Conflict disrupts social structures, breaks down the rule of law, and cripples health systems. It has a devastating impact on young people’s development, human rights, and their ability to fulfil their potential. Access to sexual and reproductive health information, services and commodities reduces drastically when countries descend into conflict. Girls and young women in particular (but also boys and young men) are at heightened risk of physical and sexual abuse and exploitation in situations of conflict, and girls are at higher risk of harmful practices such as child marriage. Young people, who are already an outcast majority, are used by military commanders and political leaders as cannon fodder, excluded from peace negotiations and agreements, and have to fend for themselves when they return to what is left of their communities – creating the pre-conditions for the next cycle of violence.
The rise of extremist groups, many of whom are motivated by religion use terrorism as a means of advocating for change, has become a defining characteristic of modern conflict. The proliferation of non-state armed groups, many of which have loose and network-based relationships to one another, is considered one of the most significant security threats of our time. Further, while there has been unprecedented attention to young people in the context of countering or preventing violent extremism, it is important to resist relying on security-sector responses, which can often be counter-productive, but instead to put forward peacebuilding approaches that address underlying issues, recognize young people’s leadership and positive contributions to building peace, and seek to put in place comprehensive approaches that engage young people in building peaceful and just societies.