Peacebuilding and social cohesion
Saving children’s lives by addressing the root causes of conflict and fragility.
Children have always been the first victims of war. Worldwide, armed conflict and other violence have upended the lives of hundreds of millions of children, leaving them displaced, undernourished, out of school and at severe risk of exploitation and abuse.
Nearly 1 in 5 children today live in settings affected by armed conflict and war. A surge in violent conflicts in recent years – and the increasingly protracted nature of these conflicts – is exacerbating the threat to children and reversing the hard-earned progress of the communities in which they live.
Emergencies in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen have resulted in complex challenges unprecedented in scale and scope. Even in countries now recovering from years of conflict, ongoing social unrest – often driven by inequity and exclusion – can reignite violence and undermine sustainable development.
By helping to address fundamental grievances related to marginalization that can fuel social unrest, instability and conflict, UNICEF is working to ensure all children live in peace –free from violence and fear.
Voices for peace
UNICEF is on the ground and at the policy table in places affected by conflict and fragility. We protect the rights of children and young people by supporting countries to build more resilient, inclusive, and peaceful societies. Our peacebuilding approach puts children at the centre, strengthening social cohesion within communities, building relationships between communities and governments, and supporting individuals themselves – including children and young people – to participate in forging peace and development in their communities.
We focus on:
Prevention and the social dimensions of conflict. Grievances that can cause conflict are often rooted in experiences of social exclusion and inequitable access to basic services. In conflict-affected and fragile settings, UNICEF works to expand access to social services – like education; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); child protection and social protection – strengthening social ties, community resilience and public trust. We do this by supporting the capacity of national and local governments and partners to deliver equitable, effective services. We also work to build accountability mechanisms at the local level.
Participation and the meaningful engagement of children, adolescents and young people. Children, adolescents and young people make unique contributions to peace. It is their right to participate in decisions that affect them, including in situations affected by violence and conflict. UNICEF supports the role of young people as agents of peace, helping them to develop key peacebuilding skills, foster reconciliation and strengthen relationships across divides. We also promote their safety and protection when they do choose to exercise their right to speak up and participate.
Gender equality and young women’s empowerment in peacebuilding. Addressing gender inequalities is an integral part of building long-lasting peace. Reflecting on the rights, needs and concerns of all groups is fundamental to the sustainability of social cohesion and peace. Because women, men, boys and girls experience violence and conflict differently, gender-specific strategies are necessary to ensure that peacebuilding interventions address harmful gender norms and gender-based violence, while combating exclusion and inequality.
Peacebuilding in action
- UNICEF Conflict Sensitivity & Peacebuilding Programming Guide
- UNICEF Guide to Conflict Analysis
- UNICEF Programme Framework for Fragile Contexts
- UNICEF and Sustaining Peace: Strengthening the Socio-Economic Foundations of Peace through Education, Young People’s Engagement and WASH
- UNICEF Local Governance & Peacebuilding Case Studies
- UNICEF Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Final Global Report
- Children recruited by armed forces
- UNICEF and education in emergencies