Understanding what works to reduce violence, including violent extremism, is a key priority for many policymakers. Despite this need, to date there is very little research evaluating the effects of development programs on violence reduction. To address this knowledge gap, Mercy Corps undertook a rigorous impact evaluation of a 5-year stability-focused youth program in Somalia known as the Somali Youth Leaders Initiative (SYLI).
The research compared the impact of two components of the SYLI program on youth propensity towards political violence: formal secondary education and civic engagement activities. Using survey data from Somaliland–where the program has been implemented the longest—the authors compared attitudes and reported violent behaviors among youth in the program and outside of it. In addition, they conducted in-depth interviews with teachers, community leaders, government officials and youth.
The study found that although the provision of secondary education through the SYLI program reduced the likelihood of youth participating in violence by 16%, it increased support for political violence by 11%. However, the combination of both secondary formal education and civic engagement through the SYLI program reduced the likelihood of youth both participating in (by 13%) and supporting (by 20%) political violence.
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