Built upon the belief that youth bring significant and unique insight to peacebuilding, the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) provides a mechanism through which USIP experts can benefit from youth perspectives and expertise. The YAC enables USIP staff to engage youth as partners, experts, and practioners while elevating youth voices and experience to the international level. The YAC contributes to USIP’s vision for an inclusive approach to peacebuilding. The Youth Advisory Council meets regularly to bring together youth thought leaders and peacebuilding experts committed to the Institute’s mission and activities.

Generation Change fellows

Youth perspectives are often overlooked during the development and implementation stages of peacebuilding programs. Through USIP’s Youth Advisory Council youth leaders will provide regional and thematic expertise in the field peacebuilding to inform and shape USIP programming and research.

Advisory Council members are a subset USIP youth leaders. Each year, up to 15 Youth Advisory Council members are selected through a competitive application process. Youth leaders will be selected to serve one-year terms as Advisory Council members with the option to re-apply for the subsequent term.

Abdiweli Waberi (Somalia)

Abdiweli Waberi (Somalia)

Abdiweli Waberi is a youth leader and passionate storyteller from Somalia. He is a founding member of the African Youth and Child Network for Human Rights, a regional youth network that advocates for the civil and political rights of youth and children in five conflict and post-conflict countries in east and central Africa.

For the past three years, Abdiweli has served as national chairperson for the network’s Somalia branch and is involved with the Regional Peace Program that is led by Arigatou International, which brings youth from East African nations together to ally for peace. As a graduate from Puntland State University School of Law, Adbiweli currently works with the Puntland Ministry of Justice, where he promotes the rule of law, alternatives for dispute resolution, and legal reforms in Puntland. During a recent TedxMogadishu event, Abdiweli spoke about the role of youth in ending violence against young people and women, while also reflecting upon the best ways youth can be involved in efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia.

Abutu Paul Owoicho (Nigeria)

Abutu Paul Owoicho (Nigeria)

A 2016 Generation Change Fellow, Abutu Paul Owoicho is currently pursuing a master’s degree in conflict, security, and development at the Nigerian Defense Academy. He uses USIP’s Generation Change leadership training to engage young people across Nigeria during peace club sessions at secondary schools and universities. He also continually adopts digital media and technological tools for effective communication, leadership, and peacebuilding.

His objective is to use relevant resources and connections to build capacity for young people to take on leadership and peacebuilding roles in their various communities.

Dalia Marquez Añez (Venezuela)

Dalia Marquez Añez (Venezuela)

Dalia Marquez Añez is a fellow of the Generation Change Program, a lawyer specializing in family law, and a researcher who studies the role of women during times of conflict and peace. As a citizen activist, peacebuilder, and feminist, she has defended human rights for over seven years through volunteering and activism. As president of the NGO Juventud Unida en Acción, or “Youth United in Action,” Dalia coordinates projects regarding the role of youth in the development of public policies within the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly focusing on Objective 16, which emphasizes peace, human rights, and justice.

Dalia is a member the Youth Network of the Americas, the Latin American Network for Democratic Development, and the OAS Women’s Leaders Committee. She is a global youth ambassador for Education, a focal point for the Ibero-American Network of Women, and leader for Latin America in Goal 5 of the United Nations Children and Youth Major Group.

Gregory Ochieng Okumu (Kenya)

Gregory Ochieng Okumu (Kenya)

Gregory Ochieng Okumu is the national coordinator for the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS), Kenya PAX ROMANA. His areas of focus include capacity development and training for national executive members, organizing regional cross-cultural dialogue sessions in Africa, implementing the Peace Unit Programs (PUP) in Kenya, and co-chairing local peace and interfaith working groups. Gregory is a USIP Generation Change Fellow, and for the past three years has worked on building peace and managing conflicts with non-violence in fragile regions across Africa.

As a result of his work, Gregory trained 26 Generation Change youth leaders from South Sudan on leadership and conflict management skills as well as over 400 university student-leaders in Kenya, where he strengthened their capacity-building skills in conflict management, communication, negotiation, and leadership.

