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close this bookTechnical notes: Special Considerations for Programming in Unstable Situations (UNICEF, 2000, 490 p.)
close this folderChapter 10: Young People, with a Focus on AdolescentsFootnote 1
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentRationale
View the documentA Strategic Population
View the documentGeneral Aims and Strategies
Open this folder and view contentsBasic Principles
Open this folder and view contentsField-Level Strategies
View the documentCollaboration and Partnerships
View the documentFurther Guidance

A Strategic Population

Youth and adolescents are strategically important groups that need to be incorporated into mainstream emergency programming.

Adolescence is when children develop roles and responsibilities, and incorporate into their lives the values and norms of their societies. Armed conflict and other emergencies disrupt this process. Young people are not only physically displaced but are also dislocated from their social environment. This can disrupt the continuity of instilling social values and norms for the future of the whole society.

Many conflicts last a whole childhood, and young people who grow up surrounded by war and conflict can be socialized into a culture of violence. As the next generation, this has implications for future stability. Peace, reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction processes must involve adolescents and youth if they are to be successful. But in order to contribute, these young people must have the necessary information and skills, and adult support.

Young people constitute a substantial and growing proportion of the population of many less developed regions. The majority of armed conflicts and complex emergencies are occurring in the least developed regions, and adolescents and youth make up a significant proportion of those war-affected populations. Between one quarter and one half of all refugees are children under 18 years old and of these 80 per cent are between 5 and 18 years. Adolescents constitute at least 20 per cent of the population in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

There is a critical need to protect adolescents and youth from exposure to neglect and violence. The physical, psychological, social and political rights of young people must be protected to assure not only their health and well-being, now and in the future, but also the health of the next generation and the future of the society at large.

Marginalized and disaffected youth are a significant political force. Neglected by the State, their aspirations unmet as economic decline closes down educational and economic opportunities, the uneducated, unemployed and socially excluded youths may become a politically volatile population, more open to manipulation and high-risk behaviours.

Unlike younger children, adolescents and youth often become active ‘participants’ as well as ‘victims’ in war. In West and Central Africa alone, it is estimated that there are between 20,000 and 50,000 child combatants. The majority are between 10 and 14 years old. In Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, adolescents make up a significant proportion of fighters in the military factions.

Adolescents and youths are an essential resource for the survival of families and younger children. Most are caught up in wars as civilians rather than combatants. They often play an important role in the care of young children, and can become active participants in relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts.