The WHO acknowledges youth violence as a major public health issue. Youth violence can take up many forms including physical, verbal, psychological and sexual. The UNICEF 2018 Report “An Everyday Lesson: #ENDviolence in Schools” shows that half of the students aged 13–15 experiences bullying or physical fights within a year. The Council of Europe Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2016-2021 has identified violence prevention as one of the five priority areas to guarantee the promotion of children’s rights.
Research shows that there are numerous risk factors strongly associated with youth violence that occur at different levels: individual level (i.e. personality and behavioural factors), family and close relationship level (i.e. negative peer influence, lack of social ties, poor parent-child relationships, parents’ antisocial behaviours etc.) and community and society level (i.e. low social cohesion, inequality, insecurity, gender and cultural norms) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, WHO, 2015).
As with risk factors, also protective factors can be built at these different levels to reduce the likelihood of youth violence. Therefore, based on this evidence and the lessons learnt from the previous project, the “Youth 4 Love 2” project will promote the adoption of a comprehensive multi-stakeholder approach that involves actors that do not typically cooperate such as youth, parents, educational professionals (school and community), associations, private service providers (private and third sector), public services and authorities (public sector) at local, national and EU level.
This approach acknowledges that schools are important to reduce and prevent peer violence because they can involve many young people at one time. Nonetheless, school-based interventions need to be integrated by broader violence-prevention initiatives conducted at the community level to address the risks factors that stem from outside the school environment. The process of such community engagement starts from the actors around the schools (youth, teachers, families and community associations) to build broad coalitions and cooperation and advocate for better policies with authorities and decision makers.