Wevyn Muganda holding a placard at the Global Schools2030 Forum in Porto, Portugal

Schools2030 Forum; Nexus Between Peacebuilding and Education

By Wevyn Muganda

I recently attended the Schools2030 Forum in Porto, Portugal courtesy of UNICEF Generation Unlimited; the world’s biggest public private partnership for young people and one of the partners of the forum. The Schools2030 is a programme based in 1,000 government schools across ten countries aimed at improving participatory learning and the quality of education as a whole. The forum is hosted by Aga Khan Foundation and partners from different stakeholders including teachers, governments, civil society and philanthropy institutions.

The Forum was interactive and engaging in different thematic areas of education. Discussions centred around inclusivity and pluralism in learning institutions. From sharing innovative practices to co-creating solutions through a human-centred design to interactive side events, the forum was insightful and enriching.

On the last day, I had the privilege of delivering the opening remarks where I talked about some of the youth engagement work I have done with young people. I highlighted the Youth Public Private Partnership model by UNICEF Generation Unlimited that positions youth and youth expertise at the core of decision making.

Because I started my advocacy and development career as a human rights activist, my approach is always human rights-centred and intersectional, acknowledging that, the lack of one fundamental freedom affects the fulfilment of others. Therefore, as a peacebuilder, education is not just about learning in schools and acquiring skills for the job market. Education is a critical tool for peacebuilding and is a transformative process that can help to restore trust and social cohesion, enabling communities to come together and work towards common goals.

In post-conflict and crisis situations, education is critical in supporting communities to recover and rebuild their lives. Schools are avenues for knowledge, socialization and the creation of identities that ultimately shape the way young people perceive their roles in society. They can also provide safe spaces for children and youth to learn, play, and interact with their peers. If education is not equitable and accessible to all young people, then it can undermine peacebuilding and deepen social injustices. Schools have in some instances been places for radicalization, gender-based violence, discrimination and exclusion, particularly for women, girls and other marginalised groups of young people.

Education and education institutions should create opportunities for the promotion of human rights and well-being of young people ultimately contributing to their human development. Education must therefore be contextualized and continuously evolve. Curriculums must change, our teachers must continuously be trained, and education systems must adapt to the generation of learners, socio-political needs and contexts to ensure that every young person, particularly those at the margins can gain quality education.

To do this, young people must be included, because ultimately every intervention such as programmes and policies designed must add value to young people’s lives. The meaningful engagement and inclusion of young people in decision-making are paramount to the success of youth programmes and policies. Young people are the experts in their lives and their agency must therefore be recognised. Participation is a key pillar of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda that recognises young people’s role in peacebuilding. It also recognises the role that education has to play in peacebuilding. Through peace education, formal education and other non-formal spaces of learning such as through sports, arts and culture, young people can be equipped for the world we live in today and in the future.

But educational institutions cannot achieve these goals alone. It requires the support and collaboration of a range of actors, including governments, civil society organizations, and international partners. Together, these stakeholders can work to ensure that education is equitable, accessible, and of high quality for all children and youth – regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances.

Based on the forum’s discussions, my key takeaways to enhancing quality education for all children and youth are;

  • Strengthen Partnerships and Network Coordination to maximise resources and avoid duplication of efforts

  • Intergenerational leadership is critical in tapping into the knowledge and expertise of young people and the older generation. Youth Inclusion should be an opportunity, not a threat.

  • Human rights-based and intersectional approaches can increase the effectiveness of education to address social inequalities such as gender inequality, racism, social exclusion, climate change etc. An inclusive and holistic system of education is not only important but necessary if we are to leave no one behind

  • Listen, Amplify and Consider the voices of young people in decision-making. The lived experiences are invaluable knowledge to policy and programming

  • Invest in solutions designed and led by young people and their educators. There can be no sustainable development without financing.

  • Last and most importantly; the protection of the rights of young people in schools and communities must be at the top of all our priorities. Every young person deserves a safe and dignifying environment that encourages learning, creativity and development.


ThinkPeace; Our Common Agenda Policy Brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes

By Wevyn Muganda

It was only about a few days ago that the UN Secretary-General released Our Common Agenda’s policy brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes. I was excited to read it and see the recommendations because these will be crucial in developing the agenda at The Summit of the Future scheduled for 2024.

First, the policy brief primarily aimed at the Member States makes the following key recommendations;

  • Expand and strengthen youth participation in decision-making at all levels;
  • Make meaningful youth engagement a requirement in all United Nations decision-making processes;
  • Support the establishment of a standing United Nations Youth Townhall and an integrated program from the United Nations system to facilitate greater diversity, representativeness, and preparedness in youth participation.

The document further defines meaningful youth engagement and shares examples of initiatives undertaken to promote youth engagement at the global and national levels. There is progress in youth engagement particularly in the language as seen in this document. There are lots of recommendations and examples to build from. 

My key appreciation points from this policy were;

  • Language on youth engagement has evolved from mere participation to influence and impact their inputs to the outcomes of decision-making processes
  • Recommendation to Member States to make youth participation a Requirement in UN Decision making spaces
  • Resourcing of youth participation especially funding the participation of youth from the Geopolitical South.

In the framework of the YPS agenda, peace is more than just the absence of war, if anything achieving the sustainable development goals is what will lead us to a peaceful society. Even as I applaud these recommendations, I would like for all of us to think critically about how these recommendations look in practice. 

When We Think of Peace;

We must ask which young people make it to these peace processes and decision-making spaces. Who has the access, tools, and resources to participate especially globally…and how do we ensure that those left out have their agency and needs incorporated?

What does resourcing look like? Many young activists work precarious jobs or run their organizations on a voluntary basis. If we genuinely value youth expertise, why can’t we move beyond resourcing for participation i.e. travel to resourcing for meaningful engagement i.e. compensating young people for their time?

Are diversity and inclusion enough? What about the ways intersecting axes such as class, ability, race, and ethnicity affect youth participation in decision-making? It is one thing to say, ‘Every young person is welcome here,’ and a totally different thing to say, ‘We designed this space with you(minoritized youth groups) in mind. 

What does the institutionalization of youth engagement mean when institutions are failing? Institutionalizing youth engagement at the national level through established national youth bodies threatens the civic space for certain youth groups as these national youth councils, because are funded by gov’t may be an extension of the state and institutionalized violence. How can we go beyond institutionalization to expanding the space for youth groups in their diversity from the grassroots, to movements and having avenues for their inputs to feed into national and global processes? 

Finally, what  I would have loved to see highlighted more strongly is the value of technology in enhancing youth engagement. We will never get every young person, even activists to travel to New York or Geneva, for example, even with more resourcing. Therefore, how do we decentralize decision-making, and leverage digital technologies to have more young people engaging, but even so how do we think of access, security, and cost of technologies when we think of increasing youth participation? and ultimately making this meaningful to decision-making.

Overall, I believe that there are great recommendations we can work with, and hoping that Member States take their mandate seriously, and walk the talk.

Have you read the Secretary General’s Our Common Agenda Policy Brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes?  Share with us your thoughts in the comment section


#ThinkPeace is an initiative by ISIRIKA aimed at providing thought leadership on peace and security and provoking peace practitioners, particularly young peacebuilders to delve deeply into different social issues through simple think-pieces published every week.



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