The role of youth in peacebuilding processes
- The UN World Population Prospects statistics estimate that there are 3 billion 15-24 years olds in the world (2019) and nearly one billion live in developing countries where conflict is more likely to have taken place.
- Being deeply affected by conflict situations, young people’s voices have to be heard and included in the processes of conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
- Considering that 65% of the population on the African continent consists of young people, it is becoming increasingly important that, rather than seeing young people as agents of conflict and destruction, they are seen as agents of peace, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and advocates for social cohesion in their communities.
- Enhancing structures that promote the participation of youth in peacebuilding will actively contribute to their engagement with decisions that affect their wellbeing.
- The growing mobilization of young people and their untiring advocacy to have a say in local, national and international policies, and to have a seat at the table in peace/ security efforts have caught the attention of the international community & policymakers.
- During the first Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security in August 2015, hundreds jointly drafted the Amman Youth Declaration, which called for greater partnerships with young people in addressing issues of peace and security, gender equality, and young people’s empowerment.
Young people and the 2030 Agenda (2015)
Greater cooperation with young people at the United Nations and in other regional and national settings demonstrate the need to include young people in all processes.
Young people are seen as:
- key agents of change and crucial actors in the implementation of SDGs, particularly (SDG 16) "advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies;
- key to the commitment in the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind”.
UN Security Council resolutions on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS)
- The emergence of the YPS agenda through the adoption of Resolution 2250 by the UN Sec Council was the milestone towards challenging the exclusionary approach to youth in peace & security. This was the outcome of a youth-driven advocacy process supported by a global coalition of UN agencies, civil society org-s and youth-led org-s.
- The agenda is integral, covers conflict prevention, peace-making, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, hum/assistance, human rights & development, and considers civil society leadership (including that of women and youth) as indispensable to lasting peace.
1. UN Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015)
- The unanimously adopted Resolution recognizes, for the first time, that ‘young people play an important and positive role in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security’ and that ‘their marginalization is detrimental to building sustainable peace’ ((n 5) Preamble, para 2).
- It identifies five pillars for action, and calls for mechanisms that allow the meaningful participation of young women and men in peace processes and dispute resolution.
What does “meaningful participation” really mean?
- From a rights-based perspective, young women and young men have the right to be informed and consulted and to have their voices taken into account regarding all matters that have a direct or indirect impact on their lives and futures. The realization of their right to participate needs to be guaranteed by duty-bearers and the United Nations.
- From an efficiency perspective, ensuring that young people are engaged and have a say in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes can significantly improve the relevance, legitimacy, sustainability and impact of projects.
- Engaging young people does not only mean providing them with access to these processes, it also involves the United Nations holding itself accountableto an important constituency.
The five pillars of SC Res 2250
- Participation– Take youth’s inclusive representation at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions, and their views into account in decision-making processes, from negotiation to peace agreements.
- Protection– Ensure the protection of young civilians’ lives and human rights, and investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes perpetrated against them.
- Prevention– Support young people in preventing violence and in promoting a culture of tolerance and intercultural dialogue.
- Partnership– Engage young people during and after conflict when developing peacebuilding strategies, along with community actors and UN bodies.
- Disengagement and reintegration– Invest in youth affected by armed conflict through employment opportunities, inclusive labour policies and education promoting a culture of peace.
PILLAR FOUR – PARTNERSHIPS
- Establish new and strengthen existing partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders, prioritizing partnerships with youth organizations, movements and networks that support the funding of youth-inclusive/led initiatives.
The UN Security Council expanded on the YPS agenda through Resolutions 2419 (UN Security Council, 2018) and 2535 (UN Security Council, 2020a).
2. UN Security Council Resolution 2419 (2018), builds on its key recommendations to:
- invest in and empower young people’s capacities and leadership;
- urges the UN Secretary-General and Special Envoys to take into account the views of youth and to facilitate their equal & full participation at decision-making in discussions on PS;
- expresses an intention to invite youth-led org-s to brief the Security Council.
The United Nations Youth Strategy launched in 2018 marks a shift away from merely working for young people towards an approach that involves them, amplifying their voices and engaging them as partners and leaders.
It lays out fundamental commitments to work with youth across its three pillars of:
- peace and security,
- human rights,
- Sustainable development.
“Young people constitute a tremendous and essential asset worth investing in,” UN Youth Strategy, “Youth 2030”.
The main components of the strategy include:
- support of youth leadership and greater awareness of youth-related issues;
- strengthened knowledge production;
- accelerated resource mobilization and partnership development;
- a greater funding base and mechanisms for youth-focused programming and youth-led actions.
3. UN Security Council Resolution 2535 ( 2020):
- entrenches the YPS agenda within the UN system by requesting the submission of a report by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the implementation of the associated Resolutions;
- lays out concrete steps for the operationalization of the YPS agenda, including a request for the UN to improve capacity-building and technical guidance;
- aims to diversify youth participation.
The cases of the Anataban Campaign in South Sudan and the youth dialogue initiative in Somaliland are powerful examples of the work young people lead that has a positive impact beyond their communities.
1. The Anataban Campaign in South Sudan
With South Sudanese civil society raising the consciousness of an active citizenry through workshops and information sessions, including in refugee settlements in Uganda, the youth are leveraging their collective power to hold leaders to account. Anataban Campaign utilises the power of arts to foster discussions on key issues for local peacebuilding such as government accountability and redressing social injustices.
