creatively remix and perform their own unique, modern versions.” UNDP (2019). Frontlines. Page 45.
Across 13 universities, nearly 1,700 university students have joined the Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) network. This student run group, led by the University of Dhaka’s Microgovernance Research Initiative with support from IFES, equips students to take a lead role in promoting peaceful and constructive civic engagement on campuses and in their home districts. SAVE participants are trained through modular trainings in which they gain an understanding of responsible citizenship, root causes of violence, and how violence hinders free and fair participation in democratic processes. Through practical application, SAVE participants gain confidence in their ability to implement community-based programs that address conflict drivers in their university and broader communities. In recent years, SAVE students have launched campaigns that share COVID best practices, combat food insecurity, raise awareness on gender-based violence and confront mis- and disinformation online and in their communities.