By Talal Raza
In the wake of 9/11 attacks, the Global War on Terror began in Afghanistan to hunt down terrorists responsible for disrupting the peace of the world. Pakistan also joined the coalition and provided logistical support to NATO and US armed forces to carry out their military operations inside Afghanistan. However, the subsequent backlash from the home gown terrorists for aiding the NATO forces was overwhelming. Eventually in 2007, we came to a point where there used to be a suicide terrorist attack at least once a week in major urban centers of Pakistan.
The government opted for various measures to deal with terrorism. From intermittent military operations to half-hearted political reconciliation initiatives, a number of strategies were tested to contain the menace of terrorism. Although, the security situation has considerably improved since then, the battle to root out extremism from the society continues.
In the midst of this, Pakistanis have been trying to evolve an intellectual discourse to discern the root causes of extremism. Amid many factors, one of the root causes for violent extremism highlighted was the bulging youth population. However, hardly such forums acknowledged the role of young peace builders within their respective communities. Ironically, the onus of rising extremism was put on youth despite that they had been excluded at all levels of decision making.
Despite this, in the wake of UN Security Council Resolution 2250, the calls for UN progress Study highlighting the role of youth in peace and security is a welcome step. At the moment, a lead author and an Advisory Group has also been notified by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to conduct the progress study. Furthermore, the nomination of two Pakistanis in the Advisory group gives immense pleasure and satisfaction that Pakistan is represented well in the group.
However, it seems that the lead author and the Advisory Group have been given meager time and resources to complete a gigantic task. With only two people from Pakistan in the Advisory Group, it would be impossible for them to map genuine stories of many young peace builders working in Pakistan in a short span of time. Moreover, since the report is about youth, it is the hope of many young peace activists from Pakistan that their feedback is also given due weightage in the study.
In this regard, I believe that a Pakistan based youth advisory committee for the progress study should be established by the UN Pakistan. The Pakistan youth advisory committee shall comprise of members of youth-led NGOs, youth leaders and young academicians aged 18-29. The Youth advisory committee will work in liaison with Advisory Group members from Pakistan and help them prepare a country specific study on the “Role of Pakistani youth in peace and security.” The report shall be submitted for review to the Advisory Group. After the approval, the main highlights of the country specific report could be incorporated by the lead author.
This advisory committee won’t be a liability on UNDP in any way as the committee would function on voluntary basis. Once the report is submitted, it will be up to you to either dissolve the committee or assign them other tasks.
In fact, the same model could be replicated in every country so that more youth leaders are able to share their stories and contributions towards peace.
I have already shared my ideas with Pakistan’s UN Resident Coordinator almost a fortnight ago. I have also written to UN Youth envoy. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear from them.
For the past five years, Talal has been working with different youth led organizations in areas of education and peace. Currently, he is working with Bytes for All, Pakistan on internet rights and also pursuing an independent research with the USIP’s research grant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org