Transforming Violent Conflict

Some of Rethinking Security’s members work in countries or communities that have or are experiencing conflict. Through peacebuilding initiatives involving local communities, the root causes of conflict are addressed and everyone is included in work to prevent future violent conflict.

Feature: Saferworld helping to transform conflict in Yemen

Saferworld has been working with civil society groups in Yemen since 2010. They support women, youth, community groups and non-governmental organisations in their efforts to build peace and respond to the impact of the war.

During the revolution of 2011, youth activists were deeply engaged in discussing, and taking action for, a new future for Yemen – demanding that their voices be heard in the new political landscape that they were helping to shape. The transitional deal in 2011 that granted then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution excluded many of the demands of youth activists but they continued to organise in civil society working for justice, participation and an end to corruption in the political system. Saferworld supported youth activists and organisations in Yemen with small grants, access to international advocacy platforms, workshops and training.

With the on-set of war in 2014, however, the space for civil society, and youth participation in it, shrank dramatically. But rather than responding only to the humanitarian emergency, Saferworld and the youth organisations that they supported, understood that civil society action was important for conflict transformation; an investment in human security. As Saferworld’s 2019 report on youth activists in Yemen outlines, youth organisations are,

“linking and combining humanitarian responses with development and local-level conflict mediation. Young people have also worked to combat increasing levels of hostility and community division by using artistic and new media tools – such as music, painting, social media, photography and videography – to promote peace and coexistence.

Youth have launched projects to monitor and document human rights violations in several governorates. The traumas of the conflict have created demands for civil society to work on mental health projects, leading to youth-led initiatives such as ‘children’s safe zones’ and counselling sessions for survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence.

Many small businesses and projects have been set up to overcome economic challenges. Some young people have invested in innovation and entrepreneurial activities, starting home-based businesses or launching phone apps to fill a gap in the market or help people find income-generating opportunities.

Regardless of scale, activists felt that their interventions were necessary for dealing with immediate needs and long-term peacebuilding. ‘We see that our existence does make a difference, even if it is on a very small scale’, said a young woman co-founder of a development CSO in Aden.”

Saferworld have also worked with youth-led organisations Resonate! Yemen and Rowad Foundation to support young people through developing employment and entrepreneurship skills, supporting business start-up, and creating opportunities for networking and joint advocacy on youth policies. They have also enabled youth activists to attend UN meetings, allowing their voices to be heard at policy level, rather than only the old elites.

They have supported local youth activities, including the “Let’s Coexist” video, and the work of Yemeni street artist, Abdurahman Hussein, in: Murad: #MakeArtNotWar.

The dialogue and creativity that are displayed by youth-led organisations go a long way to overcome the fear and hostility that leads to violence and war. The work that Saferworld supports is helping to build a foundation for future peace and human security.

More reading on our blog

Our blog is a great source of information about work that rethinks security, from our members, partners and beyond. Here are some stories and examples about the possibilities of transforming violent conflict:

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