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Session Overview
2-HP086: Solidarity and the Next Generation: Youth and Change in Undemocratic Regimes
Tuesday, 06/July/2021:
11:00am - 12:15pm

Session Chair: Dr. Marjoke Oosterom, Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom
Session Chair: Dr. Lovise Aalen, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Norway

Session Abstract

We expect great things from the young. From supporting democracy and human rights, to becoming great leaders. Yet many regimes use diverse strategies to co-opt the youth, repress dissent, and fragment youth movements. How can youth stand in solidarity with one another and find common ground for their futures? Which are examples of resistance successfully deployed to withstand co-option and patronage? Presenters discuss their research on youth politics, enhancing our understanding of how and under which conditions young generations can overcome divisions and contribute to promoting democracy and justice, by taking formal and/or informal political action.

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Youth Political Activists under durable authoritarian regimes: Experiences of youth activists in Zimbabwe.

Simbarashe Gukurume

Great Zimbabwe University, Zimbabwe

Since the formation of a strong political opposition party, the Movement for Demographic Change (MDC) in 1999 to which youth played a key role; ZANU-PF has devised multiple strategies of dealing with dissenting voices from frustrated youth. Drawing on ethnographic research with youth political activists in Harare, this article examines the ways through which young people leading social movements engage an authoritarian state. The article particularly focuses on the lived experiences of youth political activists and how they navigate a precarious political terrain marked by state surveillance and brutality by repressive state apparatus. I argue in this article that although youth political activists confront state surveillance and brutality, they in turn devise creative strategies and ways of navigating and circumventing state repression. I also show in the article how the ways through which youth engage with the state are mediated by the existent socio-political context. I make use of Foucauldian concepts of biopolitics, governmentality and politics of the self to unpack the ways through which youth political activist engage with an authoritarian state. This article is based on ongoing qualitative and ethnographic research with youth political activists in Harare and utilises participant observation, in-depth semi-structured interviews and secondary sources of data.

Young People in Politics: beyond the normative notions - lessons from Ethiopia

Eyob Balcha Gebremariam

LSE, United Kingdom

This central argument of this paper is that exploring prospects and challenges of solidarity among young people and their role in promoting democracy and justice needs to adequately recognise both the constraining and enabling role of structures and institutions. The paper analyses primary and secondary data on Ethiopian young people engaged in politics with a specific time focus from 2005 to the present. The paper puts forward two interrelated lines of arguments. First, analysing the dominant features in the politics of development of a given country helps to discern multiple elements that explain young peoples’ role in politics than a mere focus on regime types. Hence, instead of focusing on the democratic or undemocratic nature of regimes, critical enquiry about the access, ownership, production and distribution of resources can give us nuanced perspectives about the conditions under which young people establish solidarity and mobilise to pursue common political objectives. Second, social structures such as ethnicity and corresponding institutional features play an indispensable role in shaping (im)possibilities of solidarity among young people. In a context where historical grievances and contestations are rife, young people can become foot soldiers to elitist politics than antidotes to divisions. Hence, the normative assumption that considers young people as beacons of democracy and human rights needs to be examined critically.

The empirical section has two parts. The first part analyses primary data from young people-led and government-led initiatives in Addis Ababa. The second part analyses secondary data from recently emerged ethnic focused mobilisation of young people from Oromia (Qerroo), Amhara (Fano) and Sidama (Ejeto) regions. The first part contributes to demonstrating how Politics at the state level heavily influences young peoples’ effort to establish a common ground for solidarity and collective action. The second part in its turn illustrates the substantive role of historical relations, perceived and actual inequalities among socio-cultural groups and how institutions affect young peoples’ capacity to promoting democratic politics and the ideals of justice.

A Trans-generational Approach in Understanding Youth Memories of War an Peace in the Colombian Sur de Bolivar

Angelica Maria Ocampo Talero

Universidad Javeriana - ISS, Colombia - The Netherlands

Currently Colombia faces the challenge of re-creating its memories for clarifying what has happened during the 5 decades of armed conflict, acknowledging the victim´s differencial experiences and the circumstances and motivations of the perpetrators´ victimization actions; simultaneously, the country needs a collective, reparative and dignifying understanding of its history. This is imperative in Colombia´s search of peace, reconciliation and alternative ways of conviviality. Nowadays, all of these are the goals of the recently created Colombian Truth Comission. The author´s research work is a contribution to its mandates. Within this context, the paper presents findings from a collaborative research developed in the region of Sur de Bolívar between 2011-2018. It shows the way in which the regulation of armed actors (guerrillas, paramilitary and forces of the State) and the contested and differentiated peasant agency transformed de sociocultural, political and economic landscapes; particularly the individual and collective political identities of young generations between 1970 – 2012. Results will show how the armed actors´s strategies of development intervention affected the agrarian ecologies as well as the contested generational and gendered individual and collective peasant political identities within these territories of Sur de Bolívar. Analysis of the different youth positionalities by gender and generation are based on a combination of ethnographic and biographical methods within the framework of a qualitative research approach. The Study was developed in active collaboration with peasant leaders of the Comité Cívico del Sur de Bolívar (Civic Committee of Sur de Bolivar) and the Corporación Desarrollo y Paz del Magdalena Medio (Development and Peace Magdalena Medio Corporation) in 5 villages of the municipality of Simití. Three sources of knowledge co-production were triangulated: participatory observation of peasants’ intergenerational actions during the elaboration of their Collective Reparation Plan (funded by IOM and USAID); peasants’ biographical narratives and community maps; media reports and historical documentation of armed conflict and paramilitarism in Colombia. In analysing the differentiated embodied peasant experiences in the Sur de Bolívar, the paper makes use of theoretical tools intersecting the work of Foucault and governmentality studies as well as some branches of feminist political ecology and agrarian studies. Derived from them some techniques of discourse and visual analysis were also undertaken