N. Jonathan Wijesinghe (Sri Lanka)

N. Jonathan Wijesinghe (Sri Lanka)

N. Jonathan Wijesinghe has years of experience in community transformation, conflict management, teambuilding, leadership training, and peacebuilding. Jonathan completed a residential training in South Africa at the African Leadership Institute for Community Transformation and is currently pursuing a master’s in organizational leadership. Jonathan joined USIP in 2017 as a young peacebuilder, where he had the opportunity to participate in the USIP Youth Exchange in Dharmsala with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Today, Jonathan is an active member of the Generation Change Fellows Program (GCFP), and a founding member of SEEDS, an initiative that improves the standards of living for underprivileged and poverty-stricken children by motivating them to pursue an education. He previously worked as the project coordinator for the Young Visionary Initiative of Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR) in Sri Lanka. Jonathan currently works as a freelance trainer and facilitator in several organizations focusing on youth and children throughout the country.

Mohammed Qasserras (Morocco)

Mohammed Qasserras (Morocco)

Mohammed Qasserras is an author, journalist, university lecturer, and the founding chairman of the Global Bus Foundation. He has worked as a trainer for international NGOs and institutes, where he has led trainings for youth leaders, educators, and militarily leaders across the world. Mohammed has been invited to present several papers on training pedagogies and professional development during global conferences organized by UNESCO in India, South Korea, and Vietnam. He was also a visiting Fulbright lecturer at City University of New York.

Mohammed’s unique experiences as a trainer and member of USIP’s Generation Change peace programs inspired him to create the Moroccan Network of Facilitators.

Mridul Upadhyay (India)

Mridul Upadhyay (India)

Mridul Upadhyay is the Asia coordinator of the United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY) and the co-founder of Youth for Peace International (YfPI). He is a development professional who is passionate about transformational youth leadership and peaceful social development. For more than a decade, Mridul has worked at the community, national, regional, and international levels of peace education, Rohingya refugee humanitarian support, activism, networking, and policy advocacy. He is a Generation Change fellow who has adapted a major part of the program’s content into a five-day Nirvana training for his organization, YfPI. After being trained in June 2018, he organized and cofacilitated three Nirvana trainings in India for a total of 330 youth, children, and school teachers.

Mridul continues to organize and facilitate several online and offline capacity building programs in collaboration with U.N. agencies (UNFPA, U.N. Volunteers, UNDP, and U.N. Peacebuilding Fund), the Commonwealth Youth Programme, and the Government of India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. As co-chair of the Thematic Working Group on YPS (YWG-YPS) for the Asia Pacific Interagency Network on Youth (APINY), Mridul works extensively to bring together regional U.N. agencies, organizations, networks, and initiatives to create well-informed and collaborative strategies regarding youth, peace, and security for the Asia-Pacific region.

Naveed Hameed (Pakistan)

Naveed Hameed (Pakistan)

Naveed Hameed is striving to conscientiously counter hate, intolerance, and violent extremism in youth by engaging them through digital storytelling, new media, and technology. Born and raised in a Christian family in a small village in Pakistan where many are illiterate, Naveed directly witnessed the burgeoning intolerance, vigilantism, and violence against weaker and minority groups. Over the past six years, Naveed has served as a documentary filmmaker, digital storyteller, and peace activist. With a focus on countering violent extremism, he creates TV scripts, training workshops, public speaking events, videos, and documentaries that have been screened at different peace festivals and training workshops.

Currently, Naveed serves as founding director of Faiz Resource Foundation, a youth-led and media-based non-profit organization that leads the SOCH-The Alternative Media. In 2019, Naveed and his team launched the Kahani Sunao, or “Tell Story,” program, which is Pakistan’s first Android/iOS-based smartphone and video fellowship used to empower youth voices in educational campuses and communities.

