Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy Decries ‘Policy Panic’ Stemming from Unfounded Assumptions that Young People Are Violent
Contrary to common perception, young people were not a nagging problem, but rather, powerful agents for resolving and preventing conflict throughout the world, the Security Council heard today during an open debate on youth, peace and security that featured the first‑ever United Nations report on the topic.
Titled “Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security”, the 23‑page report —reflecting the views of 4,000 young people — was mandated by Council resolution 2250 (2015). Its lead author, Graeme Simpson, emphasizing that nearly a quarter of the world’s 1.8 billion people aged 18 to 29 lived in situations of violence, spoke of a growing trust gap between young people and their Governments, multilateral organizations and civil society.
Stereotypes of youth as a “young man with a gun” or of young women as passive victims were pervasive, he said, while policymakers wrongly assumed that young refugees posed new threats. “There is little or no evidence to support this ‘policy panic’,” he said. He proposed a “bold reorientation”, pressing Member States and the multilateral system to move away from remedial responses to genuine prevention efforts, alongside new social norms that did not demonize, romanticize or patronize youth.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary‑General’s Envoy on Youth, said today was an opportunity for the Council to redress that mistrust. Young people must be key stakeholders in peacebuilding strategies and action plans, and feel that their votes counted. She recalled meeting youth in Iraq, Somalia and Colombia who described how resolution 2250 (2015) was helping to close the trust deficit. “We need to build up on this momentum,” she said, calling for youth to be put atop the United Nations agenda.
With that in mind, Sophia Pierre‑Antoine, Member of the Advisory Council of the World Young Women’s Christian Association, said Haitian youth toiled daily to ensure security in their streets, peace in their homes and justice in their communities. Warning against a toxic masculinity that allowed people to view young men in a negative light, she recommended investing in young people and the fight against racism, and ensuring that both age and gender remained integral to peace and security discussions.
Kessy Ekomo-Soignet, Executive Director of Organisation URU, said 72 per cent of the population in the Central African Republic — among the most dangerous places to be a young person — was under age 35. Many strove tirelessly to end violence and promote social cohesion. “We are there with you to build the peace that we all want to see,” she said, proposing that $1.8 billion — one dollar for every young person on the planet — be invested in youth to underscore their role in building peace.
Ministers, senior officials and representatives from many of the 69 Member States emphasized the value of education and employment to undermine the corrosive effects of terrorism and violent extremism. Several also emphasized the role of young people in making the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development an effective tool for conflict prevention and mitigation.
“We have to turn away from the myopic perspective that focuses on youth as a problem that needs to be solved or pinpoints only the small number of those who are involved in violence,” said the Deputy Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia. She recommended raising the visibility of the Council’s youth, peace and security agenda, stressing that young people should be recognized as partners in building peace, and as leaders in addressing their own marginalization.
In the same vein, Brazil’s delegate said the international community must address the socioeconomic, cultural and political factors that led young people to violence. His Government had prioritized youth in efforts related to conflict and post‑conflict contexts, including in its role as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission Guinea‑Bissau configuration.
Jordan’s representative said her Government had launched a youth, peace and security agenda with a view to realizing young people’s potential. To counter terrorism, investments must be made, beyond policies, through measures to address inequalities and boost opportunities for youth.
Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate described young people as “dynamic forces” capable of strengthening the foundation of societies. Citing national efforts, he said the “Enable Youth” programme supported young entrepreneurs, while a National Council of Young People acted as a “General Assembly” for Ivorian youth. He called for the creation of viable platforms that allowed young people to engage in peace and security decisions at the national, regional and global levels.
Japan’s speaker echoed the call to overcome negative stereotypes of young people, and at the same time, increase efforts to empower them. In some cases, young women and sexual minorities had been deprived access to power, resources, and political participation. Drawing attention to mental health care — an issue that often was not a priority — he said psychosocial support for young people was imperative for peacebuilding and reconstruction.
The representative of the Russian Federation said young people — with an unformed worldview — were an extremely vulnerable layer of society. It was up to States to counter the influence of terrorists, radicals and “political evil‑doers” by bolstering young people’s resilience, notably by strengthening family values. The Council had neither the right nor the knowledge to wrest such discussions from the experts. Issues not directly related to international peace and security should be considered by other platforms.
Also speaking today were representatives of Poland, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, United States, France, Ethiopia, United Kingdom, Sweden, Netherlands, China, Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, Peru, Belgium, Maldives, Iceland, Turkey, Kenya, Estonia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Italy, Pakistan, Slovakia, Iraq, Denmark, Argentina, Iran, Bulgaria, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Ireland, Chile, South Africa, Yemen, Qatar, Israel, Indonesia, Panama, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Guatemala, Lebanon, Botswana, Canada, Uzbekistan, Luxembourg, Georgia, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Monaco, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Portugal, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Bahrain, as well as the European Union.
The Permanent Observer of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie also spoke, as did the Chair of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, and the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 6:30 p.m.
JAYATHMA WICKRAMANAYAKE, the Secretary‑General’s Envoy on Youth, said she had met — and shared heart‑wrenching stories with — hundreds of young people in conflict‑affected areas around the world. Some of them, without resources or institutional support, were leading exceptional peacebuilding initiatives in their communities, schools, refugee camps and townships. “Today, we celebrate these young peacebuilders,” she said. Referring to the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security (document A/72/761-S/2018/86), she said it was not every day that the Security Council gathered around an independent report — one of the most participatory processes ever undertaken with United Nations support — carrying the voices of 4,000 young people from around the world and representing the aspirations of millions more. Resolution 2250 (2015), which requested the Secretary‑General to carry out the Progress Study, was a beacon of hope to countless young men and women risking their lives to address conflict, violent extremism and the need for peace.
Indeed, the Progress Study had made a critical contribution to discussions on building and sustaining peace, she said. On the eve of the high‑level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, organized by the President of the General Assembly, it demonstrated that young people were starting to be seen as “the missing peace”. Emphasizing that the youth, peace and security agenda intersected the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said the Progress Study could feed ongoing thinking among Member States about United Nations reform. It offered a new narrative on the role of young people, recognizing that only a small minority of them engaged in violence and warning against “policy panic” triggered by unfounded assumptions that youth were violent.
“The complex nature of peacebuilding and conflict prevention requires us to tap into the potential and creativity of young people,” she said, adding that the Council had an opportunity to redress the mistrust between young people, their Governments and the multilateral system by opening new paths for youth participation. It could do so by supporting the peacebuilding work of young people with recognition, funding and protection. Priority should be given to ensuring that they had a space at the peace table. Young people also must be key stakeholders in peacebuilding strategies and action plans, and feel that their votes counted, including through the removal of age restrictions on political participation. She went on to recall that youth in Iraq, Somalia and Colombia had told her how resolution 2250 (2015) was helping to close a trust deficit between young people and the international community. “We need to build up on this momentum,” she said, asking the Council to place young people on the “most important” agenda for the Council and the United Nations.
GRAEME SIMPSON, Lead Author, “Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security”, said the Secretary‑General had appointed him to study the exclusion and marginalization of 1.8 billion young people globally. Nearly a quarter of those — at least 408 million young people — lived in situations where they were exposed to violence. “In undertaking this study, it was clear that we could not afford to make the mistake of reproducing the very problem of exclusion that we were attempting to solve,” he said, underlining the study’s inclusive, participatory approach. To ensure the inclusion of young people who would not normally have a voice in such a study, 281 focus groups in 44 countries had been convened, and overall more than 4,200 had been included in the study.
Outlining a core message conveyed by the study’s participants, he said: “There is a growing trust gap between young people and their Governments, multilateral organizations and even international civil society organizations.” Calling for efforts to embrace that challenge — not fend it off — he said young people were also aware that they were, in turn, not trusted by their Governments and leaders. “Instead, they are treated as a ‘problem to be solved’ or worse still, as a threat,” he said, adding that stereotypes of youth as a “young man with a gun” or of young women as passive victims were pervasive. Some misleading policy assumptions were that the bulging youth population could provide an increased risk of conflict, that young refugees or migrants presented new threats of terrorism or violent crime, or that most young people were susceptible to recruitment by violent extremist groups.
“There is little or no evidence to support this ‘policy panic’,” he stressed. The vast majority of youth were not involved in violence. His study painted a picture of how young people were, instead, engaged in peace work in virtually every society around the world. Some worked in formal conflict prevention efforts, while others contributed to social cohesion through building peace at the most local levels. They were forging new pathways to peace through arts, culture, sports and especially the creative occupation of cyberspace, social media and the development of new technologies for peace. They contributed meaningfully to change through peaceful dissent and protest, challenging corruption, demanding freedom of movement and expression, seeking justice and protesting gun violence.
Presenting recommendations to make youth inclusion more meaningful — including by strengthening women’s involvement and cultivating positive ideas about masculinity — he proposed several major policy shifts and a “bold reorientation”. Member States and the multilateral system must move from remedial responses to genuine prevention efforts. That would require a significant shift from investing in “hard security”, based on risk, to investing in youth‑led peace work, based on resilience. It would require States to commit to new partnerships with civil society, especially groups that were youth‑focused and youth‑led. Importantly, it would require a new culture and new social norms that did not demonize, romanticize or patronize youth.
Outlining additional recommendations, he called for investments in young people’s capacities, agency and leadership; proposals for meaningful inclusion; and efforts to build national, regional and global partnerships through youth, peace and security coalitions at national levels. Dialogue and consultations platforms for youth — inside and outside the United Nations — were also needed. “This is the ‘missing peace’ in our world,” he concluded. “The question is not whether we address this, but about how.”
SOPHIA PIERRE-ANTOINE, Member of the Advisory Council of the World Young Women’s Christian Association, said she was born in Haiti in 1991 as a coup d’état unfolded. She had been a teenager when another coup took place in 2004. Recalling that her childhood — like those of many others of her generation — had been marked by periods of violence and political instability, she said that far from becoming frustrated, helpless victims, Haiti’s youth were leading a daily struggle to ensure security in their streets, peace in their homes and justice in their communities. When a 2010 earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians and displaced over a million people, the Young Women’s Christian Association — a locally‑led feminist non‑governmental organization — offered psychosocial support in camps for internally displaced persons. For years following the earthquake, they organized discussion groups and workshops to change the attitudes and gender norms that fostered violence and impunity within the camps and neighbouring communities, and became role models for younger women.
“In the communities I worked with, the rule of law was often not present,” she said, noting that local government and police were either absent, overwhelmed or complicit. Young men formed patrol groups to block gangs from entering their communities. Warning against the stereotypes and toxic masculinity that only allowed people to view young men in a negative light or that fostered unhealthy behaviours among them, she said she had taken part in the Latin American and Caribbean region’s consultations for the Progress Study, sharing her generation’s experiences, failures, setbacks, lessons learned and victories. “We were given a proper platform and a caring ear, and so we discussed openly,” she said. As a result, the study reflected testimonies of pain, loss and disillusion, but also stories of courage, hope and success.
Describing such inclusive research as rare, she said it was clear in the study’s outcome that young people did not want more weaponized forces that terrorized the poor, the indigenous, the racial and ethnic and minorities, those with disabilities and illnesses or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer youth. The huge amounts of money spent globally on military action should instead be spent on advancing the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals. Young people wanted positive, peaceful and practical solutions. She recommended investing in young people, trans youth, the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance, stressing the need for meaningful inclusion for young people of multiple identities. There was a need to ensure that age and gender were always an integral part of peace and security discussions. Finally, it was important to enable better access to more data and flexible funding, as well as allocate seats for young people in Governments, United Nations agencies and public and private sector leadership structures.
KESSY EKOMO-SOIGNET, Executive Director of Organisation URU, a youth‑led peacebuilding organization in the Central African Republic, said today was a key moment for reaffirming the role of youth in building a better world. Seventy‑two per cent of the population of the Central African Republic — among the most dangerous places in the world to be a young person — was younger than 35. However, the country’s place in global rankings was not set in stone. Young people were building peace in their communities, families and the world. Many worked tirelessly to end violence and promote dialogue and social cohesion. Resolution 2250 (2015) and the Progress Study were essential for their greater participation in the United Nations’ work. Too often, giving a place to youth was seen as doing a favour for them. It was important to ensure youth participation in the long run.
