This thesis examines the role of youth in transforming conflicts through a multi-layered study of grassroots youth movements adopting conflict transformational approaches in conflict zones across the world. Thus, it highlights certain attributes unique to youth that enhance their capacity and legitimacy in transforming conflict. The highlighted attributes include a lesser impact by entrenched hate, an inherent potential for long-term engagement, and a desire for purpose and a cause to make a difference. These characteristics of youth will be evaluated in relation to transforming conflict through an exploration of grassroots youth movements worldwide. These movements have generated increased legitimacy through positively impacting their communities by using these unique characteristics of youth, which enable strategic and crucial engagement in transforming conflict.
The research strategy used in this thesis consists of an analysis of scholarly work exploring the role of youth in peace building, a quantitative analysis of the growing youth demographic and their plight in conflict zones, and a qualitative analysis of five strategies used by youth movements in specific conflict zones, highlighting the pivotal role youth play. Data is collected from interviews, newspapers, and published reports. I will also glean from my own experience as the founder and president of Sri Lanka Unites, a youth movement in post-war Sri Lanka. This thesis challenges the arguments that youth movements are inconsequential and the role youth play in transforming conflict is ceremonial at best and destructive at worst. Some view governments, international organizations, and political and economic elites as the only stakeholders yielding the capacity to drive national change and create durable solutions to conflict. However, these higher echelons of society, though able to deal with the symptoms of conflict, typically have neither the reach, capacity, nor longevity in approach to identify or address a conflict’s root causes. Grassroots youth movements that have adopted conflict transformational approaches have enhanced their relevance and capacity by using innovative methods to expose, challenge, and transform a the root causes of conflict. Therefore, they increase the possibility of durable solutions for and reconciliation of communities and nations devastated by conflict.