Mercy Corps: Development Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence for Somali Youth

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New report finds education and civic engagement reduce propensity to violence

In Somalia Mercy Corps helps young people gain the tools and knowledge necessary to build a brighter future. Credit: Lindsay Murphy/Mercy Corps

Youth account for more than 75 percent of Somalia’s population and represent both the hope for a bright future and a possible source of instability

A multi-year Mercy Corps program demonstrates that the combination of education and civic engagement plays a critical role in disrupting the path toward violence for Somali youth. Critical Choices, an analysis of Mercy Corps’ Somali Youth Leaders Initiative, shines a light on a proven method to address underlying drivers of political violence, including violent extremism.

“Education plays a critical role in creating an environment where youth are engaged in learning and feel less isolated and excluded,” says Beza Tesfaye, Conflict and Governance Manager for Mercy Corps and author of the report. “However, education on its own does not address young people’s frustrations with feelings of injustice and being unable to make a positive difference in their communities.”

Mercy Corps found that when combining secondary education with civic engagement opportunities such as community action campaigns, youth’s propensity to participate in violence dropped by 14 percent. Their propensity to support violence dropped by 20 percent.

The Somali Youth Leaders Initiative – funded by the United States Agency for International Development – aims to benefit more than 150,000 youth and reach millions more youth, educators, government officials and community members. The program improves access to education and quality of learning by expanding and rehabilitating school facilities, training teachers and providing non-formal education to out-of-school youth. Civic engagement opportunities include environmental clean-up days, education contests and advocacy.

“Youth account for more than 75 percent of Somalia’s population and represent both the hope for a bright future and a possible source of instability,” says Tesfaye. “Combined with education, giving youth the ability to help their communities fulfills a desire to do something positive, meaningful and impactful.”

Mercy Corps calls on the government of Somalia and the international community working in Somalia to increase investments in programs that expand access to both education and civic engagement. Global policy makers can leverage these findings to develop effective policies and programs to address the underlying drivers of violence and violent extremism worldwide.

The study was undertaken to better recognize effective approaches to strengthening stability and preventing violence and reflects surveys of more than 800 youth, age 15 to 24, over a 14-day period in May and June 2016. Read or download the full report here.

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Lynn Hector
Mercy Corps
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