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APYouthNet – 4th Discussion Forum (Vulnerable youth): Stream 3: Young People in Emergencies

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(C1) Vulnerable youth: Stream 3 - Young People in Emergencies

Posted by Anne-Marie Davies at March 15. 2010


Dear AP-YouthNet members,


Welcome to the 4th AP-YouthNet online discussion on vulnerable youth.  In this stream we will focus on young people in emergencies in sharing our experiences and expertise.


Young people in countries affected by emergencies represent a force for renewal, re-birth and change. At the same time, youth also represent a highly vulnerable group before, during and after emergencies, facing particular risks and vulnerabilities and requiring special services, support and protection. Young people’s needs and disadvantages vary depending on age, gender, ethnic group and language, socio-economic class and caste, disability, HIV etc. Young women and men have different interests and priorities, and experience different opportunities and challenges; a 15 year-old adolescent has different capacities, perspectives and life experiences to a 24 year-old young adult. Further, understandings and expectations of youth and young people and concepts of adulthood vary across communities and cultures across Asia.


Young women and men’s vulnerability in emergency stems in part from the impact of conflict or disaster on this formative stage of life representing young people’s development and transition from childhood through to adulthood. Both conflict and disruption generated by conflict, crisis and disaster deprive many young people of secure family environment and community networks, leaving them with a lack of physical care, personal support and guidance and positive role models to refer to. Schools close down, education and training opportunities can be unavailable for long periods. Decent job options are likely to be very scarce, and when few jobs are available, young people tend to be the least likely to find work. 


The effect of missed stages in their school-to-work transition can push young people into a vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion, with critical impacts on their ability to secure decent work in the years ahead and in realizing their full potential. In addition, due to a lack of adult protection and inability to protect themselves, youth become particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, with young women particularly at risk of gender-based violence, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease. Age-appropriate health care services are likely to be entirely unavailable.


In such circumstances, many young people lose their trust in others, hope for the future, sense of belonging, and pride, self-respect and respect for others, with severe/significant consequences to the individual and to the community and wider society. They become alienated and disenfranchised. Depression, anxiety and frustration can expose them to risky and anti-social behaviour, criminality and violence, and to the risk of recruitment into armed groups and gangs out of despair or sense of revenge. Reconstruction processes rarely involve young women and men and there are limited capacities, opportunities and ‘platforms’ for youth participation and citizenship in emergencies, generating further insecurity and instability.


Countries in emergency cannot afford such a waste of positive energy. Young people can make a crucial contribution to the reconstruction and recovery of emergency-affected countries. They can be at the forefront of social movements and promote change, a more equitable society and a lasting peace.  It is therefore adults’ responsibility to support young people in directing their energy positively, involving them in catch-up education programmes, restoring their hope in a better future and developing their capacity to contribute to society as parents, caregivers and community leaders.


This discussion forum is seeking inputs and guidance from members to gather ideas about what can and should be done to empower youth during the different phases of emergency management, such as response, rehabilitation and reconstruction, and prevention. The goal is to develop coherent strategies, solutions and good practice for policy-makers and other decision-makers in the Asia Pacific region, and beyond. The purpose of this discussion is not to define key concepts around ‘emergency’. In this discussion we understand ‘emergency’ according to UNICEF’s definition: “A situation which threatens the lives and well being of large numbers of a population and in which extraordinary action is required to ensure their survival, care and protection. Emergencies may be created by natural or technological disasters, epidemics, or conflicts”


In sharing experiences and expertise, we encourage participants to respond to the following:


1.       What strategies and approaches are currently used to promote/ensure:

  • Smooth school-to-work transitions for youth before, during and after emergencies? Non-formal education and/or re-integration for out-of-school youth? What works, what doesn’t and what more is needed?
  • Integration of youth protection and psychosocial support as part of emergency programming?
  • Youth participation throughout response, reconstruction, rehabilitation, preparedness/readiness phases of emergency, and inclusion of vulnerable/marginalised (groups of) youth?


2.       What are the roles and responsibilities of different actors at different levels in the successful implementation of the above?


3.       How can we effectively monitor policy/programme results and impact on the lives of young people at different levels and dimensions of change?


4.       Are there resources, tools, contacts and promising models you can share with our community of practice?


I very much look forward to hearing your ideas and insights on the above.


With best regards,


Anne-Marie Davies


Re: APYouthNet – 4th Discussion Forum (Vulnerable youth): Stream 3: Young People in Emergencies

Posted by Rosas Gianni at March 16. 2010

Dear Anne-Marie,

Thank you very much for the interesting note that opens the forum on the topic of young people in emergency contexts. I would like to refer to point 1 of this note (re. strategies and approaches to promote youth employment) to call for participants' ideas on examples of specific features of youth employment initiatives that make them work in emergency situations. I was recently involved in a review of a sample of youth employment-related programmes in post-conflict situations. The findings of the independent consultant were that "because of the way these programmes were designed and implemented" there was no substantial difference (in approaches and proposed interventions) between the latter and youth employment programmes for non-emergency situations. This was quite surprising to me! I would have expected a combination of labour market interventions with social services, training and career counselling combined with psyco-social support, etc. But this was not the case.

An idea could be that out of the contributions to this forum, we compile a list of "practices" of youth employment interventions in emergency contexts. 

Best regards,

Gianni Rosas





Re: APYouthNet – 4th Discussion Forum (Vulnerable youth): Stream 3: Young People in Emergencies

Posted by David Braun at March 17. 2010

Hi all,

I thought I would draw your attention to a series of reports put out by International Alert in April 2009 on youth employment and conflict.  They are available at

It is a series of four case studies.  From the Asia-Pacific region, the relevant reports are:

  1. Sri Lanka: Rethinking the nexus between youth, unemployment and conflict
  2. Nepal: What role for business in post-conflict economic recovery.

