A year ago today, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. While there are a lot of things the Council have not been able to agree on in the past year, they all agreed that it is imperative to involve young women and men in peace and security.
The resolution outlines the duties of parties to armed conflicts to protect young people during conflict and in post-conflict contexts. Importantly, the resolution calls on governments to promote youth participation in processes of peacebuilding and peacekeeping at all levels. The resolution calls on governments to facilitate an enabling environment for youth to prevent violence, and to create policies which support young people - in terms of employment and education. The resolution also encourages all those involved in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration to ensure that programs are designed to consider the special needs of youth in these processes.
I lead the youth civil society campaign for a Security Council Resolution that would recognize the groundbreaking, and often risky work that young peacebuilders are doing in conflict regions around the world. Resolution 2250 is the strongest and most comprehensive instrument to ensure young people’s inclusion and meaningful participation in issues of peace and security. Moreover, it should also provide for funding, monitoring and accountability tools for the work carried by young people in the field.
The adoption of the resolution, and the establishment of Youth, Peace and Security as a policy field was the result of a closely knit partnership between a number of civil society organizations such as the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, Search for Common Ground and World Vision International and a number of UN agencies and offices including the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth - as well as his office, UNFPA, UNDP and UN Women. The Jordanian government played a crucial political role in the adoption of the resolution.
UNOY Peacebuilders started it’s youth led advocacy campaign for a Security Council resolution already in 2012, and was able to build momentum for the resolution through the partnerships mentioned, and especially through theIANYD Working Group on Youth and Peacebuilding. As part of this momentum, the Working Group launched the Guiding Principles of Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding, and UNOY launched a report on Agreed UN Language on Youth, Peace and Security, to showcase the need for a strengthened policy framework on youth and peacebuilding. The ball really got rolling in April 2015 when the UN Security Council, chaired by the Crown Prince of Jordan, debated the role of youth in countering violent extremism and building peace. Jordan’s leadership continued when it hosted the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security. The key outcome of the forum was the Amman Youth Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security, which brought together the voices of over 10.000 young people. Importantly, the declaration calls for an international policy framework – preferably a Security Council Resolution – to be adopted. At the forum, we publically handed over the declaration to the Foreign Minister of Jordan, who promised to bring the declaration to the Security Council.
The resolution offers a number of opportunities and challenges that I will discuss here.
Empowering young people on the ground
Youth-led peacebuilding organizations on an everyday basis show concrete examples of how peacebuilding is not an issue for older men (the usual group discussing these issues) – but how young people are at the forefront of peacebuilding. Young people work in Western Pakistan on countering violent extremism, in Eastern Congo on reintegrating ex-combatants, in the Philippines working with government, civil society, and other stakeholders to support the peace process.
First and foremost, resolution 2250 offers unprecedented support and recognition to young peacebuilders around the world. It makes them rights-holders and makes them visible. Governments can no longer turn them the blind eye and deaf ear. They need to recognize young women and men as crucial peacebuilding allies because they have first hand experience of conflict, they know its dynamics and possible ways of dealing with it and are also more likely to be received positively by their peers when they reach out.
A transformative agenda
Resolution 2250 hand in hand with Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security are transformative peace agendas. They offer a possibility for us to see peace as much more than the absence of direct violence or war. Realizing peace means respecting human rights, fighting all forms of discrimination. It means inclusion and it means undertaking inclusive processes of reconciliation and justice. It is about building a Culture of Peace. As the UNESCO pre-amble puts it: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”
Sustainable Development Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Inclusive Institutions goes hand in hand with the implementation of resolution 2250. Peace cannot be achieved without development - and vice versa. Alarmingly, most conflict areas and fragile states have predominantly young populations. To realize a truly transformative shift that positively impacts development in conflict affected and fragile states, young peacebuilders must be given a space to act.
Meaningful youth participation
Resolution 2250 urges Member States to consider ways to increase inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels. We need to see meaningful participation and not a tick-box exercise! Governments and youth led organizations need to work in partnership to make this reality.
Governments increasingly realize that they need to socially and economically empower young people. Social and economical empowerment is important, but it is not enough if you want young people to take action in building peaceful societies. It is central that youth are also politically empowered. That they feel that they can impact their communities and that they are listened to.
To fully realize the potential of resolution 2250, the level of participation of youth in policy-making needs to go beyond the mere consultation, youth has to be co-leading the processes and share decisions in terms of peacebuilding programmes. If Member States really want to be inclusive, they do not only have to include peacebuilding in their agenda, they need to consider youth as a real and equal partners.
The securitization of young people
In parallel to the adoption of resolution 2250, the policy discourse around countering and preventing violent extremism (C/PVE) has grown stronger. C/PVE policy tends to reinforce the narrative of youth as vulnerable and victims of radicalization and extremism and often do not see youth as agents for change. This prevents youth from assuming positive roles in the society by undermining their potential in building peace and security and further enhances their exclusion from the public domain. It is a hinder in building ownership among young people as agents of preventing violent extremism.
Highly securitized measures narrowly focus on addressing the symptoms of conflict and in many contexts such as Kenya, they have been met by a backlash and elicited a violent response leading to a faster growth rate of extremism. Resolution 2250 offers the possibility of a human security approach which offers long term solutions by addressing underlying dynamics and root causes of conflict by engaging all stakeholders (youth,civil society, security) to develop and implement solutions.
Resolution 2250 calls for a progress study on the young people’s positive contribution to peace and security. The Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security is being undertaken as an independent, evidence-based and participatory research process, and will produce a report proposing a forward-looking agenda for the international community. It offers a unique and important opportunity for innovation within the international community and is much more than a study or a policy document. It is an opportunity to develop a strategy for inclusion through action-based research, in order to support the practical implementation of resolution 2250. Online and offline consultations with young peacebuilders will inform the study, that is expected to be presented in December 2017.
Civil society around the world is using resolution 2250 to further young people’s role in peace and security. Take this Global Survey on Youth, Peace and Security to help map youth organisations and initiatives building peace and preventing violence, to identify what they are doing, what impact they have made and their needs and goals for the future.
Governments also need to step up their game to take action on what was agreed upon in the Security Council. Governments need to see young people - young peacebuilders - as partners - listen to them and act on what they say. Young women and men have their ears towards the ground - and they are already doing this work! Governments need to invest in young people - to put their money where their mouth. Investing in young women and men does gives long term dividends, but it is an investment governments cannot afford not to make.
Matilda Flemming is a member of the Advisory Group for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security.
How do you see the possibilities for youth to contribute to peacebuilding efforts worldwide? Are you involved in any civil society efforts and activism in the area of peacebuilding? Join the discussion and leave your comments below.