Understanding drivers and incentives for youth violence in the pre-crisis context
South Sudan’s politico-military and humanitarian crisis has engulfed a population already living in a precarious state. One of the world’s youngest nations with 70 percent of its population under the age of 30, youth are now more than ever at the center of their nation’s struggles, as well as its drivers for future peace and productivity.
One year ago, in August 2013, Mercy Corps conducted a multi-sector youth assessment in Warrap and Unity states to explore how to best support improved development outcomes for at-risk youth. When conflict erupted in December 2013, Mercy Corps shifted into emergency response mode, temporarily halting some development ambitions and reallocating resources to address lifesaving needs.
In revisiting the research, however, we believe many of its findings remain relevant. Critically, we hope the research may help current emergency programs be more conflict-sensitive and transition-sensitive by highlighting some endemic and abnormal drivers and incentives for violence amongst South Sudanese youth. We also hope the findings may inspire collective action to mitigate the geographic spread of current violence by highlighting opportunities for youth peacebuilding and resilience programming in non, or less, conflict affected states.
Findings of particular interest within the current context include:
- Study participants showed high acceptance of violence with nearly nine of out ten respondents (88 percent) showing violence was acceptable under one or more situations’
- Three in four rural youth (74 percent) were accepting of violence compared to one in four urban youth (26 percent)
- Despite low percentages of school completion, youth do not want to give up on their education. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed wanted to continue their education and training;
- Similarly, although the majority of youth surveyed reported no income, 82 percent of youth shared that they were very optimistic about their future in some way. This optimism was shared by youth who current have no income (80 percent saying they were very optimistic) as well as those with limited education (76 percent of youth with 8 or fewer years of schooling are optimistic about their future)
- Youth expressed a need for role models and mentors who can demonstrate and cultivate positive pathways for young people.
In the coming months, Mercy Corps will be revisiting this research to address the current context with a closer look at the factors both preventing and promoting youth participation in violence.