Today’s world is home to the largest generation in history: 1.8 billion young people, 90 percent of whom reside in developing countries. Youth are a cross-cutting priority at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development driving our societies forward in the prevention and resolution of conflicts ultimately sustaining our development. Therefore, it is imperative to work with, and for, youth increasing our peace dividends which can be leveraged to build the foundations for lasting peace within our communities, nations, regions and the world.
Young people around the world have a critical role to play in raising awareness and developing new strategies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms, including their proliferation. It is imperative to listen, engage and work with this generation in discussions on disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control issues.
Secretary-General Guterres has made a major push to empower youth, noting their role as the leaders of tomorrow and insisting the next generation must have a say in how their future will be shaped. He articulates in his Agenda for Disarmament: Securing Our Common Future, how young people have been a tremendous force for change in the world, noting how they have “proved their power time and again in support of the cause of disarmament. Young campaigners have worked at the forefront of successful international campaigns to ban landmines, cluster munitions and nuclear weapons.”
The UN Youth Strategy notes that only by engaging and working with youth, supporting them and creating the conditions which allow them to progress and play an active role, will the international community be able to achieve peace, security and sustainable development for all.
The Youth, Peace and Security Agenda
The Youth, Peace and Security Agenda has gained momentum in recent years and marks a shift in the understanding of who young people are and their role for peace and security. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015) is the first international policy framework that recognizes the positive role young people play in preventing and resolving conflict, countering violent extremism and building peace. The Resolution recognises “the important and positive contribution of youth in efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security … [and affirms] … the important role youth can play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and as a key aspect of the sustainability, inclusiveness and success of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.” In its subsequent Resolution 2419 (2018) on youth, peace and security, the United Nations Security Council further recognises the positive role young people can play in negotiating and implementing peace agreements and urged stakeholders to take young people’s views into account and facilitate their equal and full participation in peace and decision making processes at all levels. The third such resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council 2535 (2020) encourages Member States to support and integrate youth into decision-making processes and recognises the unique role youth can play in strengthening the national, local and community-based capacities in conflict and post-conflict situations. The resolution calls for increased engagement in the implementation of United Nation Security Council resolution 2250 (2015), 2419 (2018) and 2535 (2020), to institutionalise the agenda and develop guidance on the protection of young people.
The important and positive contribution that young people can make in sustaining peace and security was reaffirmed by the UN General Assembly through its unanimous support for a new resolution A/Res/74/64 entitled, Youth, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, adopted on 12 December 2019. The resolution encourages participation of young people in discussions on disarmament and non-proliferation, calls upon countries and international organizations to consider developing relevant policies and programmes for youth engagement, and stresses the importance of education and capacity-building of young people in the area.
The Role of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs
Recognizing the importance of young people to bring about change, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) launched its youth outreach initiative, “#Youth4Disarmament” in 2019 to engage, educate and empower young people with the aim of facilitating their meaningful and inclusive participation in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. By placing youth engagement and empowerment at the core of its disarmament education efforts, the Office for Disarmament Affairs aims to support the Secretary-General’s recommendation to improve youth access to technical support and capacity-building while providing space for their participation.
UNODA is accomplishing this initiative through: a conversation series on issues related to disarmament; a dedicated digital platform, Youth4Disarmament.org; a contest, “75 Words for Disarmament Youth Challenge”; and through other outreach initiatives. In addition, UNODA runs the “UN Youth Champions for Disarmament” project and, in partnership with DPPA, a ‘Steering Committee’ of young leaders in Northeast Asia.
The “#Youth4Disarmament” outreach initiative was recognized as the Best Coalition Building Project of 2020 by the Billion Acts of Peace Award, an activity of the Peace Jam Foundation and fourteen Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Through the #Youth4Disarmament initiative, the Office for Disarmament Affairs will continue to connect geographically diverse young people with experts to learn about current international security challenges, the work of the United Nations and how to actively participate. The Office aims to impart knowledge and skills to young people and empower them to make their contribution to disarmament and sustaining peace as national and world citizens.
Useful disarmament-related websites for Youth
- #Youth4Disarmament Website
- Disarmament Education Website
- UNODA’s First eLearning Module providing an introduction to Disarmament
- Factsheets on Disarmament Issues
- Disarmament: A Basic Guide
- Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do!
- World is Over-Armed and Peace is Underfunded infographic
- History of Disarmament as Written by Nobel Peace Laureates
- How Weapons Control Fosters Development infographic