Only recently in the Central African Republic was the role of young people being highlighted, she said, giving them the feeling that they were contributing to their own future. “We are there with you to build the peace that we all want to see,” she said, adding that such partnership should take various forms, including a voice in significant strategic and financial decisions. Quotas should be established to ensure young people’s direct participation, with gender equality incorporated into all phases of transition from conflict to peace. Mechanisms should allow for fruitful debate with young people. Governments meanwhile should foster greater participation at all levels, including elected offices, and allow young people to take part in financial decisions. She also emphasized the rule of law and protection of young people from arrest and arbitrary detention, noting that young people must be “privileged partners” in implementing security and criminal justice reforms. In the run‑up to the tenth anniversary of resolution 2250 (2015), she proposed that one dollar be invested for every young person as a way to underscore their role in building peace.
JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said young people not only needed quality education, vocational training, skills development, access to digital technologies and services, but also employment and entrepreneurship activities. Offering them credible ways to contribute to their communities would ensure they did not become radicalized. If youth continued to be excluded from peacebuilding, instability and extremism would remain serious threats. The international community must mobilize resources to improve learning prospects and support inclusive labour policies, goals that formed an important part of Poland’s foreign policy. Young people were deeply committed to engaging in non‑governmental activities, he said, underscoring also their prominent role in solidarity movements in the 1980s. There was no alternative to investing in young people, giving them a voice in relevant decisions and building partnerships with them as a bridge to a more peaceful and prosperous world.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), expressing support for the Progress Study, said young people were not only a vulnerable sector of society but also positive agents of change, critical to realizing the 2030 Agenda. To harness their tremendous potential, young people must be provided with opportunities to engage in decision‑making, conflict prevention, peace negotiation, democratization, elections, institution‑building, the fight against corruption and disaster risk reduction. Voicing support for the Progress Study’s proposal to allocate $1.8 billion by 2025 — the tenth anniversary of resolution 2250 (2015) — he said the international community should develop a comprehensive framework relating to youth and the global security-development nexus. He also described Kazakhstan’s focus on poverty eradication, employment and education opportunities, and the “Countering Religious Extremism and Terrorism (2013‑2017)” programme.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said youth development was closely related to countries’ overall peace and security. Welcoming the Progress Study, he said many young people struggled for access to education, health care, jobs and freedom to realize their rights to expression and participation. Young people in the Arab world faced a 30 per cent unemployment rate — the highest in the world — as progress in education had not translated into decent jobs. Meanwhile, stereotypes, terrorism and the spread of conflict across the region were destroying young peoples’ dreams and holding their innocence “hostage”. For its part, Kuwait had created a State Ministry for Youth Affairs in 2013 and named Kuwait City as a “city of youth”. It also was investing in young people’s skills. He urged Member States to do likewise as a way to resist the forces of extremism and criminal network recruitment.
