Youth, Peace and Security: Open Debate
On Monday (23 April), the Security Council will hold an open debate on youth, peace and security. The lead author of the progress study on youth, peace and security, Graeme Simpson, and the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, will brief. Two civil society members are also expected to provide briefings: Sophia Pierre-Antoine, a member of the Advisory Council of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and a board member of the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund in Haiti, and Kessy Ekomo-Soignet, a youth activist and the Executive Director of the Organisation URU in the Central African Republic. In the weeks following the debate, a resolution on youth, peace and security is expected to be adopted. Peru and Sweden are co-penholders on the draft, which was recently circulated and is expected to emphasise the potential role of youth in peacebuilding processes.
As the lead author of the progress study, Graeme Simpson will most likely highlight the key findings of the study, which focused on the positive contribution of youth to peace processes and conflict resolution. The study—which was requested in resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security—calls for the conceptualisation of youth as “partners for peace” rather than “as a problem to be solved”. It notes 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 recognised and nurtured. It emphasises 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 study further underscored the importance of future research and programmes focusing on the potential of education “to prevent young people from engaging in violence, as well as on…forg[ing] alternative non-violent pathways”.
Although resolution 2250 was adopted in December 2015, it did not indicate a time-frame for the completion of the progress study, which was circulated in early March. The study drew on consultations with thousands of youth, country-focused studies, and a global survey of youth organisations, among other methods, and benefited from the input of a diverse advisory group of experts supporting the lead author.
The briefers may draw on the experiences as youth leaders in peace-building processes. Wickramanayake, who was appointed the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth in June 2017, is a former member of the Youth Parliament in her native Sri Lanka, where, in her own words, she “co-founded a grassroots organization called Hashtag Generation in Sri Lanka, to build the capacity of young people and young women, to participate in politics in my country”. Sophia Pierre-Antoine’s work has focused on the empowerment of young women and youth, peace, and security issues in Haiti and internationally. Ekomo-Soignet may discuss the work of her organisation (Organisation URU), a non-profit based in Bangui which is led by youth and promotes peacebuilding, agriculture and girls’ empowerment.
Peru has circulated a concept note to help guide the discussion, posing questions that it encourages member states to consider in their statements. Among others, these include
- What factors could promote and support the active engagement of young people in building peace, preventing violence and contributing to positive social cohesion in their communities, societies and institutions?
- How can member states support the Secretary-General in following up on the recommendations in the Progress Study?
- How have member states engaged with the UN’s peacebuilding architecture in advancing the implementation of resolution 2250 and what are the lessons learned and existing best practices?
During the debate, member states are likely to echo the findings of the progress study, regarding the positive contributions that youth can make peace and security. The discussion is expected to explore the potential of youth to prevent and resolve conflicts and to build peaceful societies and how this can be achieved. Some member states may also discuss ways to counter violent extremism among youth.