Gender and Youth Inclusion in Peace and Security: What Does Religion Have to Do with It?

While the crucial role of faith communities in peacebuilding is slowly being acknowledged among UN and state actors, their engagement in peace and security demands further attention. Deep complexities exist in how religion also affects the engagement of women and youth, who are also recognized as crucial to the peacebuilding process. How does the inclusion of these groups affect one another? How can the UN, regional organizations, governments and other agencies be innovative in their approaches in a way that ensures peace and security processes are equally inclusive?

On October 30-31, the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers together with UNFPA and UN Women convened a two-day Strategic Learning Exchange to explore the complexities of inclusion in processes of peace, preventing violent extremism and promoting security. The participants came from UN agencies, regional organizations, governments, NGOs, and religious and academic institutions to engage in a dynamic discussion around faith, gender, youth peace, security and preventing violent extremism.

Each actor brought a unique set of experiences and perspectives to share with the group. As participants engaged with one another, they were challenged to deepen their understanding of various contexts and the nuances of religious and cultural influences. Case studies were presented by local religious, women and youth actors from across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the Americas.

The whole approach wants to celebrate the wisdom in the room and accepting that we may not know everything, but together we can work it out – rather than outsourcing expertise or responsibility – believing in practical solutions,” highlighted Dr. Azza Karam, Senior Advisor at UNFPA and Coordinator of the UN Inter-agency Task Force on Religion and Development.

Many examples of civil society organizations, faith groups and women and youth networks were shared, highlighting the critical role each of them play in the peacebuilding field. The challenges of institutional engagement with religious and cultural groups was noted as well as the need for deeper understanding of culture and religion among the UN and international actors. The lack of identifying external factors in conflict, beyond religion, was also addressed as a challenge across peace and security initiatives.

It’s so important to have a space where actors from diverse organizations and institutions can come together for discussions around these critical topics. If we only talk about religion, inclusivity and peace within our own organizations, we run into roadblocks,” a conference participant said.

Discussions during the Strategic Learning Exchange highlighted a positive trend in the increasing commitment to learning from and engaging with local faith groups, women and youth.  Together participants explored possible innovations within the current peacebuilding scene that could lead to future collaborations.

 

November 9, 2017
Annalisa Jackson
Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers