Youth as Collaborators
The importance of meaningful collaboration with the youth demographic is another key issue that emerges from the TRC process. At the centre of this emphasis on cooperation are notions of agency, specifically the implications of misrepresenting youth’s capacity to exert agency. Indeed, youth agency was a significant focus of the TRC Commissioners as they advocated for collaboration that would ensure youth interests are a key priority for the Solomon Islands Government (TRC Report 2012: 767). For example, the TRC Report recommended that:
The government promotes and encourages maximum youth participation in decision-making and leadership at all levels of government, that is real and meaningful, as a means to take seriously the concerns, aspirations, and wishes of the youth. (2012: 769)
This recommendation by the committee illustrates the overall tone of the Final Report, particularly when highlighting issues concerning youth. Specifically, throughout the report, there is an emphasis on fostering collaboration between youth and decision-makers.
In fact, youth collaboration with the Government is presented as a crucial factor for implementing successful reconciliation and develop - ment practices. Indeed, the importance of cooperation is one of the core reflections that youth themselves stress when reflecting on their interests at the TRC. An example of this is the submission from Mr. Samani John who proposed that:
To build a bright future, I ask you national leaders, provincial Governments] and young people, to work together from now to build a better future so that we can enjoy life to the fullest. (TRC Report 2012: 1014)
Similarly, Ms. Patricia Tona concluded that to address the needs of youth, the Solomon Islands Government must:
Work in partnership with communities and churches. Many young people are absent in communities and churches; they must reach in their situation and address their expectations. (TRC Report 2012: 1014)
These statements indicate self-awareness throughout the youth demographic that they are not merely recipients of peace and the democratic process. Indeed, they highlight a desire to meaningfully collaborate to mitigate the impact of the Tensions. As advocates for youth collaboration contend, ‘young people create politics, whether they or adults are aware of it’ (McEvoy-Levy 2006: 140). That is, despite the common perceptions that young people are passive subjects in post-conflict processes, their influence and ideas are a crucial part of the process.
The representation of youth as a collaborator throughout the Solomon Islands TRC process has occurred in the context of a shift in the broader international discourse regarding youth participation. That is, the ways in which young people’s contributions to transitional environments are understood and explained have evolved significantly. As previously indicated, there has been growing recognition of the positive and unique contributions of youth to post-conflict practices. Indeed, Pruitt suggests, ‘a new international norm of youth participation is developing in peace processes’ (Pruitt 2013: 7). That is, practitioners and scholars are increasingly acknowledging the agency of young people in transitional environments. Scholars in the peacebuilding field are leading this shift in the ways in which we understand youth’s engagement in post-conflict practice (Schwartz 2010: 190; Galtung 2006: 260; Hein 1999: 23). Yet an examination of the statements made by youth at the Solomon Islands TRC demonstrates that their potential is not limited to peacebuilding. Rather, as the submissions throughout this chapter suggest, the youth demographic has the capacity, political will, and determination to meaningfully engage in the justice activities of transitional states.