Catalyst or cure?

Do Nigeria's youth and by extension, the country, stand to be ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ from government interventions in unemployment? Are youth empowerment programmes sufficiently transparent and accountable, reaching the right beneficiaries? What is the linkage between youth grievances around employment schemes and violent conflict? How can the government portfolio of youth empowerment and unemployment programmes maximise its contribution to reduce violent conflict in Nigeria?

These are the questions explored in a new research report produced by the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP), which finds that 79% of young people surveyed feel that only those close to politicians benefit from youth employment and empowerment interventions.

The report, Winners or losers: Assessing the contribution of youth employment and empowerment programmes to reducing conflict risk in Nigeria, was launched in Abuja on 26 June. The event featured a keynote address by Mrs Josephine Washima-Attah, Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation. The presentation of the report’s findings was followed by a panel debate consisting of representatives from the federal ministries of finance, labour and youth development, as well as the Nigerian National Youth Council and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement.

Unemployment and lack of economic opportunities in Nigeria are widely considered to be factors in aggravating conflict in the country and increasing the chances of young people being drawn into violence, either as perpetrators or victims.

Successive governments at the federal, state and local levels have tried to respond to these issues by setting up various youth empowerment and employment programmes. While these have an important role to play in reducing violent conflict if properly designed and administered, the report identifies a number of recurrent challenges and offers recommendations for the future. Key messages include:

  • The technical quality of interventions in this area is mixed – with some promising new initiatives – with a multitude of programmes that are less robust in design, lacking meaningful results-based monitoring and market-driven prioritisation of intervention areas.
  • Efforts to address youth unemployment are further undermined by limited coordination among the numerous ministries, departments and agencies involved, with at times overlapping mandates and a lack of overall strategic leadership.
  • Perceptions that the distribution of opportunities from such programmes is unfair are high. Political instrumentalisation of youth negates the potential positive impact of youth employment and empowerment programming on reducing violent conflict.
  • The report recommends the development of sector-wide standards in transparency and accountability guiding future youth employment programmes and encourages civil society actors to actively monitor and engage in promoting these.
  • The report also highlights the importance of both gender-specific and conflict-sensitive factors being integrated into future youth employment initiatives.

The report was produced as part of the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP), a five-year programme aimed at supporting efforts to prevent, reduce and manage conflicts non-violently in Nigeria, thereby reducing the impact of violent conflict in the country. The programme provides support to Nigerian stakeholders to better manage conflict, resulting in a more stable society for socio-economic growth, service delivery and poverty reduction. NSRP works across four key areas: security and governance, economic and natural resources, women and girls, and media, research and advocacy. The programme is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and is managed by a consortium led by the British Council, International Alert and Social Development Direct.

You can read the report here.