If Youth are Given the Chance

Girl holding a large stick over her head with people in the background
May 16, 2018

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Can successful development interventions contribute to stability in Somalia? This is the question Mercy Corps’ study, “If Youth Are Given The Chance,” sought to answer. This study evaluates how two components of our USAID-funded Somali Youth Learners’ Initiative (SYLI) — secondary education and civic engagement opportunities — affected young people’s support for armed opposition groups.

From a survey of 1,220 young people in Puntland and South Central Somalia, we found that both secondary education alone and secondary education combined with civic engagement opportunities pulled Somali youth support away from violent groups. Key findings include:

  • Both components of the SYLI intervention evaluated — secondary education and civic engagement — decreased youth support for armed opposition groups.
  • Youth who gained access to improved secondary school through SYLI were nearly half as likely (48.2 percent) as out-of-school youth to demonstrate moral or material support for political violence.
  • Students in SYLI-supported schools invited to participate in civic engagement opportunities were 64.8 percent less likely as non-engaged youth to demonstrate moral or material support for political violence.
  • Significant effects of SYLI-supported education persisted with or without the inclusion of civic engagement program effects, but the two interventions combined reduced support for political violence even further.

This study is the second to evaluate the SYLI program. Mercy Corps released the first iteration of this research in 2016, which was conducted in Somaliland: Critical Choices: Assessing the Effects of Education and Civic Engagement on Somali Youths' Propensity Towards Violence. Both of these studies show that education, or more generally skills-building programs, can have the greatest impact on reducing youth support for violence if they marry skills and knowledge with meaningful opportunities for youth.