Thoughts from the Forum for Cities in Transition Conference, Kaduna, Nigeria: Creating enabling environments

The future of young people in post-conflict societies is a burning issue for anyone concerned with the future not only of countries, but of the world. The push factors for terrorism, those factors that push people into conflicts on one side or another, have to be addressed. Among those push factors are the ordinary, everyday experiences that young people across the world have of education but no employment, of no purpose or meaning to their lives. In countries where poverty and corruption are the order of the day those push factors take on a hue of their own. Not everyone has access to education. Many have no provision for developing skills for or opportunities to work. Idle and tired of the world as it is, they can be propelled to places which appear, in the short term at least, to give some meaning to their lives.
But push factors alone do not make for terrorism. There are pull factors too, situated at the ideological end of the spectrum. Without the ideologies that support the push factors there would be no terror, no conflict, no lords and no people to feed the ‘war machine.’ Those who run the campaigns, sign young people up for conflict and draw them into violence, require an ideology to underpin their actions. Instead of using their wealth or power for good they flex their muscles to exert power over others and gain more for themselves. Truth is, of course, that those who serve them will see little benefit from conflict driven by exclusive and excluding ideologies. So the pull factors must be addressed.
The result of addressing both the push and pull factors is that enabling environments are created for young people. Without such enabling environments it is likely that young people will never achieve their potential or be reconciled with all that they have the potential to be. Enabling environments require policy on employment and education, policy on local and foreign investment, policy that directly relates to young people and to those who would use them for their own ends. Policy is required to address the shortcomings in understanding their own background, culture and religion as well as addressing misconceptions about the background, culture and religion.
Muslims and Christians are finding ways to talk about these things openly. They are applying themselves to working out of their shared value base without feeling that there is too much loss to either of them. Both have caught the vision of a greater loss if enabling environments are not created, if common ground is not stood upon and if young people simply become the fodder for another divisive and destructive cycle of violence.
The energy, dedication and vision of these Muslim and Christian leaders makes me wonder where my energy, dedication and vision has been stunted by the cultural mores of the society in which I live.


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