Jerry Stein and Michael Baizerman

The second and third annual meetings on Youthwork in Contested Spaces (YWCS) were held in September, 2004, and October, 2005, at the Corrymeela retreat center on the coast of Northern Ireland. Delegates came from five continents, almost all of whom worked directly or indirectly (policy, program development or management) with young people in violent, post-violent, conflict, post-conflict societies. Many of the delegates also grew up in these societies. Together, we listened and engaged the many issues and voices.

Yvonne Kemper

A socio-political approach regards youth self-perception and relationship to civil society as crucial for the peace-building process. Rather than defining youth according to norms or assessing their “value” in war economies, this approach demands that international organizations listen to youth voices and support youth in implementing their ideas (Boyden & Mann, 2000; Newman, 2004). Influenced by constructivist theory, it aims to rebuild war-torn societies through and by youth. Compared to the legal and economic aspects, this approach represents the need for youth’s socio-political involvement. It is the most recent and untested approach, with rather vague theoretical foundations, partly as a result of the ill-defined concept of civil society itself. It largely describes youth’s contribution to peace in terms of (untapped) potentials, contesting that societies have so far not accounted for youth’s perspectives and capabilities (Pieck, 2000, p. 33). Organizations have, nevertheless, used it as a framework for programming as the only existing option to conceptualize youth as an agent in the peace-building process.