The remaining two case studies are on Uganda and Colombia.


Following on from Gianni's comments on point 1, I felt there was an interesting finding in the Sri Lanka report, which studied the southern Hambantota district: the existence of a 'trust gap' (p.29):

"[T]here also emerged a serious trust gap: mistrust was evident on the part of young people about politicians’ and policy-makers’ motives; the private sector’s willingness to give them decent jobs; and the equity of development efforts. On the part of development practitioners themselves, while youth potential was mentioned consistently, there was a clear undercurrent of mistrust of young people for their “propensity to violence”; lack of political judgment and easy malleability; emotional immaturity; and lack of right attitudes for employment. Such mutual perceptions are bound to affect the effectiveness of youth programming, be that through job creation or otherwise, for peacebuilding; but more importantly the quality of engagement between young people and adults, be that as employers or development practitioners."

Arguably, this suggests post-conflict situations are qualitatively different from non-emergency situations.  On the other hand, from the description of the trust gap the researchers have given, I can see a little of what Gianni's independent expert is talking about.  The trust gap described may simply be the same disaffection that appears so often on both sides of the youth employment debate, simply made more intense by the conflict.  In which case, the suggestion that the youth employment interventions in post-conflict situations should fundamentally be the same as non-emergency situations (albeit, of course, responding to the specific context) appears to have some validity.  Gee - it seems a shame to finish the discussion so early!


Gianni - if appropriate, I wonder if you would share the report you mentioned?



Re: APYouthNet – 4th Discussion Forum (Vulnerable youth): Stream 3: Young People in Emergencies

Posted by Anne-Marie Davies at March 22. 2010

WEEK 1: Moderator Summary Response


Dear Gianni, David and APYouthNet members,


Welcome to Week 2 of the AP-YouthNet discussion on (Stream 3) Youth in Emergencies. Thank-you both for your information and ideas and for raising important issues, providing a springboard to our ongoing discussions in Week 2.


a. Programming youth employment?

Programming for youth employment (and indeed education, health, participation, protection) in “non-emergency” situations is often inadequate and limited capacity of any systems, structures or services faces immense challenges and constraints before, during and after emergency. David raises an important issue for discussion:

- Are post-conflict situations are qualitatively different from non-emergency situations in terms of programming for youth employment?


In many ways, we would look for key elements of rights-based approaches to youth employment, in both non-emergency and emergency programming.  The core programming components identified by Gianni (i.e. labour market interventions with social services, training and career counseling combined with psyco-social support) represent key strategic interventions in both non-emergency and emergency contexts, albeit distinct in interpretation and implementation.


However, the onset of emergency clearly presents context-specific risks, constraints and challenges for youth that need to be considered in any emergency programming with integrated strategic response to reach young people most vulnerable to risk and exclusion as highlighted by Gianni. For example, often emergency response requires a range of skills and skilled workers to support reconstruction and rehabilitation phases. However, there is also often a ‘disconnect’ between education for livelihood opportunities, and the demands of the ‘emergency’ market place for specific skills. Also, the psychosocial impact of emergency on young people throws up both acute and chronic issues for consideration in emergency programming.


Please share:

- Examples of specific features of youth employment initiatives that make them work in emergency situations and related resources, tools, and models

- Experiences and lessons learned on integrating psycho-social support in youth employment programming


b. Youth Exclusion?

As David suggests, the exclusion and disenfranchisement of youth and the “trust gap” is often a ‘pre-existing’ condition worsened by impact of emergency, and indeed could further be a driving force for the onset or exacerbation of emergency (i.e. violence, conflict) and an immediate/underlting cause of social instability and insecurity, for example in Timor Leste. A useful approach could be to consider youth exclusion, disenfranchisement and the 'trust gap' throughout the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) cycle i.e response, reconstruction, rehabilitation, mitigation, preparedness/readiness phases of emergency


Please share:

- Strategies and solutions for ‘bridging the trust gap’ between young people, and politicians/policy-makers, local officials and authorities, teachers and parents

- Experiences and insights on the impact of youth exclusion before, during and after emergency on stability and security


I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas and thank you for your ongoing engagement and contribution!


Warm regards,




Re: APYouthNet – 4th Discussion Forum (Vulnerable youth): Stream 3: Young People in Emergencies

Posted by Anne-Marie Davies at March 22. 2010

Next steps for Week 2:


Dear AP-YouthNet members,


To take forward and focus our discussions, I propose to introduce some new Conversations, picking up on key issues raised in Week 1:

  • Conversation 3: Pathways to Exclusion
  • Conversation 4: Policy
  • Conversation 5: Research and Resources (compilation of all reference/hyperlinked documents)

Please share any thoughts and suggestions regarding our next steps?


Best regards, Anne-Marie


Re: APYouthNet – 4th Discussion Forum (Vulnerable youth): Stream 3: Young People in Emergencies

Posted by Anne-Marie Davies at April 04. 2010

Dear AP-YouthNet members,



As we reach the end of our 3-week discussion, I wanted to send a personal note and thank-you for your contribution and commitment to developing our discussion on vulnerable youth, focusing on youth in emergencies.


Key information, ideas and insights have been shared and will form the foundations for ongoing discussion and dialogue in this ‘developing’ area of youth empowerment in emergencies.


We will in due course share a synthesis and analysis of discussions for your information and interest.


In the meantime I would like to wish you all the very best in your ongoing work in promoting the rights of vulnerable youth.


With warmest regards,



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