Youth: Victim, Troublemaker or Peacebuilder?

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‘Youth’: victim, troublemaker or peacebuilder? Constructions of youth-in-conflict in United Nations and World Bank youth policies by Elaine Mei Lien Pratley is a thesis submitted in 2011 in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Masters of International Relations (MIR) degree at the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations at the Victoria University of Wellington. Abstract: Examination of how the United Nations (‘UN’) and World Bank construct youth affected by armed conflict and political instability (referred to as ‘youth-in-conflict’) in their respective youth policies reveals that the UN constructs youth-in-conflict as ‘victims’ requiring protection. This results in humanitarian/rights-based approaches to youth development. In contrast, the World Bank constructs youth-in-conflict as ‘capital’ that has potential to bring about economic growth, resulting in economics-driven policies. Such divergent identity constructions are because ‘youth’ and ‘youth identity’ are fluid concepts used in various ways by different people in different contexts. In peace and conflict studies, the dominant discourses in relation to youth-in-conflict are that youth are either ‘victims’ of war or ‘troublemakers’. Both discourses are contested by an emerging third discourse of youth as peacebuilders, which challenges the representation of youth-in-conflict as passive victims or as negative threats. While the UN and World Bank’s respective humanitarian/development and neo-liberal economic approaches shape these divergent youth-in-conflict constructions, both institutions are also influenced by the global trends in youth-in-conflict discourses. This ‘discursive’ relationship means that as the UN and World Bank engage in the global youth debate and are shaped by more complete understandings of youth-in-conflict, they will also have an influential role in perpetuating or challenging dominant discourses.


Elaine Mei Lien Pratley

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