What's In Blue

Posted Tue 16 Apr 2024

High-level Debate on “The Role of Young Persons in Addressing Security Challenges in the Mediterranean”

Tomorrow morning (17 April), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level debate on “The role of young persons in addressing security challenges in the Mediterranean” under the “Maintenance of international peace and security” agenda item. Ian Borg, Malta’s Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade, is expected to chair the meeting, which is a signature event of Malta’s April Council presidency. The anticipated briefers are Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean Nasser Kamel and a youth civil society representative. No outcome is expected in connection with tomorrow’s meeting.

Several member states from the Mediterranean region are expected to participate in the meeting under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure. The Council’s current composition includes four Mediterranean countries, namely Algeria, France, Malta, and Slovenia. Joint statements are expected tomorrow from the European Union (EU) and Cyprus on behalf of the EU’s nine Mediterranean members (also known as Med9)—Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain.

The concept note that Malta prepared for the debate says that the Mediterranean faces multifaceted challenges, including political instability, socio-economic inequality, transnational threats, and maritime insecurity. It notes that these challenges collectively amplify fragility in the region and constitute a key obstacle to peace and security and sustainable development. The concept note addresses the adverse effects of climate change in the Mediterranean, highlighting the increasing frequency of phenomena such as prolonged heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and floods. It says that climate change places additional strains on communities already grappling with security challenges and undermines efforts towards the promotion of peace and security. The concept note recognises the differential effects of climate change on young persons, particularly young women and girls, and highlights the importance of including these groups in crafting solutions to the challenges of climate change.

The concept note says that tomorrow’s meeting comes at a critical juncture in light of the Summit of the Future, which is expected to be held in September, and the release of A New Agenda for Peace (NAfP), a July 2023 policy brief that outlines the Secretary-General’s vision for the future of multilateralism and the UN’s work on peace and security. In this context, the meeting aims to provide an opportunity for member states to highlight “the multi-faceted challenges being faced in the Mediterranean, while exploring the role of young persons in promoting peace and security in the region”, according to the concept note. It is also expected to serve as an avenue for member states to exchange views on “how to integrate youth and peace and security principles”, including into climate action, in order to “foster a unified approach towards climate-responsive peace and security”.

At a 1 April press conference on this month’s programme of work, Ambassador Vanessa Frazier (Malta) said that discussions on the Mediterranean in the broader UN framework have traditionally focused on the challenges of migration, terrorism, natural disasters, and human rights abuses. She noted that tomorrow’s meeting aims to “foster a more nuanced understanding of the Mediterranean by delving deeper into the root causes of these security issues” and to analyse the role of youth in addressing these challenges.

While the Council addresses some conflicts in the Mediterranean in its mandated country-specific meetings—including in Libya, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and Syria—it does not regularly discuss the security challenges in the region more broadly. The Council last met to consider security challenges in the Mediterranean region on 28 September 2023, at Russia’s request, to discuss the situation of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. While migration is not one of the areas of discussion mentioned in the concept note for tomorrow’s meeting, some members may raise the issue as one of the pertinent security and humanitarian challenges in the region. At tomorrow’s debate, the briefers and some member states may also highlight the deleterious effects on children and young persons of the ongoing conflicts in the region.

Council members have discussed the implementation of the youth, peace and security (YPS) agenda on several occasions since the adoption of resolution 2250 of 9 December 2015, which was the first resolution to recognise the role that youth can play in conflict prevention and resolution. The latest such meeting was an Arria-formula meeting (an informal format) that took place on 25 August 2023. Tomorrow’s meeting will be the first time that the YPS agenda is being discussed in a formal Council meeting on a particular region.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting, including:

  • How can the Council effectively address security challenges and the climate-security nexus in the Mediterranean?
  • How can Council members advance the implementation of the YPS agenda and ensure full, effective, inclusive, diverse, and meaningful participation of young persons in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and transitional justice, particularly in the Mediterranean?
  • What role can regional and sub-regional organisations play in the effective implementation of the YPS agenda?
  • How can the Security Council, UN peacekeeping missions, the UN Youth Office, and other entities effectively integrate the YPS agenda in their work?

The discussion at tomorrow’s meeting is likely to feature, as highlighted in the concept note, the positive contributions of young people in the domains of climate action and peace and security. Malta emphasises in the concept note that young persons have the potential to be agents for positive change in peace and security, including in conflict prevention, reconciliation processes, peacebuilding, and countering radicalisation and violent extremism. At the same time, it highlights the role of young persons in devising adaptive measures and innovative solutions to address the challenges of climate change. Therefore, the concept note argues that inter-linkages between peace and security and climate change should be reflected in the YPS agenda.

Tomorrow’s meeting will provide an opportunity for member states to reflect on the findings and recommendations of the Secretary-General’s latest biennial report on YPS, which was published on 1 March and covers the period between January 2022 to December 2023. This report was submitted pursuant to resolution 2535 of 14 July 2020, which aimed to promote and institutionalise the implementation of the YPS agenda by the Security Council, UN entities, and member states.

The report outlined progress in the implementation of the YPS agenda, noting that several member states and regional organisations have developed new strategies and initiatives to promote the inclusion and participation of young people in peace and security issues. The report stresses, however, that profound challenges persist, such as “growing mistrust between young people and governments, and discriminatory laws and practices based on age, which remain prevalent in many countries and hinder the meaningful participation of young people”. The report also highlights the surge in digital threats and armed conflicts and the shrinking of civic space across several countries, which pose serious protection concerns for young people.

DiCarlo and several member states are likely to reference some of the key recommendations contained in the report. These include calling on the Security Council to continue integrating and strengthening YPS elements in UN peace operations’ mandate renewals, ensuring sustained engagement for the advancement of the agenda, and strengthening protection protocols to ensure safe and meaningful participation of youth briefers in Council meetings.

At tomorrow’s meeting, the briefers might provide an overview of the implementation of the YPS agenda on the global and regional level. In his remarks at the ECOSOC Youth Forum today (16 April), Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the initiatives undertaken by the UN to strengthen youth engagement and to bring young persons into political decision-making. These include, among other things, the establishment of the UN Youth Office; facilitating a stronger role for youth in the Summit of the Future; and promoting sustainable development, including education and jobs for young people. Guterres also shared ideas for member states to advance the YPS agenda, such as establishing national youth consultative bodies, adopting a global standard for meaningful youth engagement in decision-making, and creating a UN Youth Townhall.

Member states may discuss their efforts to promote the YPS agenda in their national capacity, as well as through their involvement in regional organisations and their role as troop-contributing countries to peacekeeping missions. Some members might refer to initiatives that have been taken by specific peace operations as practical examples of how UN missions support youth engagement in climate action and peace and security. Members may also highlight the underlying factors inhibiting the participation of youth in peace and security efforts, such as displacement, political exclusion, and lack of educational and employment opportunities. They may also discuss ways to support youth involvement in peacebuilding efforts, including through capacity-building and provision of financial support for such initiatives.

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