“Youth participation can increase the legitimacy and sustainability of peace processes. But to move from exclusion to meaningful inclusion, we must transform norms, practices, approaches and attitudes, and recognize young people as equal and powerful actors who can positively contribute to all steps and all aspects of peace processes.”
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Foreword of the “We are Here report”
Meaningful inclusion of young people is key to the commitment in the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind”, and the role that young people play in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies in particular (SDG 16) is fundamental.”
The adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security in 2015 has paved the way for youth inclusive peace processes as it urges Member States to give youth a greater voice in decision-making at the local, national, regional and international levels and to consider setting up mechanisms that would enable young people to participate meaningfully in peace processes.
The Secretary-General was requested to carry out a Progress Study on youth’s positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution, which led to the Independent Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security: The Missing Peace (2018). The progress study served as a basis for the second UNSC resolution 2419 (2018).
The question “How can young people be effectively included and participate in peace processes?” had not been fully answered, nor given adequate attention until the first International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes, which took place in Helsinki, Finland on 5-6 March 2019. The Symposium brought together over 100 participants from 45 different countries, with expertise on peace and meditation processes. Participants included young peacebuilders, senior-level peace mediators and negotiators, government ministers, United Nations, African Union, and European Union representatives.
As part of the organization of the Symposium, the first global policy paper on youth participation in peace processes was developed . The Global Policy Paper We are Here: An Integrated Approach to Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes’ articulated for the first time that inclusion and participation of youth in peace processes cuts across three interconnected layers of engagement In the Room (youth participation within the formal peace architecture and structures, inside the room during peace negotiations and political dialogues), Around the Room (young people not directly in the room, but close to the peace agreement through formal or informal mechanisms and who are able to get in the room) and Outside the Room (young people who engage and participate through informal and alternative approaches).
Initially scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar in 2020, the Global Conference was held virtually on 19-21 January 2022.
The Global Conference built on the progress made since the adoption of UNSCR 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security in 2015 and on the International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes in Helsinki. One of the outcomes of the conference was the launch of a Strategic Action Plan for youth-inclusive peace processes, which builds on recommendations made in the Global Policy Paper We are Here.
2016 Estimate from the Institute for Economics and Peace show that more than 408 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29 live in settings affected by organized violence and armed conflict.
“Young people have been shown to create constructive and alternative channels to conflict resolution, have long-term mindsets on peace, and focus on just issues that underpin healthy, peaceful, and equitable societies – yet, they are rarely engaged as key strategic partners in mediation processes. Recognizing that younger generations will ultimately inherit and face the lived realities, consequences, and implementation of peace agreements, actors engaged in peace processes processes must be accountable for the legacies they will leave behind. Also, the diverse youth voices will be key in addressing the multifaceted and interconnected issues that enable sustainable peace”
We must move beyond seeing youth as mere beneficiaries of these processes, but rather as necessary partners and co-leaders essential in the prevention of violence, building of peace, and reconstruction of just and inclusive societies.”