Nelson Kwaje (South Sudan)

Nelson Kwaje (South Sudan)

Nelson Kwaje is the founder of WEB 4 ALL Ltd., an ICT company that provides innovative solutions on how to bridge the literacy gap in Africa and build sustainable ICT4D (ICT for Development) solutions. He also works as the lead trainer and digital media manager for #defyhatenow, an initiative aimed at mobilizing civic action against hate speech and social media incitement that leads to violence in South Sudan. In partnership with this initiative, Nelson has trained over 300 youth since 2017. He also developed several campaigns with a focus on creating spaces for people to express their opinions online without dehumanizing others or spreading fake news that may jeopardize the safety and comfort of fellow citizens.

An avid problem solver, Nelson is a risk taker who enjoys directly taking on new challenges. He is passionate about youth and transformation, and his principles could easily fit into three words: people, technology, and transformation.

Nour Darwish (Libya)

Nour Darwish (Libya)

Nour Darwish is a medical student turned social activist who is passionate about empowering youth to take initiative at all levels related to their personal lives, development, and policymaking. As a project manager for the youth-led NGO Makers of Hope in Libya, Nour is responsible for implementing projects that increase the awareness, participation, and involvement of youth to help fight the most pressing problems facing today’s world. Through her participation in the Generation Change Fellows Program, she integrated the concept of powerful storytelling into her own programs. Nour believes that each one of us is part of a constantly unraveling narrative, a hero in a script no one else can write.

Over time, she learned the importance of finding one’s voice and sharing one’s story to affirm one’s worthiness of being heard. Nour believes this has the power to encourage and give hope to those with comparable stories, and she hopes that when youth learn the power of storytelling, the disconnection they feel with others will dissolve, and a bond of solidarity will form. Nour is a person of multiple interests, and she finds creativity and innovation at the intersection of the knowledge and skills she learns from different pursuits.

Nyachangkuoth Rambang Tai (South Sudan)

Nyachangkuoth Rambang Tai (South Sudan)

As head of Gender Programs at the Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA), Nyachangkuoth Rambang Tai raises awareness of the cross-cutting nature of gender equality consideration in the social, economic, political, scientific, cultural, and educational fields. She seeks the participation and inclusion of women in decision-making processes and the protection of women from all types of violence. Nyachangkuoth also conducts trainings and workshops that empower women to embrace free, just, dignified, and self-actualizing lives in South Sudan. In her work, she incorporates the Generation Change training manual, which has allowed her to effectively transform her community.

Currently, AMA’s “Beam of Hope Project,” funded by USIP, gives young widows and SGBV victims who are internally displaced access to the necessary services and networks needed to form peer-to-peer support groups. Nyachangkuoth is a graduate of Bahr El Ghazal University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and social studies from the Department of Rural Development.

Rebecca Ebenezer-Abiola (Nigeria)

Rebecca Ebenezer-Abiola (Nigeria)

Rebecca Ebenezer-Abiola is a behavior change communication practitioner with over 18 years of combined experience in development communication, and currently she works as a project coordinator for the African Radio Drama Association (ARDA). Throughout her career in the field of Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC), she has designed, implemented, and managed over a dozen development programs in Nigeria. Rebecca has also written, produced, and directed several radio programs, short films, and documentaries on various social and development issues including peacebuilding, conflict resolution, reconciliation, and reintegration.

In addition to having participated in USIP’s Generation Change Fellows Program, Rebecca is an alumna of the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) and the U.S. Embassy of Nigeria’s Carrington Youth Fellowship. She is a leadership and peacebuilding trainer who has been involved with the training of emerging young leaders across three continents.

Sarra Messaoudi (Tunisia)

Sarra Messaoudi (Tunisia)

Sarra Messaoudi is a proud Tunisian civic education practitioner and project manager with experience working with local and international NGOs. Her work focuses on the fields of peacebuilding, pan-Africanism, entrepreneurship, advocacy, and youth empowerment. As a business student, Sarra has had the opportunity to strengthen her organizational performance in the social sector. She is a mentor, a SUSI student-leader alumna, and the former general secretary of iBuild Africa, a youth-led organization that strives to unite, empower, and mobilize African youth.

