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Despite accounting for only 7 per cent of the world’s population, rural youth account for more than 10 per cent of the world’s conflict-exposed population. In 2016, alone, over 350 million rural youth lived in conflict-affected countries. Despite conflict’s being defined as “development in reverse”, however, we find a general lack of research focusing specifically on young people living in rural areas. Yet, from wider literature, we know that conflict is a cause of adversities across a range of economic and non-economic indicators. When young people experience violence in consecutive life stages, adversities from one stage – such as weakened education – can be carried forward into subsequent life stages - such as transition to employment. In this background paper, we show that exposure to violence increases infant mortality, reduces birthweight, harms child health, damages human capital accumulation, restricts performance in education and interacts negatively with labour market opportunities. Despite this accumulated knowledge, however, we note that key knowledge gaps remain, especially when it comes to understanding the programmes that can mitigate the damage exposure to conflict causes. There is, therefore, an urgent need to understand how and why exposure to conflict harms the lives of rural youth, and perhaps more importantly, how it harms those lives differently from those of other socio-demographic groups. Given that rural youth are disproportionately affected by conflict, there is also a need for the design of, and learning from, programmes that are specifically targeted at protecting and empowering rural youth during the post-conflict phase.


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