About Great Lakes Youth Network for Dialogue and Peace

1. Overview

For many years, the Great Lakes sub-region has been a region in crisis. Some of Africa’s worst conflicts with grave consequences for the wider region have taken place in the region, such as the rule of Idi Amin in Uganda and the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Rwandan Genocide against Tutsis in 1994, and the wars in the Congo.

The political consolidation after the millennium with general elections in Rwanda (2003), Uganda (2006) and the DRC (2006) brought about the first important, promising results of human and economic development. Yet, the countries remain some of the world’s poorest, and peace is fragile. Despite the signing of the “Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region” in 2013 by 11 countries, the security situation in the Great Lakes Region remains extremely difficult. Instability and mistrust between neighboring countries still prevail. An estimated 70 rebel groups are currently active in the DRC where they engage in illegal mining and illegal trade, proceeds of which are used to fund their criminal activities in the Congo and in neighboring countries. These rebel groups also recruit children for labor and as child soldiers.

According to the UNHCR, 880.000 South Sudanese sought refuge in Uganda, mostly in its Northern Region, following the post-independence crisis in South Sudan in 2013. Elections in Burundi in 2015 caused 330.000 people to flee, most of them to northern Tanzania. Past tensions have made many Congolese and Rwandans deeply suspicious of each other. Mistrust and prejudices also flare up between other countries as recently between Rwanda and Uganda over allegations of smuggling and supporting foreign rebel groups. The row between Uganda and Tanzania over fisheries grounds in Lake Victoria instilled feelings of nationalism. Uganda is accused of allowing illegal trade of gold from the DRC to the United Arabic Emirates (UAE). All this bears the risk of new violence between countries whose populations want to live peacefully, having crossed their countries’ borders for years without obstacle for trade, services, education or simply visiting friends and families abroad.

In this fragile environment, facing an unsure future and a lack of opportunities, many young citizens in the Great Lakes sub-region have become active and want to improve the situation. With a combined population of 228 million people and more than 60 percent of them aged 24 years and under, the potential of youth as agents of positive change, peace, innovation and social cohesion in Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda is undoubted. Many of the youth groups and initiatives (the target group of the project) do important work and are involved in work around challenges that pose potential threats to peace in the region if left unresolved. These include: gender equality, environment (including natural resources) and climate change, political representation, democracy and good governance, land and inheritance, economic stability and employment, media, education, culture and religion and forced migration.

2. EU Program

The EU co-funded project “Great Lakes Youth Network for Dialogue and Peace” is based on the conviction that youth are a fundamental agent for creating lasting peace among communities and contributing to successful development. However, without a strong network of peers and good contacts with other relevant actors, youth’s voice remains weak and its impact very limited. Therefore, it is crucial to promote the positive, cooperative, and active role of youth in the Great Lakes sub-region as an actor for more peace and stability.

The Great Lakes Youth Network for Dialogue and Peace is a consortium of six non-governmental organizations: the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany), Pole Institute (DRC), Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle (Rwanda), Cornerstone Development Africa & LéO Africa Institute (Uganda) and Actions for Democracy and Local Governance (Tanzania). The project aims to contribute to peace and stability in the Great Lakes Region by promoting the active, cooperative, sustainable and positive role of youth actions, creating a strong network between them.

We work with youth groups and initiatives that are committed to peace in the Great Lakes Region and are active in one or more of the following fields: political representation and good governance, democracy, gender equality, climate change, economic stability and employment, media, education, culture and religion and forced migration. The project “Great Lakes Youth Network for Dialogue and Peace. Our Diversity – our Opportunity!” is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

3. Philosophy

Through a set of intensive capacity training workshops, cross-border meetings, dialogue fora, practical hands-on activities developed by the participating youth groups/initiatives (i.e. by using sub-grants), strong external project visibility, and regional, high-level networking events, the project aims to increase the internal, organizational capacities of selected youth groups and initiatives (target group) in the four project countries, foster cross-border dialogue and exchange between them, and connect them with local, national and international stakeholders in politics, the private sector, civil society, development, academia and the media. Participating youth groups/initiatives and their members will be selected in an open call in the four project countries. They have to have a record of at least two years of proven activity in the following fields contributing to peace: gender equality, environment (including natural resources) and climate change, political representation, democracy and good governance, land and inheritance, economic stability and employment, media, education, culture and religion and forced migration.