Instead, young people are often seen by authorities and communities as unimportant, ignorant or troublemakers, and by armed groups as potential targets for recruitment. Limited access to opportunities and displacement often mean young people have few other options but to join. However, despite these barriers young people have huge potential to be real leaders for peace within communities.

Before, I did not even know what a conflict was. Now I can recognise it, and am able to analyse it.
A young man from Bossangoa sub-prefecture

Alongside War Child and our local partners AAHC and FHAP, we’re working with over 600 young people living in two regions of CAR heavily affected by displacement and insecurity - Ouham and Ouham-Pendé. Over the past six months, we’ve trained 40 young people in peacebuilding skills, who in turn have trained nearly 100 more. These sessions teach young people how to identify and analyse conflicts in their community, develop action plans for addressing these conflicts, and learn how to put the action plans into practice in their everyday life. They learn important skills such as how to run community dialogue sessions, mediate between opposing parties or advocate for support from local and prefectural authorities. 

The training helped me to reject revenge. I lost my husband during the crisis and wanted to avenge him. When I heard young people talking about peace, I understood that I can be at peace.
A young woman from Bossangoa sub-prefecture

And already, we are hearing incredible stories of how these young people are putting what they have learnt into practice. In Bossangoa, when a machete was brandished during a football game, a young peacebuilder helped prevent the violence from escalating. In two additional communes around Bossangoa, a group of young people are now working to resolve conflicts around water points. And another youngster used the ‘conflict-tree’ approach to resolve a family dispute. 

We’re also seeing positive changes in the relationships between local authorities and young people – a vital component for ensuring a sustainable peace. In a small community in Bossangoa sub-prefecture, we witnessed how a previously shy young girl described the conflict tree to the local leaders. She was delighted that the major had stood up to congratulate her.

I was one of the anti-Balaka. I had a machete and I often fought with other kids. I understand now that it’s not good. I am calmer and ask things with respect.
A young woman from Bossangoa sub-prefecture

This may sound like a small achievement, but in a community where the voices of young people, and especially young girls, are often ignored this is a significant step. This and other examples that we have witnessed over the past six months show that local authorities are slowly realising the potential of their young people. The mayor of another commune told us “I never thought that young people would be able to analyse conflicts. Normally only the authorities know how to do it.”

For these young people, our next step is to accompany them in implementing their action plans with support from local and prefectural authorities. 

This project is funded by the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund’s (PBF) Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative (GYPI). This is the organisation’s financial instrument to sustain peace in countries or situations at risk or affected by violent conflict.