KELLEY A. ECKELS-CURRIE (United States) said her country defined young people as those under the age of 35. “The stakes cannot be higher for all of us,” she said, noting that, by that definition, there were more than 4.5 billion young people around the world, or 60 per cent of the global population. The United States had long invested in programmes and policies aimed at empowering youth, and next week, would recognize 10 outstanding young leaders working to drive positive change. They included a young Bangladeshi woman working with Rohingya refugees and a young man sparking positive change in the West Bank. In contrast to those positive examples, violent extremism was also a strong force luring young people by offering a sense of belonging. Member States should address both the push and pull factors of those ideologies, she said, calling for efforts to address underlying feelings of injustice by enabling young people’s freedom of expression, ensuring their access to economic and social opportunities and always raising their voices “above the fray” of geopolitical conflicts.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said it was important to fight stereotypes and to take stock of young people’s potential. Too often, young people were perceived as a burden or, in security situations, a threat. They suffered from discrimination and were excluded from decision‑making and job opportunities, when in fact they had the ability to mobilize and propose innovative solutions. Emphasizing the role of education, she said young people should be around the negotiating table and recognized as partners for peace. Effective and lasting partnerships should be encouraged between youth organizations, Governments, United Nations agencies, civil society and the private sector. France supported Peru’s proposal for a new resolution on youth, peace and security that would include appropriate links to the women, peace and security and children in armed conflict agendas. She also expressed support for Secretary‑General’s reports on the topic, with the United Nations as a whole making it possible to ensure greater participation by young people and better support for youth‑oriented sustainable development projects.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said it should be a matter of great concern that 408 million youth lived in areas affected by armed conflict or organized violence. It was also worrying to note the exclusion of youth from conflict prevention, post‑conflict and development efforts. At the national level, ensuring sustainable development should be the primary focus for preventing conflicts and sustaining peace. In that regard, providing access to education, basic services and decent work would be critical. The issue of youth refugees should be part of the discussion, she said, emphasizing also the critical role played by regional organizations such as the African Union. The Council should follow up recommendations in the Progress Study in the context of thematic issues and country‑specific situations under its agenda.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said young people, with their as yet unformed worldview and lacking education, were an extremely vulnerable layer of society. Young people were being fooled and used for illicit purposes under dishonest claims, he said, citing an unacceptable lax attitude of certain States towards nationalism and xenophobia. States were responsible for countering the influence of terrorists, radicals and “political evil‑doers” by bolstering young people’s resilience in relation to propaganda. Family values must also be strengthened, as many problems stemmed from neglect for those values and an excessive focus on individualism and the destruction of centuries‑old social norms. Artificial quotas and privileges based on age or gender were unacceptable. Stressing that the main responsibility for resolving international peace and security issues should not be shifted from the shoulders of adults, he said there must be no illusion that bringing the topic of youth before the Council would lead to a breakthrough. The Council had neither the right nor the knowledge to wrest such discussions from the experts. Issues not directly related to international peace and security should be considered by platforms created for that purpose.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), warning against the failure to consider the growing numbers of youth around the world, proposed the convening of a “youth and economic development” meeting in the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council as a complement to today’s meeting. Welcoming the Progress Study and its remarkably inclusive, consultative approach — which set a high standard for future Council reports — she echoed concerns that failing to harness young people’s potential could lead to exacerbated conflicts. In Syria, Afghanistan and Iran, “what youth think” could be an important indicator of potential reforms. Youth in the United Kingdom were encouraged to speak for themselves, she said, noting that the national Youth Council convened annually with almost a million participants in 2017 alone. Strategies to counter violent extremism must include youth, because young people better understood the narratives underpinning those recruitment efforts and could therefore be extremely effective in countering them. Investment in education, especially for girls, was also a top priority. “It is vital that our schools remain places of safety and are protected from conflict,” she said.
THÉODORE DAH (Côte d’Ivoire) called on Member States to involve young people in efforts to transform their societies by formally acknowledging their roles in conflict prevention and resolution. In line with resolution 2250 (2015) and the Progress Study, youth should be viewed as builders of peace and dynamic forces capable of strengthening the foundations of societies. Côte d’Ivoire was working to strengthen the role of young people, making them a main pillar of its national policy. A specific policy aimed at encouraging forums of young people to strengthen peace and security and counter violent extremism. Further, the “Enable Youth” programme supported young entrepreneurs, while a National Council of Young People acted as a “General Assembly” for the country’s youth. He called for the development of viable participation structures to allow young people to engage in peace and security decisions at the national, regional and global levels.
IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) said the sustaining peace agenda, 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change had together created an ambitious plan for the world. Youth, peace and security formed a crucial part of implementing that broad framework and advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies. “It is high time that we break the destructive narrative of young people as drivers of conflict, or as victims,” she said. Instead, we must harness their full potential and leadership. A prerequisite for youth engagement was their political, social, cultural and economic empowerment and the protection of their universal human rights. She went on to highlight the need to engage, listen and invest in youth, while ensuring that no one was left behind.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said youth had the potential to act as a transformative force in peacefully bringing about change, as had been seen in Prague, Indonesia, Tunisia and Egypt. Integrating their thoughts and views more structurally into the Council’s work was needed, as was a whole‑of‑United Nations approach. Attention must focus on youth in the Peacebuilding Commission and their participation was sought in the high‑level event on sustaining peace. Further, their role should be more strongly referenced in mandates and reporting of peacekeeping and political missions, as was the case with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). In addition, resolution 2250 (2015) must be translated to the different contexts and needs of young people, she said, encouraging regions to follow the European Union’s example of devising an agenda to support youth, peace and security efforts.
WU HAITAO (China) said resolute efforts must be made to crack down on terrorism and violent extremism given their corrosive influence on youth. More should also be done to resolve flashpoint political situations, to help conflict areas achieve peace and stability, and to create a serene environment for young people to grow and develop. Full play must be given to the advantages of youth in peace processes, while also addressing the causes of conflict, such as extreme poverty and the scarcity of resources. The international community must help developing countries achieve sustainable development, including youth education, while the United Nations should strengthen cooperation with the African Union and other regional and subregional organizations by supporting their youth‑oriented programmes.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) said the results of the Progress Study had given rise to great hope. Most young people not only wanted to participate in peace process, but they had a firm commitment to peace in their communities and countries. She welcomed some of the Progress Study’s recommendations to build alliances and collect better data on young people, peace and security so as to ensure full implementation of Council resolutions. Emphasizing that many of the world’s young people were refugees or displaced, she said that in Africa, a set of adverse factors — including unemployment, unequal development and trade inequities — had made youth vulnerable to terrorist groups such as Al‑Qaida. However, as the Progress Study stated, young people wanted peace, and they were working for it.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said regime change policies had created damage which impacted youth. Resolution 2250 (2015) was a good starting point, but it was not enough. Young people’s social and economic inclusion must be bolstered, and their participation considered during conflicts and afterwards, he said, citing Colombia as an example. To help prevent conflict, the views of youth‑led organizations must be taken into account. The international community should support young people with flexible financing, as well as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts. He went on to underscore the situation of young people in the Occupied Palestinian territories, calling on the international community to respect and protect their rights.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, noting that young people could make important contributions to peace and security as well as conflict resolution, justice and reconciliation. Youth must not be seen as a problem, he stressed, voicing support for the Council’s consideration of the issue as a standing agenda item. Inclusive, safe spaces for young people must be established in local communities, he said, while Member States should work to promote peaceful societies, combat discrimination and set aside stereotypes of young people. Youth delegates should be facilitated to participate as delegates in United Nations bodies. Noting that Peru, along with Sweden, would submit a related draft resolution, which he hoped would be supported by all Council members, he said the time had come for “a radical shift” that acknowledged young people as a missing element in the quest for peace.
DIDIER REYNDERS, Deputy Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, associating himself with the European Union, said the Progress Study had swept aside traditional stereotypes about young people and instead underscored the need to provide them with quality education to help them become aware, open‑minded citizens. Shifting the perspective from fear to opportunity would help countries move towards inclusion and better address challenges, he said, spotlighting Belgium’s commitment to deploying youth delegates to various international meetings. The promotion of human rights — a precondition for peace and security — meant placing a special focus on the rights of young people, who should be acknowledged as essential partners and involved in decisions at all levels. Belgium would ensure that a positive youth perspective was incorporated into the work of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, pressing the Council to follow up on the important recommendations of the Progress Study.
MARIJA PEJČINOVIČ BURIČ, Deputy Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, associating herself with the European Union, expressed support for raising the visibility of the Council’s youth, peace and security agenda. Too little was being done at all levels to harness the potential of the world’s 1.8 billion young people, who should be recognized as partners and agents in peacebuilding and sustaining peace, and as leaders in addressing their own marginalization. “We have to turn away from the myopic perspective that focuses on youth as a problem that needs to be solved or pinpoints only the small number of those who are involved in violence,” she said. The issue was especially pronounced in the global response to terrorism and the threat posed by violent extremism. Warning against relying on generalizations and stereotypes, she said countries should instead work to strengthen young people’s sense of safety and inclusion. Education, employment and counter‑discrimination approaches would be critical, she said.