Apart from her activism and education, Sarra also holds a managerial position with the Galactech studio, where she works on reinventing and revolutionizing the ways in which technology can impact society. Sarra aspires to enhance youth inclusion in decision-making processes, and firmly believes in youth’s importance in mediation and conflict transformation. Over the past few years, she has focused her attention on helping volunteers, youth, and social workers who lack access to opportunities to assess and valorize competencies and skills acquired in informal learning environments.

At the age of 21, she led a project initiative called “Peace Not Pieces,” which aimed to educate a generation of peace leaders to build a global community and nurture change through innovation, creativity, and active participation throughout the African continent. The project was recognized by the U.S. Department of State and Bard College. Sarra is a Generation Change fellow and a strong believer in the saying “No guts, No story!”

Tahany Maalla (Sudan)

Tahany Maalla (Sudan)

Tahany Maalla is a policy analyst and projects coordinator at the Center for Development and Public Policy in Sudan, a one of a kind thinktank in Sudan. A fellow of USIP’s Generation Change Program and a recipient of the Civil Society Leadership Award from the Open Society Foundation, Tahany received her M.A. in public policy from the University of Nottingham and a B.Sc. in civil engineering from the University of Khartoum. As a policy analyst, she focuses on public sector reform, development, and governance in fragile states and conflict affected areas, with special emphasis on decentralized social service delivery systems. Tahany is also a founder and active member of several voluntary initiatives across Sudan.

Related Publications

Scott Worden on Afghan Elections and the Peace Process

Scott Worden on Afghan Elections and the Peace Process

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

By: Scott Worden

A week and a half after Afghan presidential polls, the results remain unclear. But, we do know that turnout was historically low, largely due to dire security conditions. Meanwhile, with the peace process stalled, USIP’s Scott Worden says the upsurge in U.S. military operations against the Taliban is a “pressure tactic, not a victory strategy.”

Electoral Violence; Democracy & Governance; Peace Processes

Loya Jirgas and Political Crisis Management in Afghanistan: Drawing on the Bank of Tradition

Loya Jirgas and Political Crisis Management in Afghanistan: Drawing on the Bank of Tradition

Monday, September 30, 2019

Many times over the past century, Afghan political elites have utilized a loya jirga, or grand national assembly, when they have needed to demonstrate national consensus. Based on traditional village jirgas convened to resolve local disputes, loya jirgas have been used to debate and ratify constitutions, endorse the country's position and alliances in times of war, and discuss how and when to engage the Taliban in peace talks. In light of the growing political uncertainty in Afghanistan, this report examines the strengths and weaknesses of the loya jirga as an institution for resolving national crises.

Type: Special Report

Democracy & Governance

How to push Taliban for compromise? Ask the women doing it.

How to push Taliban for compromise? Ask the women doing it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

The halt in the U.S.-Taliban dialogue, plus Afghanistan’s September election, has forced a hiatus in formal peace efforts in the Afghan war—and that creates an opening to strengthen them. A year of preliminary talks has not yet laid a solid foundation for the broad political settlement that can end the bloodshed. While talks so far have mainly excluded Afghan women, youth and civil society, the sudden pause in formal peacemaking offers a chance to forge a more inclusive, and thus reliable, process. Even better, a little-noted encounter in Qatar between women and Taliban leaders signals that a broader process is doable.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

What to Watch for in Afghanistan’s Presidential Election

What to Watch for in Afghanistan’s Presidential Election

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By: Scott Worden; Colin Cookman

After several delays, Afghans will finally head to the polls on Saturday to elect their next president. The election comes amid an indefinite stall in the year-long U.S.-Taliban negotiations following the cancellation of a high-level summit earlier in the month. There has been a debate over the sequencing of elections and the peace process for months, but the vote will move ahead this weekend. As with all post-2001 Afghan elections, security risks and the potential for fraud and abuse loom over these polls. USIP’s Scott Worden and Colin Cookman look at how insecurity will impact the legitimacy of the vote and what measures have been taken to combat electoral mismanagement and fraud.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Electoral Violence; Democracy & Governance

View All Publications