Human Security Collective (HSC) kicked off a project in January 2016 working with Dutch and Tunisian youth on issues concerning local security, social cohesion and resilience. This is being carried out in close cooperation with local civil society organizations. Youth have an unique and important outlook on the issues at stake in their communities, thereby having the potential to be positive agents of change.
Initially engaging youth in Delft, The Netherlands and in six areas of Tunisia (Tunis, Ben Arous, Kef, Siliana, Kasserine and Medenine), this project has now been extended to other neighbourhoods of Tunis and the city of Gouda in The Netherlands as well. Local partners include Free Sight Association and the Arab Institute for Human Rights in Tunisia, and Participe and Stichting Jong in The Netherlands.
The project involves a selected group of teenagers who analyze the problems they see in their communities, and together with their mentors develop ‘youth-owned’ initiatives that aim to counter these problems. HSC helps facilitate engagement and dialogue between participants, other community members and security stakeholders at a local level. The approach is broad and systemic, with the project also engaging community members such as parents, teachers and social workers.
A special feature of this project are the exchange visits organized between youth from Tunisia, Delft and Gouda, which provide the opportunity for in-person sharing, exchange and learning not only among the youth themselves but also among those that engage with them personally or professionally, thereby strengthening networking and peer-to-peer learning. This enables comparison of individual and collective analyses of insecurity in their own environments, as well as the solutions they have started developing to address these problems. This type of activity increases the understanding of ways in which resilience and social cohesion can be supported by community members and policymakers.
The importance of youth leadership
The recognition and inclusion of young leaders is a crucial part of HSC’s approach to building sustainable human security within communities. This project explicitly aims to include teenagers in the 12–16 age group, with the methodology being founded on building mentors’ capacities on human security and strengthening peer-to-peer networking to address local insecurity, vulnerabilities and threats. Mentors fall in the 18–27 age range, and are youth already active in their community as volunteers or otherwise involved in community-related initiatives. They, in turn, capacitate mentees on a human security approach to build resilience and social cohesion, including in the designing and implementing of their initiatives. The mentees in this project are teenagers.
HSC’s local partners play an essential role in the selection of mentors and mentees, in the implementation of the project and in further adapting and possibly scaling up the approach. HSC always urges local partners to select a diversity of participants and sees, for instance, the interaction between different belief systems as an opportunity to discuss disparities and identify commonalities.
At the core of this project is the engaging of youth in positive action by providing them guidance in turning their ideas into practice, as well as helping create a sustained dialogue with other community members. These practices can contribute to changes which the youth themselves wish to see in their communities, and can go a long way in preventing polarization, feelings of exclusion or marginalization, and the propagation of violent extremist thought. The project gives the youth a platform to voice their concerns in terms of their human security vulnerabilities and threats, and helps them come up with ways to solve these. In and through this project, HSC recognizes youth as a valuable ally in tackling one of the most urgent social issues of our time.
Timeline of events:
♣ February 8, Delft: Kickoff of the project in Delft with partner Participe
♠ March 6-7, Tunis: First international workshop of the Tunisian part of the project (‘Tunisian Leaders for Human Security’) with the twelve chosen youth mentors and in association with local partner Free Sight Association. Topics included safety and security in communities, an initial analysis of push factors contributing to radicalization in their region (on which the mentors based their ideas for the proposed initiatives with mentees), and self-monitoring techniques throughout the project.
♦April 1-2, Delft: First workshop with mentors, which focused on introducing the concept of human security and collectively analyzing local safety from a human security perspective, as well as to start thinking, on the basis of this analysis, about the first initiatives with the mentees.
♣ May 14, Delft: Kickoff of weekly activities with mentors and mentees in Delft with visit to Humanity House and Omniversum in the Hague.
♥ May 26-29, Tunis: Second workshop with mentors.
♦ August 15-19, The Hague/Delft/Amsterdam: This innovative part of the project saw a fruitful weeklong exchange between the 12 youth leaders/mentors from Tunisia and their counterparts in Delft. Discussed were various issues around security in their communities, with the focus being on learning from each other’s contexts and experiences of working on youth resilience in their respective communities. The programme including meetings with Dutch policymakers and practitioners at the local, regional and national levels. The Dutch Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, spent a few hours listening to and talking with the young leaders. The Ministry released this statement after the meeting. For a short movie encapsulating the highlights of the week, see here.