MOHAMED ASIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, said the extraordinary energy and passion of young people could be used to enhance peace and security. Policy and institutional reforms should be explored to engage youth more productively and create an environment in which peace could prevail. In many countries, young people were often wrongly stereotyped and stigmatized as the culprits of instability. Consequently, national strategies were often formulated with a view of youth as an issue to be dealt with, overlooking their potential. Rather, it was often external social and economic circumstances that had led to their involvement in activities that disrupted peace and security. He went on to highlight the importance of partnerships to enhance youth engagement through art, sports and media.
GUDLAUGUR THÓR THÓRDARSON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, said that as the current generation was better connected than ever before, it was well placed to identify when Government and democracy were working and how deprivation, human rights abuses and inequality was undermining peace and prosperity. Knowing that peace meant more than the absence of violence, young people wanted to safeguard the planet, as climate change was a potential cause of conflict. The study, noting that Governments tended to treat youth as a problem rather than a partner, made useful recommendations which the Council could more closely consider, including in shaping mandates that addressed their impact on young people. Including youth in conflict prevention was also essential for success.
MEVLUT ÇAVUŞOǦLU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said the 1.8 billion young people globally — the largest youth generation in history — were a key asset for the future. Yet, extremist ideologies, radicalization and terrorism were targeting them around the world. Xenophobia, anti‑Islam sentiment, ethnic and religious discrimination and socioeconomic marginalization were the causes of radicalization among youth. In Turkey, where half the population was under the age of 31 and more than 900,000 Syrian youth resided, the Government had developed policies to address their needs. Emphasizing the responsibility of decision‑makers and politicians, he said the rise of extremism in Western Europe was partly due to the divisive language used by some politicians. That approach was a “dangerous game”, he said, calling instead for messages of unity.
MARGARET KOBIA, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs of Kenya, said about 78 per cent of Kenyans were below the age of 35. Young people faced challenges not only in accessing the negotiating table but also influencing the discussions and decisions once they were part of the negotiation process. To reduce such barriers, Kenya had begun to develop a national action plan for implementing resolution 2250 (2015), which would involve youth groups, civil society, international organizations, academia and the private sector, among others. Outlining efforts to make existing Government bodies more inclusive, she said new guidelines for peace structures now mandated that for every 15 members, there should be both male and female youth representation. Peace groups known as “Amani Clubs” had been established from primary to university‑level classrooms; each public and private university had put in place “peace ambassadors”; and youth groups had been established in informal settlements across Kenya’s rural areas.
VÄINO REINART, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, associating himself with the European Union, expressed hope that the Council would follow up on the Progress Study recommendations. Conflict prevention must place inclusion at its heart, while also addressing structural inequalities and the social, political and economic exclusion that contributed to youth poverty, violence and powerlessness. All young people must therefore be supported in accessing education and labour markets and realizing their human rights, while countries should promote the rule of law and gender equality, as well as reach out to their most marginalized young people. Also calling for broad‑based, people‑centred partnerships that meaningfully included youth, women and civil society, he said young people’s enthusiasm, idealism, energy and innovation could contribute to peacebuilding.
SRDAN DARMANOVIČ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, associating himself with the European Union, said young voices were distinctly underrepresented on issues that concerned them, including peacebuilding and conflict prevention. Their potential to facilitate peace processes — both as stakeholders and decision‑-makers — was often undermined, he said, noting that many talented and creative young people were pioneering social media tools and other ways to reach the population. Montenegro’s National Youth Strategy (2017‑2021) focused on facilitating young people’s access to labour markets and employment, education, decision‑making and policy creation, quality health care and culture. Describing the national Youth Empowerment Programme, he said Montenegro was also connecting young people from across the Western Balkans by establishing the first liaison office for the new Regional Youth Cooperation Office.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, aligning himself with the European Union, said the 1.8 billion young people around the world could play a crucial role in building a more peaceful world. That could be achieved by ensuring inclusive youth policies aimed at social integration. In Ukraine, young people were among those who had suffered most from Russian aggression in Crimea and Donbass, losing quality education and work. He urged the Russian Federation to end its wrongful acts in the autonomous republic of Crimea, city of Sevastopol and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Indeed, repelling foreign aggression was not the fate Ukraine had envisioned for its younger generation. At the same time, Ukraine was committed to strengthening the potential of its youth, creating equal opportunities and guaranteeing equal rights. Indeed, the empowerment of youth and youth organizations was essential in determining a proper response to violence.
