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Can design-thinking create jobs for conflict-affected unemployed youth in Darfur?

For thousands of young people in Darfur, the long-lasting conflict has deprived them of their rights as youth and left gaps in their education. Youth unemployment is increasingly recognized as a driver of instability as employments opportunities are scarce and many chose to enter into conflict due to the lack of other opportunities.

Concerned by this trend, UNDP works to create livelihoods and employment for youth in Darfur.  However, the persons who are facing the problem themselves – youth - are also most likely to come up with new and innovative solutions to tackle this problem. Therefore, UNDP has recently launched a challenge to get young citizens engaged in developing innovative solutions to their own problems. Interested youth can submit their idea on the online platform Raik Shino, where other participants and the public can comment and further develop the ideas.

Youth unemployment as a driver of conflict in Darfur

Sudan faces a significant unemployment problem that affects young people especially hard. Even though there is no statistical data on unemployment in Sudan, the official overall unemployment is estimated at around 20%, with youth unemployment expected to be much higher. In the conflict-affected Darfur, the average youth unemployment is estimated to be above 40%.

Due to the long-lasting conflict in Darfur, a whole generation of youth has suffered diminished educational and developmental opportunities. The failure to provide education, in combination with youth being cut off from their traditional livelihood strategies due to displacement, creates a double disadvantage for them. While in particular young people have great potential to help build peaceful and prosperous communities, the pressure to make a living can become a destabilizing factor, fueling violence and criminality. The inability to find a decent job creates frustration, and is a major challenge for the peacebuilding, recovery, and reconciliation of the region.

Youth as agents of change

Since the beginning of 2012, UNDP has been working to tackle this problem through the Youth Volunteers Rebuilding Darfur project (hyperlink). In collaboration with three Darfur universities, with the support of the Sudanese government and United Nations Volunteers, and through the funding from the Republic of Korea, the project train young volunteers with the aim of rebuilding Darfur. The volunteers, many of whom are graduates, are given training in micro-enterprise development, green business planning and natural resource management – all skills that local communities need in Darfur.  They are then deployed to live with these communities for nine months, sharing the new skills and knowledge. These youth act as positive agents of change in their communities in times of conflict. Early action to stabilize their livelihoods builds resilience and social cohesion as well as prevents conflict as it provides an alternative for at-risk youth.

Involving youth in their own future

Youth are the future of Sudan, and investing in them is investing in Sudan itself. To solve the problem of youth unemployment, the persons who are facing the problem themselves – youth- have to be involved. Not only can they be a part of the solution, they are also likely to come up with new and innovative ideas to solve the problem. In essence, this is the core of ‘design-thinking’, a methodology currently being promoted as part of UNDP’s efforts to bring more innovative approaches into our programming. Involving youth in their own future is a key feature in UNDP’s Youth Strategy 2014-2017 which calls on the young generations to become more active and committed agents of change in development processes.

Citizen engagement for innovative solutions of youth employment in Darfur Challenge

On 16 November, UNDP launched the Citizen engagement for innovative solutions of youth employment in Darfur Challenge through the support of the UNDP Innovation Facility, funded by the Government of Denmark. The challenge aims to engage Sudanese youth in developing solutions to local employment issues and realize their entrepreneurship potential to contribute to the creation of job opportunities in Darfur. Youth are encouraged to present their ideas for innovative solutions for youth employment through our online gamified dialogue platform, Raik Shino, where registered users can submit ideas and comment on each other’s proposals. Offline events are also being organized in Darfur and in Khartoum where to submit proposals and discuss potential ideas. The best ideas will be invited for a workshop in Khartoum where they will be further developed using a design-thinking process.

We are looking forward to receiving your proposal. Please spread the word in your network!

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