This article contains an outline of the UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security and the views of several young activists from different regions.
When I took part in the International Training Programme on United Nations Security Council Resolution Women, Peace and Security (WPS) last September in Stockholm, Sweden, the United Nations Security Council had only six resolutions in the WPS “family”. Now, on my way to the regional follow-up, there are eight- including one focused particularly on youth.
Yes, on December 9th 2015 the UN Security Council adopted resolution #2250 Youth, Peace and Security.
In the context of this resolution, the term “youth” is defined as persons between the ages of 18-29. This is exactly the age group that often forms the majority of the population of conflict-affected countries, thus “among civilians, youth account for many of those adversely affected by armed conflict, including as refugees and internally displaced persons.” This causes disruption to access to education and economic opportunities, which negatively impacts on durable peace and reconciliation.
As the official press release emphasises, the resolution comes at a time when an estimated 600 million young people live in fragile and conflict-affected settings and against the backdrop of the rise of violent radicalisation. Thus the resolution gives a boost to youth-led peace building and conflict prevention interventions to build peaceful communities and underpin democratic, inclusive governance.
Youth, Peace and Security Agenda
Stressing that “large youth population presents a unique demographic dividend that can contribute to lasting peace and economic prosperity if inclusive policies are in place” the resolution emphasises the importance of youth as “positive role models” in preventing and countering violent extremism, terrorism and different forms of conflict. Youth instead can contribute to global socioeconomic development and strengthen regional and international security.
Calling on all relevant actors to empower youth in peace building and conflict resolution, the resolution urges member states to ensure that the young actors from different backgrounds “are recognized and provided with adequate support to implement violence prevention activities and support social cohesion”.
United Network of Young Peacebuilders is a global network aimed at creating a world where young people have the opportunity and skills to contribute to peace, through advocating for increased youth participation in peace building. Limited economic, social and political opportunities are strong contributing factors driving youth to participate in armed conflict. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that this does not reflect the majority of the youth population, and that many young people in conflict and post-conflict countries are working for peace.
According to UNOY Peacebuilders, only a minority of young people turn to violence in any context. Young people can be protected from violent conflict by offering them the possibility to shape their futures through participation in issues that concern them, including peace and security, as well as by making sure that they have access to good quality education and a livelihood. Participation in decision making supports young people’s resilience in the face of social pressures, giving them a sense of belonging.
Building Peace Together
Hajer Sharief, 23, is a co-founder of Together We Build It – an organisation in Libya which emphasises the role of women and youth in peace building. As Sharief says, young people are often considered trouble makers, mostly because they form the majority of armed groups (often referred to as militias or terrorists). But the main reason for that is not that youth are violent by nature; rather it is because they are excluded from making decisions. Decisions are missing youth perspective and thus are not sustainable because they do not address the whole issue. According to Sharief, youth have a crucial role in preventing violent extremism through “de-radicalisation” of society, and this does not only happen through raising public awareness, but also through decision making.
“In Libya youth demanded political change, but then they were excluded. Now the majority of armed groups are youth, because they think that there’s no way to have their voices heard apart from weapons” – Sharief told YO!Mag, stressing that social change starts with political change, so young people must have the opportunity to contribute to political change; otherwise it will not be sustainable.
Tatia Dvali, 22, is a human rights student at Lund University in Sweden. She daydreams a lot about a peaceful world. “It is estimated that 600 million young people live in conflict-affected environments. Let that number sink in. Unfortunately, I do not hold a dead-on answer to how exactly youth can prevent conflicts, but 600 million sure is a lot. Excluding this huge number of young people from solving problems that directly affect them seems absurd” – she told YO! Mag.
Dvali feels that today’s youth are much more tolerant and accepting than her parents’ generation. This is something that she views as very positive: “When we talk about important issues, we need to listen to each other. But not everyone who listens truly hears, which is why I think it is essential to actively advocate for your views. I think it is crucial that young people get involved with politics and create their own parties. If you are adult enough to witness conflicts, how come you are too young to participate in peace building?”
Turning resolutions into practice
Ahmad Al-Bazz, a Palestinian photojournalist based in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestine, is sceptical towards the new resolution. As he says, people in the Occupied Palestinian territories haven’t reached a post-conflict situation yet, as they still live under the Israeli military occupation. He does not think the new UN resolution can change anything in his location.
“We have been waiting for the implementation of dozens of UN resolutions for many decades. In fact, the UN’s reputation for effectiveness in my country is bad… the majority of Palestinian people don’t believe in it. That’s why I haven’t heard about that new resolution which was not highlighted in my country’s media outlets. I also guess nobody here has heard or cares about it,” Al-Bazz told YO! Mag.
He hopes that one day something will change for the Middle East region’s sovereign Independent States as a high number of young people are tired of armed conflicts. “Considering that the Middle East countries are famous for their old-age officials (presidents/minsters/parliament members…), this new resolution might give youth the chance to raise their voices and contribute in change. This would be a chance that they have never got”, he said.
Lasha Shakulashvili was Youth Representative of Georgia to the United Nations 2014-2015. As he says, inter-generational dialogue is necessary while talking about extremism and the role of youth in this process, because awareness-raising alone cannot solve the issue. It needs a complex approach. For example, when the young person taught about the negative impact of terrorism returns home to their grandfather they may face a wall of confusion, because for some generations extremism is just part of life. This is why Shakulashvili thinks that before the resolution turns into reality and really affects the lives of young people it should make sure that not only ‘elite’ parts of society but youth in particular are part of the discussions.
What steps young people take towards creating a more peaceful world is up to each individual to decide. Some may express themselves through art, music and literature and in that way influence and inspire others of the same age. At the decision making level it is important that young people actively talk and raise their voices around these issues. Not only in their homes and classrooms, but outside: in front of the Parliament buildings.
Header photo from United Network of Young Peacebuilders