Challenging The Construction and Conceptualization of Cambodia’s Young Generation in the Post-War Order

Netra Eng

Cambodia Development Resource Institute, Cambodia

Global attention to the politics of the young, as exemplified in Security Council Resolution 2250, has veered between the securitization of youth as disaffected, disillusioned and therefore prone to radicalization and the idealization of them as energetic, committed peacebuilders. In Cambodia, this discourse is replicated at national level between the Cambodian government and liberal intervenors. Liberal intervenors, including the Western donors that spearheaded the liberal peace intervention of the 1990s, have nurtured high hopes that an increasingly young electorate that is not scarred by the legacies of warfare will adopt a more critical and empowered attitude towards the government than their parents managed to do, and exert political pressure for genuine democratic and bureaucratic reform. Concomitantly, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which has dominated the Cambodian government for forty years, and which recently succeeded in getting its main opposition banned and droves of opposition activists arrested, regards itself as having a “youth problem”. Consequently, the CPP has recently adopted a two-pronged youth strategy of cooptation and surveillance to promote youth allegiance and to defend itself against a potential “colour revolution”. In this paper, we discuss the implications of these characterizations of youth for trajectories of reform within the Cambodian government. We then compare beliefs about the nature and political orientation of “Cambodian youth” with evidence from a recent national survey of young people, which actually suggests a much more complex picture of political attitudes and allegiances in the 18 to 30 age group.

Neglect, Containment and Engagement: Major features of Ethiopian Youth Policy Since 1991

Asnake Kefale Adegehe

Department of Political Science and International Relations Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

This paper contends that the Government of Ethiopia's (GoE) youth policy since 1991 was oscillating from neglect, containment to engagement. I, moreover, argue in this paper that the youth policies and programmes of the GoE failed to bring the desired result. I examine the policies and practices of the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) towards the youth by looking at three major phases.

The first phase spans from 1991 to 2001. During this period, the EPRDF which came to control state power after seventeen years of insurgency was focused on consolidating its rule and building state institutions. The leaders of the EPRDF who were young when they came to power in 1991 did not see challenges coming from the youth. As a result, they completely neglected the youth in their policy pronouncements. The only major medium for the EPRDF to reach out to the youth was youth associations which were affiliated to itself.

The second phase covers the period from 2001-2015. The main reason that triggered change in the EPRDF's youth policy during this period was the youth protest in April 2001 in Addis Ababa amid the leadership crisis within the EPRDF. The initial reaction of the GoE was containment of the youth. The passage of the law on the control of dangerous vagrants in 2004 was a clear testament about EPRDF policy of containing the youth. After the initial tough reaction to youth protests, the EPRDF adopted policies, which were meant to provide employment opportunities to the youth. These largely emerged in the form of micro and small enterprises (SMEs).

EPRDF's policy to the youth during this phase was also affected by the controversial 2005 elections. During the 2005 elections, the opposition parties, which showed remarkable performance were able to enlist the support of the youth . The youth in the urban areas also participated in the protests that were called by the opposition parities against alleged EPRDF improprieties during the election. Like before the EPRDF decisively acted to clamp down the youth opposition in the urban areas. But after the crackdown, it adopted multipronged approach to engage the youth. The SMEs project which was experimented earlier was scaled up. At the same time, the EPRDF expanded its membership in affiliated youth associations and youth leagues in the urban areas including the country's fledgling public universities.

The third phase spans the period since 2015 to the present. During this period, the policy of the EPRDF to the youth like the earlier period was characterized by containment and engagement. On the one hand, since 2015, the country saw protracted youth opposition against the regime. The reaction of the ERPDF to the protests like before was both containment and engagement. The government imposed state of emergency twice in 2016 and 2018. But like before it sought to pacify the youth through job creation programmes. The establishment the youth revolving fund (YRF) is an important testament to the policy.The dual approaches which the EPRDF used to control the youth since 2001 did not, however, work in this phase. This was partly due the internal division that had happened within the ranks of the EPRDF.

Using the three phases, we examine the key reasons for the failure of the EPRDF to both effectively engage and contain the youth by looking at cross-cutting issues such as ideology, patron-client relationships, higher expectation by the youth and declining political legitimacy.

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