Somalia Human Development Report 2012. Empowering Youth for Peace and Development

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Somalia is at a crossroads where decades of one of the world’s most complex and protracted conflicts have shaped a country of stark contrasts. The south central region has experienced years of fighting and lawlessness, while the north-east and north-west have achieved a fragile semblance of peace and stability. The divide shows both what is possible in Somalia, and how much must be done so that all Somalis can walk on the path of development and peace. A powerful new vision for Somalia is required, one oriented around building an inclusive society, where all people feel empowered, and have the capabilities and opportunities to improve their lives. Towards this end, new dynamism and hope could come from recognizing and harnessing the full potential of Somalia’s youth. Young people have been one of the worst-afflicted groups to suffer inter-generational historical exclusion. At the same time, in recent years, they have become the largest population cohort. This presents both tremendous possibilities and dire threats. Opportunities could come through providing quality education and decent jobs, for example, by channeling the ‘demographic dividend’ into economic gains and social transformation. Threats emerge when educational institutions and labour markets fail to respond to the needs of youth, and some end up pursuing violent alternatives. Given Somalia’s now long history of development and peacebuilding strategies that have had limited success, it is clear that the way forward depends on a much more ambitious agenda that aims for transformation. An essential aspect is placing positive youth empowerment at the centre of all peacebuilding and development goals, and advancing it through shifts in policies, priorities and institutional reforms. This calls for actions at both the central and local levels. Given the large numbers of marginalized youth and other citizens, a solid foundation of democracy must be built, including through mechanisms institutionalizing transparency and accountability to check corruption, eliminate discrimination and ensure that people’s voices are heard and responded to at all levels. Community-led poverty reduction and peacebuilding strategies at the same time need to reduce disparities in social, economic and political empowerment that breed resentment and heighten the potential for conflict.

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