by: Giovanni Guerra*
Through my studies of national security issues, I have come to the resolution that solutions and efforts need to involve more individual actors. Today, nations face numerous security issues ranging from poverty, hunger, health endemics, to wars and conflicts ( both internal and external). Although these issues seem almost impossible to resolve, I must argue that small changes, can greatly impact a nation’s effort to address various security issues.
For instance, let’s take a particular national security issue common within many African nations, civil conflict and unrest and how addressing the ‘youth’ issue may impact this security issue. According to a study by Population Action International, there was a strong correlation between civil conflict within nations and the large number of youth populations (sometimes referred to as a youth bulge).
This youth bulge is a relatively common phenomenon amongst many African nations. Unfortunately, it has been linked to instability within nations, especially in connection to starting civil unrest and thus making it an important national security issue. As this civil unrest within nation’s increasingly foster criminal activities and violence within gangs and paramilitary groups amongst youth, it would seem that a simple way to address the issues is by decreasing the effects of civil unrest within nations.
The magnitude and severity of civil unrest requires multiple actors both large and small. For individuals stepping up to the challenge of addressing this issue, there is, I think, need to address the fact that youth involvement in criminal activity cannot be seen purely in a derogative manner. To me, many people believe that people partake in criminal activity and engage in violence simply because they are evil. But it is important to understand that in reality, individual participation in such crimes are simply part of the rational-choice theory in criminal studies. This theory states that people who participate in violence and criminal activity do so not because they are evil but as they see no rational alternative.
Using this logic, the best strategies to resolve the national security threat that youth in gangs and paramilitaries pose involves a holistic approach that not only addresses natural resource issues resulting from urbanization and the ‘youth bulge,’ but also addresses social development within youths themselves. One such strategy is the creation of youth development programs as part of educational programs that stresses both conflict resolution skills and leadership skills. Finding and supporting educational programs are the simplest way for both individuals and states to approach and tackle such national security issues.
There are positive side effects nationally, regionally and even globally, when focus is paid on decreasing the hostility and likelihood of civil unrest among communities by increasing both the leadership and the conflict resolution capabilities of its youth population. So, let’s take a step in the right direction, support and become involved in youth educational programs that focus on conflict-resolution and leadership development; they make a lasting impact in nations and ameliorate the problems of national security issues.
*Giovanni was Leadership Africa USA’s Fall 2008 intern.