♠ November 24-27, Tunis: A group of young changemakers from Palestine, Libya and Tunisia came together in Tunis for a programme of regional exchange. The group consisted of 4 Palestinian, 12 Libyan and 8 Tunisian youth leaders, and a team of Palestinian, Libyan, Moroccan, Tunisian and Dutch resource persons. The regional exchange provided a platform for these young changemakers to exchange ideas, experiences and approaches on designing and implementing activities on human security. This workshop was one of the final activities of the three-year ‘Women and Youth Against Violence’ programme. For a full report of this exchange, see here.
♣ January, Tunis: Appointment of a local coordinator, Yasmine Haloui, for the Tunisian component of the project.
♥ March 7-9, Tunis: Two youth leaders from Tunisia presented highlights of their/their colleagues’ work in the programme so far to representatives of various Tunisian government ministries as well as to representatives from civil society. Facilitated by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and co-organised by the government of Tunisia, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT) and Human Security Collective (HSC), the aim is to develop a multi-stakeholder implementation plan for the national strategy against extremism and terrorism. And, importantly, to find openings for dialogue and engagement between both government and civil society representatives in order to implement this national strategy.
♦ Delft: Interaction every two weeks. Working towards an Open Day at the ‘Culture’ (youth centre) on May 20, where the mentors will showcase their work as part of the opening of the newly-refurbished centre, which is expected to be more multi-functional than before and an asset that the entire community can use.
♠ Week of 27 March, Tunis: Third workshop with mentors.
♥ 06 May: Mid-term review and fun day out with mentors
♦ 29-31 May, Delft, The Hague: Midterm review with Participe and Free Sight Association in collaboration with Perspectivity. See here for details.
♠ 04-05 August, Tunis: Kick-off meeting with new Tunisian partner, the Arab Institute for Human Rights, and a new set of mentors:
Getting to know each other and familiarising everyone with the project
Workshop on the Human Security approach for mentors
- An introduction to the self-monitoring methodology Sprockler, and on conducting baseline studies
- Exploring concepts
- Exploring the relationship between prevention of violent extremism and human rights
- Developing ideas on exploring human security with youth in neighbourhoods
- Action planning
♦ December, Tunis: Mentors from Delft travelled to Tunisia for a week-long exchange with their Tunisian counterparts. During the week, they discussed the human security issues in their respective neighbourhoods and shared their working methods with each other. They found similarities as well as differences regarding issues at stake in their neighbourhoods and gained new insights. As a Tunisian mentor said: ‘It was hard to imagine issues like racism and discrimination in such a developed country.’ Regarding the Tunisian context, one of the Dutch youth workers said: ‘I expected that after the revolution there would have been more concrete change and improvement in the daily life of the Tunisian citizens’. During the week of exchange, Dutch and Tunisian mentors inspired each other with their experiences. Tunisian mentors, for example, started homework classes for the youth in their neighbourhood based on the example of one of the Dutch mentors. The exchange was collectively organized by the Arab Institute for Human Rights; Participe Delft and Human Security Collective. A short film will follow soon.
♠ Tunis, February: In the first week of February 2018, HSC, together with the Arab Institute for Human Rights, organized a workshop in Tunis where mentors began developing human security initiatives to be implemented in neighbourhoods. The mentors had already been working with teenagers in the communities and were able to share and apply the insights gained to the initiatives they wanted to work on. Together with their mentees, the mentors acquired knowledge on the tools of conflict analysis to analyse the drivers of conflict in their own neighbourhoods and use this to identify specific problems for which might be practical solutions. They were also invited to think more practically on project ideas and how they would involve the mentees in all aspects of their initiative.
♣ 22-24 March, Tunis: Workshop on Engagement Strategy with Tunisian mentors
HSC, together with the Arab Institute for Human Rights, facilitated a workshop on Engagement Strategies. The objective of the workshop was to enhance the skills of the Tunisian youth leaders in order to be able engage diverse stakeholders in their work on enhancing resilience, social cohesion and security in their communities. During the first two days, participants learned about and practiced diverse levels of engagement and non-violent communication. They also played the Human Security Challenge, learning to interact with other stakeholders through the game. On the third day, the mentors set up a multi-stakeholder dialogue relating to the initiatives they are developing together with their mentees in the neighbourhoods, in which they engaged important players active in the neighbourhood, including parents, youth centre representatives and local authorities.