Fondation d'Harcourt

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10-12 December 2007
2nd International Meeting in Geneva

Geneva: Youth as a Key to Sustainable Post-Conflict Recovery


“Healing the War embraces the concept that youth can and should play a key role in breaking the cycle of violence and restoring the social fabric of conflict-affected communities and societies. It promotes the idea of addressing their needs and building their capacities in order to establish the foundation for a stable, tolerant, peaceful and thriving future for all.”

FINAL STATEMENT, Geneva, 10-12 December 2007

The Context

Every year, billions of dollars are fed into areas that have been torn apart by fighting, yet almost half of the countries coming out of war will relapse into conflict within the first five years of peace. Therefore, the notion of post-conflict recovery needs to be further explored in an effort to make it sustainable.

Youth represent almost one-fifth of the world’s population and are a crucial link between generations. During conflicts, their lives are severely affected in many ways. They make up the majority of many armed forces and are commonly the targets of violence, which forces them to migrate. Displacement and first-hand experience are two of the many traumatic experiences and circumstances youth are forced to face during conflict.

If post-conflict situations are not addressed properly, a multitude of problems can emerge, such as stigmatization, exploitation, manifestation of violence and increased voluntary migration of the younger generations. All of this hinders their and their society’s recovery processes.

Despite all the challenges faced, young people show a tremendous resilience and ability to survive. Instead of being seen as a problem or a potential threat, they ought to be recognized as crucial actors in post-conflict reconstruction and in the rebuilding of peaceful, more tolerant communities.

As a consequence, in all international cooperation interventions, young men and women out to be placed at the forefront, along with the guiding principles of protecting human rights and valuing their physical, psychological, spiritual and social dignity.

Our Project

Healing the War 2007 is an initiative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), promoted together with our Foundation and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It aims to encourage exchange in order to ‘demedicalize’ psychosocial approaches, as well promote the importance of an individual-centered approach in all types and levels of interventions addressing conflict-affected populations.

The meeting offered a forum for exchange and discussion on psychosocial experiences and perspectives to best address youth’s needs and develop their capacities in post-conflict recovery.

Our Partners

International Organization for Migration (IOM)
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Development Cooperation

Our Activities

Current theories and practices on how best to address the youth’s needs and develop their capacities in post-conflict recovery were exchanged and discussed in a two-day workshop.

In said workshop, twenty-four multidisciplinary academics, practitioners and twenty selected students from universities world-wide participated. Their outcomes were presented at a public event at the International Conference Centre in Geneva, attended by key international organizations and non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives.

The special guest speakers at the public conference were Nomfundo Walaza of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in South Africa and ex-director of the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture; Snezana Samardzic Markovic, Minister of Youth and Sports of the Government of Serbia and Richard Newfarmer, expert of the World Bank.

Our Results So Far

The Conference recommends taking an approach that focuses more on people instead of on only providing for basic needs. Under this new strategy, efforts should pay continual attention to the psychosocial dimension of each young person.

Healing the War promotes the idea of addressing youth’s needs and developing their abilities in order to establish the foundations for stable, tolerant, peaceful and thriving societies. This requires responses to be sensitive and adhere to the following principles:

  • People, rather than infrastructure, must be the primary focus of reconstruction efforts; plus, more time and opportunities need to be given for people to recover from conflicts.
  • Youth’s material and psychological well-being is central to the recovery process, as well as to the transition and transformation of the state.
  • Youth should not be assisted through conventional paradigms that categorize them as victims or perpetrators; instead, they should be valued as people with many resources and whose own perceptions, perspectives and histories should be the driving force of any intervention.
  • Young people should be driving forces in the local community and state transition in post-conflict environments. Platforms need to be created where their voices – often ignored – can be heard, and they must be actively involved in decision-making and peace processes.
  • Responses must be interdisciplinary and at the same time sensitive to the local context/situation. They should favor solidarity, justice, dialogue and reconciliation and promote the protection, dignity and rights of youth through their full and active participation.
  • Interventions should be promoted that strengthen cultural, social, historical and political dimensions specific to each context, legitimizing the different narratives and memories of youth as an element for reducing psychosocial malaise.
  • The mobilization of existing internal resources within local communities must be promoted, within a framework of participatory development, expression and self-determination.





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