Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Emerging Security Concepts in Africa; where are the Youth?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
By: Lina Imran, Ethiopia.

Since 1970, more than 30 wars have been fought in Africa. The vast majority of them are intra-state in origin. In 1996 alone, 14 of the 53 countries of Africa were afflicted by armed conflicts, accounting for more than half of all war-related death worldwide and resulting in more than 8 million refugees, returnees and displaced persons. 

Several factors account for conflicts in Africa. Some of these include the colonial heritage of authoritarian governance and artificial boundaries, conditions of widespread extreme poverty and scarcity of basic necessities of life. Immediate causes include competition for land, oil or other natural resources, support for internal conflicts by outside actors, government policy and resource misallocation. Factors that exacerbate conflict can include arms imports, pressures of refugees or internally displaced persons and food insecurity. 

As a result, African societies are widely perceived to suffer from chronic levels of violent conflict and crime. In this, humanity throughout history has disproportionately placed the burdens of war and violence on its young people. 

Though it is believed that the African youth widely suffers from direct violence, which results in injury and abuse; human security issues like hunger, disease and environmental contamination represent grave security threats, which some even proclaim worse than physical violence. 

The Conceptual Framework

Human Security is a multi-dimensional notion of security policy that goes beyond the traditional notion of state security. And it’s about “the security of the individual with respect to the satisfaction of the basic needs of life. It also encompasses the creation of the social, political, economic, military, environmental and cultural conditions necessary for the survival, livelihood and dignity of the individual, including the protection of fundamental freedoms, the respect for human rights, good governance, access to education, healthcare and ensuring that each individual has opportunities and choices to fulfill his or her own potential”.  

The concept relates with empowerment in way that, human security is inextricably linked with addressing structural issues that mainly rely on finding long term solutions. Mean while, empowerment also shares the idea that one should be in the position to make informed decisions through available opportunities and spaces.  

Youth Empowerment mainly refers to, enhancing the Capacity and skills building of young people through awareness building, education and various forms of trainings and workshops; and increase access to opportunities like that of employment that overtime shape their identity and future. Hence, youth empowerment within the framework of human security mainly has to do with economic, political and social security of the youth in countries that emerge from war. 


In conflict situations, a rights-based approach, like a human security approach, reorients humanitarian strategies towards enhancing people’s capabilities, choices and security. It stresses the right to life, health, food, shelter and education. 

The idea of dealing with a wider framework of concept like human security is because; it allows concrete and sustainable benefits, to encourage protection and empowerment, to advance integrated approaches, and to promote innovation and partnership. 

Its often pointed out that, security and development are mutually reinforcing, and that a broad strategy is needed to address the root causes of armed conflict and political and social crises in a comprehensive manner, including by promoting sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, gender equality, the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights 

Cease-fire agreements and peace settlements mark the end of violent conflict, but they do not ensure peace and human security. 

This leads us to the issue of Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD). As the AU, PCRD policy defines it, it’s a comprehensive set of measure that seek to: address the needs of countries emerging from conflict, including the needs affected populations; prevent escalation of disputes; avoid relapse in to violence; address the root causes of conflict; and consolidate sustainable peace. 

Each post-conflict recovery requires an integrated human security framework, developed in full partnership with the national and local authorities. Post Conflict Reconstruction period could serve as an entry point for the youth to engage positively through; 

DDR Programs: mainly former combatants are young people. It is through DDR programs that they will be able to acquire skills development in reconciliation and coexistence, re shape their future and find jobs. Even some could be given adequate trainings and re-integrated in to security forces of the country. 

Humanitarian/ Emergency assistance: this comes immediately during the post-war situation where the state capacity is most limited. The youth volunteers and aid workers could play a positive role in life-saving and sustaining assistance efforts across the continent. 

Socio-Economic Reconstruction and Development: is a multi-dimensional process that contributes to improved living conditions, improved ability to meet basic needs, such as health, education, and food and reduction of poverty and inequality. Given the high number of young people around the continent they could be an integral force of socio-economic development in addressing the threats to livelihood and income generation, enhance agricultural production and guarantee food security, promote small scale business and financing, participate in formulation of policies and also address preventable diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. 

Participate proactively in Security Sector Reform (SSR): SSR mainly refers to re-orienting the policies, structure, and capacities of institutions and groups engaged in the security sector. SSR has become one of the favorite tools of international actors to work towards state-building in fragile countries. Security institutions mainly witness the dynamics of the role of the youth both as perpetrators as well as victims in wars and conflicts. Young people are mainly involved in serving the army, the police and other key security sector institutions in various systems such as; repressive, democratic or authoritarian regimes. 

Paradoxically, youth are involved in protests, civil strife and many forms of organized violence. Despite the dilemma; in the process of creating secure and safe environment, the young people could play a substantial role in the activities such as; consolidation of efficient, accountable and professional defense and security forces operating under responsible civilian control and oversight mechanisms. 

Political Governance and Transition: Good leadership in societies emerging from conflict is critical driver in the creation of good governance structures, determination of strategies for the equitable distribution of power, consolidation of peace and facilitation of transition from the emergency to the development phases of its reconstruction. Young people could work in partnership with adults to establish the policies, goals, and activities for national and regional programs. 


The challenges in general stem from long term administrative and institutional setups that are very rigid for active involvement of the youth to complement the gaps that exist in the systems, as well as low level understanding of human security, as opposed to state security, across the continent. 

Some of the challenges mentioned as factors that undermine human security and youth empowerment are as follows; 
  1. Widespread crime and disorder; in countries that emerge from war, when disarmament and efforts toward reintegration proceed, violence and crime continue as serious problem undermining peace building efforts because of mutual fear, distrust and perpetuation of insecurity. 
  2. Poor civil-military relations; socio-political exclusion and the spread of Small Arms and Light weapons pose heavy threats mainly to youth as well as the society. These issues undermine human security through undemocratic, order-oriented and hierarchical military rules by denying citizens legitimate opportunities to better themselves, and concentration of power and wealth in hands of few, which can result in high politicization of services and opportunities. This could cause marginalization and resentment among the people, leading to further conflict.

For more information on the subject, please communicate with the author. Send us an email or fill our contact form on the contact us page.

Editorial Team.

Lina Imran is a graduate of Addis Ababa University, with an MA in Peace and Security Studies, a BA in Political Science and International Relations. She has been doing an internship at the ASSN since March 2010 and has been the main Rapporteur for three important African Union SSR meetings in Addis Ababa. Currently Lina is working as a Research Assistant and ASSN support staff to the African Union Security Sector Reform Project. She has also been actively engaged in the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps since July 2009. She is also a One Young World (OYW) Convening Ambassador for Ethiopia and Action Partner for Oxfam International Youth Action Partner (OIYP). She has participated in a number of SSR workshops in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Sweden. Lina is fluent in English and Amharic, fair Arabic and a smattering of French. She has also done studies on Youth and Violence with particular Reference to the Horn of Africa.
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