BELFAST – At a gathering of 14 divided cities from Baghdad to Sarajevo to Kaduna, Nigeria, one consistent theme emerged: rising youth unemployment. Each of the delegations agreed that addressing this issue is the most important challenge for any city struggling to shift away from conflict.
It is true in Baghdad, where a disaffected youth – tired of the lack of opportunity or any hope for a productive future – is descending into despair throughout an increasingly divided Iraq. Out of that despair comes a small but steady stream of recruits from the Sunni population who, tired of the tryanny of a Shia-led government, are drawn to the apocalyptic, dark vision of the movement known as the Islamic State (IS).
It is true in Sarajevo and throughout Bosnia, which has the highest youth unemployment rate at 57 percent, according to World Bank data. There, ethnic tensions still smolder from a conflict that ended two decades ago, and an idle and disillusioned youth is left wondering about its future. An older generation who witnessed the horrors of the war fear that those embers could someday re-ignite hostilities if a better alternative is not presented to young people.