The group launched the online campaign #SouthSudanIsWatching (throughout the world) to put pressure on leaders to implement the 2018 peace agreement. Young organize other artistic events to re-claim a public platform to monitor the peace talks.
2. Youth dialogue initiative in Somaliland
The Somaliland Youth Development Organization described their experience of bringing together a group of young men and women:
‘We opened a seven-day long discussion on de-escalation of conflicts with 30 young men and women, who had taken part in the latest violent conflict in the district. These young men and women have never gone to school. They were often praised [for] their role in the conflicts by their fellow clansmen and women. Changing this approach requires time and a proper way to present your arguments. The young men and women are now peace ambassadors in their villages and they have moved to the urban cities in Somaliland so that they don’t find themselves again engaged in the conflicts.’
3. UPF PEACE AMBASSADORS
Peace Council for Albanian Diaspora in Austria
On July 7 2022 the Peace Council was established in Vienna. Over 70 people were present at the conference, including prominent Albanians from all over Austria, local Ambassadors for Peace and youth, and 15 Albanians living in Austria were appointed as Ambassadors for Peace.
4. Rwanda - Dealing with the past and road for the future
- Never Again Rwanda (NAR) was founded by students who identified the challenges for youth in post-genocide Rwanda. They saw the merits in establishing platforms to engage youth to promote peace and to work on the important issues for youth relating to post-genocide life.
- NAR has created safe spaces for youth through closed groups of 20 to 30 individuals who have shared their traumatic experiences and have received necessary support in return, such as psychotherapy. The absence of a platform before this to share views limited youth participation in decision-making. NAR also works to empower young people in Rwanda to become active, critical-thinking citizens.
5. The Youth, Peace and Security School in Turkey
Young peacebuilders of Turkey, the first youth-led peace organisation in the country, held a ‘Youth, Peace and Security School’ in January 2021:
- This first-of-its-kind project brought 35 youth participants with experts from academia and NGOs to address the issues of peacebuilding &YPS Agenda.
- The objectives of the School were to enhance the knowledge and skills of youth participants, as well facilitating networking and advancing YPS as an academic field.
- Young peace builders now act as peace mediators amongst their peers in schools and communities.
7. The National Youth Jirga (Forum) of Afghanistan
- The Forum brought together 100 youth representatives from all 34 provinces for a three-day conference to discuss the Afghan peace process and the role of youth. Young Afghan men and women, who can often feel disenfranchised from the country’s legislature, gathered to discuss how to bring about peace in the country, improve education and address unemployment.
- The Forum culminated in the adoption of a resolution that focuses on the role of young people in shaping the future of the country, which has been shared with the Afghan government and the international community.
Lessons learned from Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000)19 on Women and Peace and Security (WPS)
- Emphasizes the important role of women in peace and security efforts;
- Calls for equal participation and the inclusion of women in conflict resolution, peace processes, hum/response & post-conflict decision-making;
- Urges actors to apply a gender lens in policies and programmes.
In the 22 years since the adoption of the resolution, the work of the global WPS movement to ensure women’s participation and inclusion has provided an insight into strategies to support the implementation of SC Res 2250 on YPS to include youth in decision-making and peacebuilding.
The linkages between the two agendas offer opportunities for partnership and recognizing the contribution of young women to peacebuilding efforts.
UNESCO’s framework for action on peacebuilding is structured in three areas:
Youth empowerment and inclusion:
- Foster youth participation in PS decision-making processes, thus supporting good governance.
- Engage with M/S, partner organizations and other stakeholders to develop national youth policies.
- Support Member States in the implementation of UN SC Res 2250.
Global advocacy and awareness-raising:
- Organize events to give visibility to young people participating in peacebuilding processes.
- Develop communications actions that sensitize on resilience, peacebuilding and violence prevention.
- Support research actions on violence and radicalization to better understand the social, political and economic factors that lead to violent extremism.
- Foster knowledge exchange and transfer of good practices at local and regional levels.
- Equip youth with values, knowledge and skills to communicate and cooperate peacefully across social and cultural boundaries, and to meaningfully engage in civic processes.
What is next?
The momentum garnered through the restless activism of young people and the increasing recognition of governments and the multilateral system of the imperative to meaningfully involve youth is now solidifying and generating the political will for change.
The YPS agenda requires efforts to integrate it into programmes, policies and rules of operations.
The next steps include:
- establishing larger and more adequate funding mechanisms and procedures, both within government entities and throughout international agencies;
- gathering data and carrying out an analysis to better inform policymaking at the local, national, and international levels:
- designing systems of focal points and networks that ensure mainstreaming of YPS language.
Accomplishments such as the UN Youth Strategy and SC Resolutions 2250, 2419 and 2535 are not the end but rather the beginning – they offer a common framework for developing a ROADMAP and ensuring coordination across YPS actors.
Although the critical role of youth in driving positive change in society is being increasingly recognized, the ROAD to achieving global peace would remain bumpy until the root causes of instability, conflict and crisis are adequately addressed by relevant stakeholders at all levels.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo charges Nigerian Youths,
"Take Over Leadership Now, Tomorrow May Never Come“, (July 23, 2022).
“My advice for Nigerian youths is, never let anybody tell you that you are the leaders of tomorrow. If you wait for tomorrow before you take over leadership, that tomorrow may not come. They will destroy it. This is the time, youths get up and make it happen.”
I THANK YOU!