Youth Mediation Support Team formed to reinforce peace efforts in Taiz
October 21, 2020 – In a pivotal step toward integrating young peacebuilders into local conflict mediation efforts in Yemen, the Youth Mediation Support Team (YMST) was launched this month in Taiz governorate. Convened by DeepRoot Consulting and supported by the European Union, the YMST will implement initiatives that are carefully designed to support mediation in track I and track II processes.
“Despite Taiz being a place of suffering, it is also a place of hope,” EU Ambassador to Yemen Hans Grundberg said via video feed to the youth, who gathered in Taiz city from October 3 to 7. Residents of Taiz have endured more than five years of conflict, but its rich civil society continues to play a momentous role in driving forward conflict de-escalation efforts throughout the governorate.
Comprised of distinguished men and women under 30 who are experienced in peacebuilding and based across Taiz, the YMST is a politically-independent, youth-led body aimed at harnessing the potential of emerging civil society leaders to advance local mediation efforts. A select group of established peacebuilding practitioners and active mediators serve as mentors to the youth, ensuring the generational transfer of knowledge in local peacebuilding best practices and enabling direct coordination on mediation support initiatives.
During the five-day launch event, the youth members received intensive training on critical conflict mediation skills, including conflict sensitivity and track III peacebuilding, and were joined remotely by internationally renowned mediator Professor Sultan Barakat. Prior to developing youth-led initiatives that will be implemented over the coming year, the YMST was also joined by the EU Delegation to Yemen and senior officials from the Office of the UN Special Envoy in order to discuss the latest developments in Yemen and consider how youth can be better incorporated into the peace process.
Owing in large part to heightened fighting in strategic areas around the country, the UN-led effort to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict between Ansar Allah and the Government of Yemen is at an impasse. However, if this national-level mediation track is to be understood as part of a broader peace process that is continually shaped by developments on the ground, Yemen’s peace process is by no means at a standstill.
Every single day, independent Yemeni mediators in governorates across Yemen are contributing to this process by furthering negotiations between local representatives of Ansar Allah and the Government of Yemen. This includes securing the release of prisoners and detainees, improving road access for civilians, and tackling an array of service-related issues that cut across frontlines, such as the reactivation of water supply lines or the repair of electricity towers.
The prisoner and detainee file presents perhaps the clearest evidence for how independent Yemeni mediators not only contribute to Yemen’s broader peace process, but lead the way forward: In Taiz governorate alone, since 2016 a total of 850 prisoners and detainees have been released by the parties through 27 locally-mediated agreements, with an additional 600 individuals released unconditionally by both sides.
Efforts like these led by local mediators build a foundation of trust and bring a degree of stability to conflict-prone areas, the absence of which can mean an outbreak of fighting that is reflected on the national process. Yet despite their fundamental importance, local mediators rarely receive adequate support and backing for their efforts. In an effort to help remedy this, DeepRoot and the European Union have sought to integrate into the field of local mediation perhaps the single greatest untapped resource: youth.
The Youth Mediation Support Team is structured to provide direct support to mediators and coordinate its interventions in order to capitalize on mediation opportunities as they arise. The YMST is founded on the belief that locally-driven mediation efforts can be amplified by integrating youth-led track III efforts into track II processes, and by creating a space for emerging youth leaders to learn from the exceptional women and men engaged in mediation efforts. This intergenerational, gender-sensitive approach to local mediation is further strengthened by the geographic diversity of the team members residing in different parts of Taiz governorate.
The formation of the Youth Mediation Support Team follows the launch of the inaugural cohort of the Hikma Fellowship for Public Leaders, which are both part of the project A New Generation of Public Leaders in Yemen. Supported through the European Union Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) and implemented by DeepRoot throughout 2020 and 2021, the project aims to ensure the emerging generation of leaders in Yemen are placed at the forefront of efforts to build a stable and prosperous future for their country.
DeepRoot is a leading social enterprise working on advancing inclusive, sustainable solutions to a range of political, economic, and developmental issues in Yemen. DeepRoot has extensive experience in providing platforms for dialogue on peacebuilding, producing in-depth reports and expanding stakeholder understanding of the local dynamics in different areas of the country. DeepRoot has implemented multiple track II initiatives in direct and indirect support of the peace process in Yemen