Youth Engagement

ICTJ engages with young people as political actors in their own right, helping them shape the futures of their communities. We open up spaces for them to actively participate in transitional justice processes and give voice to their perspectives. Their contributions often challenge the status quo and shine a light on pressing issues that must be addressed to build sustainable peace. 

Children at a rally, holding up their fingers as peace signs with Libyan flags painted on their faces in red, black, and green.

Recognizing children and youth as a special category of victims, acknowledging them as citizens, and understanding their unique needs are critical to breaking inter-generational cycles of abuse and impunity. Children and youth are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of conflict and gross human rights violations. Violations such as attacks on schools, forced recruitment, sexual violence, displacement, and lack of access to health care, have long-term impacts that can limit young people’s futures. Conflict and repression affect children in specific and enduring ways because they experience them in their formative years and are more vulnerable. To have the full picture of what happened, who was harmed, and how it continues to affect people’s lives, the voices of children and youth must be acknowledged and heard. Young people “have the right to express their views in all matters that affect them, in accordance with their age and maturity,” as stated in Convention on the Rights of the Child

Around the world, transitional justice processes have been made more meaningful by the active and informed engagement of young people. As the next generation of leaders, professionals, parents, community members, and voters, youth are a key constituency responsible for consolidating the new political order, building democratic values, and sustaining peace. Engagement in transitional justice efforts inspires a sense of responsibility and a spirit of activism among young people. They often go on to advocate for accountability and reform and to help build a society committed to sustainable peace and human rights.  

ICTJ has been at the forefront of building global recognition for the role that young people play in transitional justice. ICTJ’s work informed the 2018 progress study on youth, peace, and security for UN Security Council Res 2250, which calls for the meaningful engagement of youth in transitional justice efforts. At the UN Security Council’s open debate on transitional justice, member states named the inclusion of youth as a key factor in the success of transitional justice processes. Citing ICTJ’s work, the representative of Lebanon stated, “Youth should be given the important role that they deserve to have in transitional justice, as agents of change.”

ICTJ’s Approach 

ICTJ aims to empower young people by providing space, support, and resources to challenge forces of oppression. We partner with youth activists, take deliberate steps to address factors that inhibit participation, and implement context-specific initiatives to engage youth.  

ICTJ leverages its resources and networks to open spaces for young people to interact directly with powerful stakeholders at the local and national levels. ICTJ also helps bridge generational gaps and create a more inclusive dialogue in which young people and members of other marginalized groups have a voice. For example, in The Gambia, we brought together members of the youth-led artist collective Our Nation Our Voice with women from rural areas to advocate for reparations.  

ICTJ adheres to the following guiding principles: 

  • Approach youth with respect and as citizens and support them in exercising their political agency.  

  • Look beyond formal youth “institutions” to engage with broader, more horizontal youth movements. 

  • Adopt a process-focused approach in which young people themselves co-create the final outcomes. 

Key areas of focus include: 

  • Fostering civic engagement. Opening spaces and providing the tools for youth to take up this multigenerational work. For example, our report “Our Future, Our Justice: Young People Taking Action” provides tips and strategies for youth who are interested in pursuing truth, reform, redress, and justice, while our briefing paper “A Catalyst for Change” provides guidance to policymakers on how to meaningfully work with young people.  

  • Effecting change through art. ICTJ’s most innovative work involves collaborating with youth activists and artists to actively shape national narratives. For example, we cohosted the international hip hop festival in Colombia, which explored the role of hip hop music and culture in uncovering truth and resisting violence and oppression; launched the Voices of Memory project in Tunisia, which encourages youth to reflect on the root causes of past and present injustices and their role in advancing justice; and organized a national poetry contest in The Gambia, which spotlighted poems by young people reflecting on democracy and women rights. 

  • Protecting rights while promoting agency. We recognize young peoples’ agency and are committed to a “do no harm” approach. We promote child-sensitive strategies, as described in “Listening to Young Voices,” a guide for practitioners on how to interview young people safely and respectfully. 

In addition to working side by side with our local partners, internationally, ICTJ is a member of the Paris Principles Steering Committee and has partnered with UNICEF.