Open VTC meeting on Youth, Peace and Security
On Monday (27 April), Security Council members will hold an open video teleconference (VTC) meeting entitled: “Towards the fifth anniversary of the youth and peace and security agenda: accelerating implementation of resolutions 2250 and 2419”. Secretary-General António Guterres and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, will brief the Council. Briefings are also expected by two civil society members: Olla Al-Sakkaf of Yemen, a project coordinator in the “Youth Without Border Organization for Development” and Gatwal Augustine Gatkuoth Yul of South Sudan, founder of the “Young-adult Empowerment Initiative” (YEI) in Uganda. While the statements of the briefers and Council members will be broadcast live, other non-Council members will have the opportunity to submit statements in writing that will subsequently be circulated.
While a resolution is an expected outcome of the meeting, it will be tabled at a later date to allow for the discussion to help inform the substance of the text.
The Secretary-General will most likely highlight the key findings of his first report focused on the youth, peace and security agenda. The 2 March report—which was mandated by resolution 2419 of 6 June 2018—provides an overview of the implementation of resolution 2250 of 9 December 2015 and resolution 2419 through the end of 2019. In resolution 2250, the first resolution to recognise the role that youth can play in conflict prevention and resolution, the Council outlined five pillars for the youth, peace and security agenda: participation, protection, prevention, partnerships, and disengagement and reintegration.
The Secretary-General’s report outlined the progress in implementing the agenda in terms of the growing recognition on the part of governments, UN entities and civil society of the important role youth play in peace and security. The report stressed, however, that many challenges remain to achieving progress on the five pillars of the agenda, such as structural barriers limiting the ability of youth to participate in decision-making and violations of their human rights. The Secretary-General further expressed in his report grave concern regarding the threats made against young peacebuilders and human rights defenders working in conflict areas, while noting the heightened dangers posed to women youth leaders.
The report also noted the increasing engagement of the Security Council on the youth, peace and security agenda since the adoption of resolution 2250 in December 2015. The Council had interactions with young people in nearly half of its visiting missions undertaken during the period covered by the report and increasingly sought to hear briefings from youth representatives in country-specific meetings, such as on Syria, Colombia and Afghanistan.
Wickramanayake may discuss the support that is required from member states to ensure the participation of young people in peace processes, as well as in national governance and political processes such as voting. She is also likely to stress the need for protection of young peacebuilders that comes with the increased visibility of their activities. Wickramanayake may also provide details on the role that young people are playing in their communities in responding to the outbreak of COVID-19. Ahead of the debate, Wickramanayake launched a social media campaign asking young people to express their views on the elements of the Secretary-General’s report on youth, peace and security that they deem most important. Wickramanayake is expected to share in her briefing the input she has received, while highlighting the role that social media can play in the promotion of the youth, peace and security agenda worldwide.
The civil society briefers may draw on their experiences as youth leaders in peacebuilding processes. Olla Al-Sakkaf might discuss her work at the “Youth Without Borders Organisation for Development”, a Yemen-based organisation focused on capacity-building for youth with the aim of promoting their participation in peacebuilding efforts. Gatwal Gatkuoth may discuss his role in founding YEI, an organisation operating in Uganda and South-Sudan which is focused on empowering young people and women to serve as agents of peace and social development in their communities.
The Dominican Republic has circulated a concept note to help guide the discussion, which states that the meeting serves as an opportunity to take stock of the progress made in the implementation of resolution 2419 and 2250 and look ahead by discussing recommendations and priorities for action on the youth, peace and security agenda. Questions posed in the concept note include:
- What concrete initiatives and measures should member states put in place to support contributions by young people to peace?
- How can the United Nations system ensure that young people’s priorities are included in international responses regarding peace and security?
- What measures should be developed to prevent and address reprisals against young peacebuilders, young human rights defenders and youth organisations?
A likely topic of discussion at the meeting is the ways in which the Security Council could enhance the implementation of resolutions 2250 and 2419, including in peacekeeping operations and political missions. Members might refer to the recommendation contained in the Secretary-General’s report for the Council to encourage the “meaningful participation of young people in peace and security efforts, including as relevant within mission mandates”. Between December 2015 and December 2019, only 24% of mission mandate renewal resolutions adopted by the Council included substantial provisions on youth. In this regard, some members might call for mission mandate renewals to include more language on the role that youth can play in such areas as mediation, monitoring peace negotiations, conflict prevention and reconciliation. Some members might also ask the Secretary-General for information on how the Department of Peace Operations and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs are working to streamline the implementation of resolutions 2250 and 2419 across all Council-mandated operations.
Members might also refer to initiatives that have been taken by specific peace operations as practical examples of how UN missions cooperate with local youth populations in an effort to promote peace in conflict and post-conflict situations. The UN Verification Mission in Colombia—one of the first peace operations to develop a youth, peace and security strategy—has a network of focal points who are focused on youth issues in all its regional offices. The mission works to facilitate youth involvement in projects related to the reintegration of former combatants of the former rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP). The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which has a youth advisor among its staff, regularly initiates inter-ethnic trust-building activities to create bridges between young people from different ethnic communities in Kosovo. In Somalia, efforts to establish formal mechanisms of youth participation in decision-making processes led to the creation of a Youth Advisory Board in 2019. The advisory board, comprised of 18 young men and women youth leaders, is dedicated to advising the UN system on youth issues in the country, and towards this end, has met with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia three times since its establishment.
At tomorrow’s meeting, some member states might call for more systematic reporting on the youth, peace and security agenda by the Secretary-General. While resolutions 2250 and 2419 contain a request to the Secretary-General to include information on the implementation of the resolutions in his reports regarding situations on the Council’s agenda, only a quarter of the reports submitted to the Council between December 2015 and December 2019 provided information on activities carried out by peace operations to implement the agenda. In the same vein, some members might also call on the Secretary-General to submit to the Council regular cross-cutting reports focused on the youth, peace and security agenda, while expressing support for the inclusion of such a provision in a future possible Council product.
While many Council members are supportive of Security Council engagement on youth, peace and security, China and Russia have previously expressed the view that this agenda is not directly relevant to the Council’s agenda and should be dealt with by other parts of the UN system.