What's In Blue

Posted Sat 25 May 2024

Debate on the Role of Women and Young People in the Maintenance of Peace and Security

On Tuesday (28 May), the Security Council will hold a debate titled “Maintenance of international peace and security: the role of women and young people”. One of the signature events of Mozambique’s May presidency, the meeting will be chaired by Mozambican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo. The anticipated briefers are Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs Felipe Paullier, UN Women Executive Director Sima Sami Bahous, and AU Youth Ambassador for Peace for West Africa Simone Mbode Diouf.

According to a concept note prepared by Mozambique, the debate intends to “recentre and identify synergies” between the Security Council’s agendas on women, peace and security (WPS) and youth, peace and security (YPS), focusing in particular on young women at a time when civic space in conflict-affected areas continues to contract. The concept note says that the debate aims to promote a “nuanced and intersectional approach to peace and security, which recognizes the diverse experiences, roles and needs of young people, especially young women”. It argues that looking at YPS through a gender lens “can help to prevent a new generation from replicating the same patterns and patriarchal power structures that limit gender equality but benefit young men” and contends that the WPS agenda should also address young women’s needs and experiences and address their priorities and concerns.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion, including:

  • What role can the Security Council play in ensuring the meaningful participation of women and young people in maintaining peace and security, including through strengthening YPS elements in the mandates of UN field missions?
  • What concrete measures, such as national action plans, can be implemented by member states to enable the meaningful participation of young people, particularly young women, in maintaining peace and security?
  • How can young people contribute to conflict prevention, management, and resolution efforts and what can be done to build confidence and trust between young people and those in positions of leadership and authority and law enforcement?

Tuesday’s debate will be the first time that Paullier briefs the Security Council in his capacity as Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs after assuming this role in October 2023. (UN General Assembly resolution 76/306 of 12 September 2022, which called for the establishment of a UN Youth Office, stipulated that the office would lead engagement and advocacy for the advancement of youth issues across the UN in the areas of peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights, among other issues.)

DiCarlo and Paullier are expected to present some of the key findings of the third biennial report of the Secretary-General on YPS, which was published on 1 March and covers the period between January 2022 to December 2023. The report outlines 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”.

Paullier is likely to focus on the protection and partnerships pillars of the 1 March report as well as on several aspects of the participation pillar. He may describe how escalating conflicts around the world are posing serious challenges for the lives of young people, such as shrinking civic space. Paullier may also highlight positive contributions of young people in the peace and security domain and call on member states to promote sustained momentum to advance the YPS agenda in multilateral forums. He may highlight several recommendations of the biennial report, including its call for strengthening protection protocols to “ensure the safe and meaningful participation of young briefers” at Security Council meetings. DiCarlo might focus on the prevention pillar and the disengagement and reintegration pillar of the 1 March report as well as issues such as participation in peace processes and elections.

Bahous might highlight examples of how young women and adolescent girls are disproportionately affected by harm that often targets women in conflict situations, such as sexual violence, trafficking, and loss of education. She is also likely to reference positive examples and best practices in terms of inclusion of young women in peacebuilding and decision-making processes and may refer to programmes supported by UN Women and other UN entities in this regard. Among other recommendations, Bahous might call for the implementation of measures to give concrete actualisation to rhetorical support for women’s participation in decision-making processes.

Diouf is likely to highlight the interconnections between the YPS and the WPS agendas, while also recognising the differences between the agendas and their targets. She may draw on a paper issued in April by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders on actualising the nexus between the WPS and YPS agendas and highlight examples of the work of young women leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) towards the adoption of a National Action Plan (NAP) on YPS. She might also reference relevant AU instruments and initiatives, such as the AU African Youth Charter. Diouf is likely to provide several recommendations, including for robust YPS language in the draft Pact of the Future document, ahead of the Summit of the Future in September. She might also recommend considering the specific needs of young women in NAPs on WPS and further funding and institutionalising of the YPS agenda.

In line with the focus of the debate, Council members are expected to address several aspects of the Security Council’s WPS and YPS agendas and may focus in particular on the synergies between them. For instance, several members might identify ways in which adopting a gender perspective could strengthen the YPS agenda, and how considering youth or age-specific concerns might also benefit the implementation of the WPS agenda. It seems, however, that these members will take care to avoid suggesting that the WPS and YPS agenda be merged or addressed together uncritically, and may instead highlight how women and youth face specific, although at times intersecting, opportunities and needs.

Many members are expected to express support for women and youth’s meaningful participation in peace processes and, more broadly, in political decision-making. Several members are also expected to highlight specific issues at the debate, including women and girls’ right to education and the importance of guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health and rights to young women. These members are likely to echo some of the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s latest report on YPS, such as its call for integration and strengthening of YPS elements in mandate renewals and to “call upon missions to integrate youth in all relevant mandated areas”, or the call to “[e]xpand investments in human capital, and foster inclusive economic and employment opportunities for young people through targeted policies and programmes”.

Some participants may express concern about developments in specific contexts—such as in Afghanistan, Gaza, Yemen, and Syria—and might highlight national and international initiatives supporting women and youth engagement in political and public life.

While notable implementation gaps persist, Council members are generally supportive of the WPS agenda. Dynamics on the file remain difficult, however, with Russia and China often challenging the inclusion of language on WPS in Security Council products. Russia has regularly argued that the Security Council should focus its work on situations that pose a direct threat to international peace and security and that its engagement on WPS should be limited to the consideration of “women’s issues in a context of the maintenance of peace and security and in connection to situations that are on the Council’s agenda”, since human rights and the role of women are already discussed in other UN forums.

China and Russia apparently presented similar arguments during the negotiations on resolution 2419 of 6 June 2018 on YPS, namely that YPS matters be dealt with by other parts of the UN system. While it seems that both countries subsequently took a milder position during negotiations on the most recent resolution on YPS, resolution 2535, Russia apparently opposed including an annual reporting requirement on YPS accompanied by a set of global indicators to track implementation. At the 17 April debate on “The role of young persons in addressing security challenges in the Mediterranean”, which was organised by Malta as one the signature events of its April presidency, Russia again expressed sceptical views regarding the YPS agenda, questioning Malta’s meeting focus for “singl[ing] out” youth from the broader issue of security in the Mediterranean and arguing against the involvement of people under 18 in “political life”.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications