Youth, Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
In April, the Security Council is expected to hold an open debate on youth, peace and security. Graeme Simpson—the lead author of the recently completed progress study on youth, peace and security—is expected to brief the Council.
A resolution is a possible outcome.
Key Recent Developments
On 9 December 2015, the Council adopted resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security. The resolution focused on the role of youth, defined as people between ages 18 and 29, in conflict prevention and resolution. It encouraged member states to engage with local communities and NGOs to develop strategies that counteract a narrative of violent extremism. It urged member states to provide youth with an enabling environment for the implementation of violence-prevention activities and peacebuilding efforts. The resolution invited relevant UN bodies to improve their coordination and interaction with regard to the needs of youth during armed conflicts and in post-conflict situations.
It further requested the Secretary-General to conduct a progress study on the positive contribution of youth to peace processes and conflict resolution. However, it did not indicate a timeframe for the completion of this progress study, which was only recently finalised, and circulated in early March. A more detailed version is expected to be completed later in the year.
The research for the progress study on youth, peace and security drew on consultations with thousands of youth, country-focused studies, and a global survey of youth peacebuilding organisations, among other methods. A diverse advisory group of 21 experts supported the lead author. Referring to youth as the “missing peace,” the study called for a conceptualisation of youth as “partners for peace” rather than “as a problem to be solved”. It noted that the stereotype of young women as victims of violence needs to be adjusted so that their ability to contribute to peace and security is also recognised and nurtured. It emphasised that youth need to be included in political and economic processes that promote their well-being and sense of belonging and that “[j]ustice and human rights are…essential vehicles for prevention and lay the foundation for sustainable peace”.
The adoption of resolution 2250, which was an initiative of Jordan, built on the open debate on the “role of youth in countering violent extremism and promoting peace” held during Jordan’s presidency in April 2015 and on the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security held in Amman in August 2015. Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II of Jordan chaired the debate, which included the participation of 69 member states, the AU, the EU, the Permanent Representative of the Observer State of the Holy See, and the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.
The meeting featured briefings by then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Peter Neumann, the Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London; and Scott Atran, the Director of Research in Anthropology at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. Ban described how “violent extremists deliberately target youth”. He said that youth needed to be given opportunities to participate in peace talks, as they “pay a price for the fighting, and…deserve to help structure the healing”. Neumann briefed on radicalised European youth who became foreign terrorist fighters in Iraq and Syria. He said that what they shared was a sense that they did not belong to the cultures in which they were living and maintained that, in addition to creating de-radicalisation programmes and challenging extremism on the Internet, longer-term efforts are needed “to work on creating more inclusive societies and more inclusive identities”. Atran maintained that governments “should continue their important work on problems of development, and on immigration and integration, with a goal of transforming the much-lamented youth bulge into a youth boom by unleashing youth’s inherent energy and idealism”.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is how to ensure that the Council’s focus on youth and violent extremism does not overshadow the positive contribution of youth in situations of armed conflict. Simpson’s briefing will most likely emphasise the potential of youth to play a critical role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, given the focus of the progress study. It might also be useful to have a civil society youth leader brief the Council on the role he or she has played in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
A further important issue is ensuring that the recommendations of the progress study are considered by the Council. In this regard, the Council could discuss pursuing a resolution that takes on board key recommendations from the study. Among such measures, the resolution could encourage member states and regional and sub-regional organisations:
- to promote youth participation in peace negotiations and constitution-making processes;
- to collaborate with youth in developing and implementing disengagement and reintegration programs; and
- to support research and data collection on youth, peace and security issues.
The Council could also designate a penholder to take the lead on youth, peace and security—including with regard to the implementation of resolution 2250—and call on the Secretary-General to report on its implementation on an annual basis. This member could advocate the inclusion and concrete implementation of activities related to youth, peace and security in Council mandates.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members have emphasised various ways to counter violent extremism among youth. Among the ideas that have been expressed and promoted by members are countering extremist ideologies through narratives and programmes that uphold inclusivity and tolerance, preventing the travel of foreign terrorist fighters, and targeting terrorist financing.
At the same time, while concerns continue to be expressed about the linkages between youth and extremist ideologies, members also emphasise that young people make positive contributions to peace and security and that their capacities for preventing and resolving conflicts and building peaceful societies need to be developed.
The Peacebuilding Commission, an advisory body of the Council, established focal points on thematic issues in 2017, including one on youth, peace and security. Belgium has been the focal point on youth, peace and security since 2017.
UN DOCUMENTS ON YOUTH, PEACE AND SECURITY
|Security Council Resolution|
|9 December 2015 S/RES/2250||This was a resolution on youth, peace and security which recognises the contribution of youth in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and warns against the rise of radicalisation to violence and violent extremism amongst youth.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|23 April 2015 S/PV.7432||This was a high-level open debate on “the role of youth in countering violent extremism and promoting peace,” chaired by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdulla II of Jordan.|
|2 March 2018 S/2018/86||This was the progress study on youth, peace and security.|