Session on Youth, Economics and Violence Ends in Optimism

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May 11, 2015
by Stuart Milne
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Session on Youth, Economics and Violence Ends in Optimism

Participants leave Salzburg keen to put their theories into practice Fellows of Session 549 on the Schloss terrace for the traditional group photo

Session 549 | Youth, Economics & Violence: Implications for Future Conflict closed out last week with participants sharing what they would take back from the session and apply to their own work.

While young people face many challenges and are often the victims of physical and structural violence across the world, discussions on the final day of the session touched on the civil unrest unfolding simultaneously in Baltimore, MD, USA following the death in police custody of 25 year-old Freddie Grey.

A participant observed that crime was merely a symptom, not the cause, of the underlying problems facing marginalized communities in Baltimore. Rather, the protests and civil unrest were more to do with a lack of inclusiveness, with communities feeling they are not part of the system. 

Another participant quoted the controversial civil rights activist Malcolm X, cited several times throughout the session, who said young people could only gain self-respect through their own achievements. The participant said this spoke of a need to empower youth to fulfil their ambitions regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. 

Participants were also reminded that the problems facing Baltimore are not unique to African-American communities in the United States. The group heard that 30% of South African youth are projected never to hold a formal job in their lifetime, fuelling a call to transform the socioeconomic system in South Africa rather than improve access to something fundamentally broken.

Participants were also keen to use what had been shared during the session back in their respective countries and fields to influence their work. 

Several participants from Africa and the Middle East said they wanted to start cultural hubs in their communities to share the ideas generated at Salzburg Global and provide outlets for young people to express themselves. One participant observed that many people in the Arab world were already thinking about progressive art, and so there would be no need to reinvent the wheel to get such projects off the ground.

A participant shared how they wanted to rectify the lack of peace centers in the Middle East, while another spoke of a proposed project to match young people in Syrian refugee camps in Turkey with local Turkish youth.

At numerous points in the session the media was pointed to as a problematic actor in the relationship between youth and violence, particularly when young people are portrayed as inherently violent and hate speech is commonly broadcast. A participant proposed the creation of a neutral media network in Yemen to change the public perception of youth in that country and prevent their efforts to change their socioeconomic situation from being hijacked by religious extremism.

A participant from the Balkans spoke of their determination to encourage youth to participate in politics at higher levels, and how they had found better ideas for tackling the pressing issue of hooliganism in their country.

Another participant shared their new-found sense of optimism for the future of democracy in Hong Kong, which is far richer in potential resources for action than many other parts of the world.

Finally, a number of participants spoke of the pressing need to use the diverse range of talents and expertise assembled for the session, from activists to practitioners, researchers and policy-makers, to continue the work begun at Salzburg Global Seminar and translate their engagement with each other into concrete action.


The session Youth, Economics & Violence: Implications for Future Conflict was held in partnership with the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.