A LOT of the work that I and my team produce is in understanding the various contributions that the youth has to offer. In a study on the youth conducted last 2006, it was stated that, “where young people have experienced armed power, political promises in recruitment, and positive self-concepts and identity in armed conflict, the transition to ‘peace’ is very difficult and inter-generational conflict is likely after war and other periods of social and political turmoil.”
This is one of the reasons that the Bangsamoro Organic Law provides that the parliament will establish the Office on Bangsamoro Affairs (Obya). The mandate of this office is to prepare, implement, monitor and evaluate plans and programs for the welfare and development of the Barmm youth sector. It also ensures the active participation of the youth in the affairs of the government.
Last February 13, 2020, the newly-created Obya and the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue invited me to be one of the resource persons of their activity entitled “Kabataang Bangsamoro Blueprint Phase 2: Bangsamoro Youth Summit 2020” where I was tasked to discuss the role of the youth in peace-building.
The summit was participated by more than 80 Moros, IPs, and Christian youth coming from different Barmm provinces, as well as Bangsamoro living outside the region.
My message to the youth focused on giving them their own political space. According to Siobhan McEvoy-Levy, “Many studies have shown how youth are creative and resilient, and that most young people are not violent. Yet peace processes continue to fail to create a political space welcoming to youth. In addition to being an injustice, this is not a helpful message, nor an accurate portrayal of young people’s actual activities or inclinations. It suggests, unintentionally, that youth have no proper role in non-violent conflict - in the politics of peace.”
The youth are one of our strongest resources in Barmm. Through them we are able to assess just what the future of our homeland will need. However, they are not only that. We also need to look at them as important and valued in their own right. Hence, they have to be included in the governance process at all levels. This includes legislation, implementation, and dialogue.
This is also a challenge to the youth at hand; they have to define their own “theory of change”. Their plans and actions need to be -- and are -- coordinated with the kind of government they want to see. Once they define this, they also have to equip themselves with research, data, and relevant information.
These skills and qualifications can and must be invested in. Our youth are already active in the political process. As long as these spaces are open and welcoming to them, and we as public servants and private individuals continue to uphold their importance, they can become an even more powerful force for change.
No longer are there days where they are only the future of the nation. They are also the “now”, and it is in this present that we direct our sense of urgency.