From Victim to Citizen: Exploring the Social Role of Young People in Post-Conflict Settings
On Monday, August 4th, 2008, Ms. Julie Guyot, an Africanist Doctoral Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a doctoral candidate at the Howard University School of Social Work, presented her research on the role of ex-combatants in post-conflict settings in Africa. Her research has drawn from case examples in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, using social role theory to frame her discussion of the transformation of youth in conflict, to interrogate notions of childhood and rehabilitation, and to address approaches to community-based therapeutic intervention.
Guyot began her presentation by articulating the ways in which the social role framework she offers differs from the prevailing trauma paradigm. She then described the social and civic responsibilities of youth in post-conflict societies in Africa, as well as the different approaches one can take in analyzing the role of youth in these societies. By taking a social role theory approach, she was able to focus on the individual with regards to role taking and role making, as well as to underscore the importance of relationships and power relations within communities. Guyot emphasized the necessity of taking into consideration the various roles that children and youth typically take on within combatant communities beyond the traditional role of a soldier, such as command support and intelligence gatherers. She also discussed the political role that former child and youth combatants can play in post-conflict societies, noting that research has shown that the formerly-abducted are not only more likely to vote than their non-abductee peers but also more likely to hold public office and more likely to join a peace-promoting organization.
Guyot discussed four main social role theory considerations that she believes are fundamental to effective reintegration of former child and youth soldiers in post-conflict societies. Firstly, she talked about community-based interventions and the importance of holistic engagement—including inter-generational partnerships—that takes place alongside substantive role valorization of returning youth. Secondly, she emphasized employment and training as necessary components of reintegration, particularly noting the value of apprenticeships and cooperative livelihoods arrangements, as relationship-building is key to successful reintegration. Thirdly, she discussed education programming from a social role perspective and suggested the possibility of incorporating peacebuilding mechanisms into such projects through peer-to-peer interactions across the combatant-civilian divide. Finally, she mentioned the use of a social role frame for a comprehensive evaluation of service delivery; particularly as it relates to the roles, values, and expectations of aid structures and local communities. She also re-framed the issue of aid worker burnout in terms of role overload and spoke to the need to more-fully acknowledge the role dynamics at work within community partnerships.
Guyot closed by discussing her future research, noting that she plans on conducting field research and emphasizing a comparative approach between the cases of Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Drafted by Justine Lindemann.