PASCALE BAERISWYL, State Secretary of Switzerland, said young people “will have to live with the choices we make today”. Calling for their inclusion in that decision‑making, she described several political participation initiatives currently under way, including the African and European Youth Parliaments. Noting that youth inclusivity was especially important in conflict situations, she said young people in Syria would be instrumental in reaching a sustainable solution to their country’s conflict. For that reason, Switzerland had supported the Civil Society Support Room in Geneva since 2016, where more than 1,000 participants — many under the age of 30 —had come to represent the over 400 Syrian non‑governmental organizations participating in United Nations‑led peace talks. Expressing concern that half of refugees today were under age 18 and had spent more time in displacement and exile than in school — resulting in “lost generations” of youth — she called for investing in quality education, especially in fragile contexts.
CHRISTIAN LEFFLER, European Union, said the bloc had contributed to the Progress Study by holding a regional consultation and applauded the envisaged adoption of a new Council resolution on youth. The vast majority of young people lived in low‑income countries, many affected by conflict. Many wanted to be heard, take action and lead. The agenda promised to recognize and empower their aspirations. The European Union challenged generalizations identifying young people with a risk of violence, mistaking young men for potential perpetrators and young women as victims. The overwhelming majority of youth were peaceful, but too little was being done to harness their potential. For its part, the bloc promoted broad‑based, people‑centred peacebuilding coalitions. Efforts included meeting more than 200 young peacebuilders from almost 50 countries and hosting in May an inclusive conference on youth, peace and security in Brussels. Youth investment on four continents included the launch of a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) project to strengthen resilience and civic engagement in conflict‑affected eastern Ukraine and the creation of a follow‑up mechanism to ensure the continuous inclusion of young people in the Africa‑European Union partnership.
ANNE SIPILÄINEN, Under-Secretary of State for Development Policy and Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, noting positive elements of the Progress Study, said it was clear that an inclusive approach to peacebuilding was needed to achieve quality results. In most societies suffering from conflict, women were underrepresented in formal and informal decision‑making while many youth remained marginalized from political processes. Finland strongly supported resolution 1325 (2000) and Finnish youth had played a strong role in promoting resolution 2250 (2015). Going forward, youth perspectives should be mainstreamed in future resolutions. The study had demonstrated that mutual trust between young people and Governments was a prerequisite for improving their participation.
JENS FRØLICH HOLTE, State Secretary of Norway, encouraged at an early stage the inclusion of young women and men in peace negotiations and conflict resolution. For its part, Norway had prioritized education, doubling its support over the last four years to ensure schooling for more than 3 million boys and girls globally. At the national level, Norway had developed legislative frameworks to ensure young people’s participation in policymaking and established programmes to promote the inclusion of refugee and migrant youth in Norwegian society. Moreover, an action plan against radicalization and violent extremism outlined a strategic, cross‑cultural approach. Looking ahead, Norway would continue to empower young people to be agents of change in their communities, not only to prevent violent extremism but to address its causes.
SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) said resolution 2250 (2015) had helped to change a stereotype of youth as a problem rather than a solution. Challenges in the Middle East had negatively affected youth, removing opportunities such as education in the face of conflict. Prevention efforts must consider young people, she said, noting that Jordan had launched a youth, peace and security agenda that recognized the importance of their perspectives with a view to realizing their potential. Highlighting several counter‑terrorism initiatives and efforts to prevent violent extremism, she said investments must be made, beyond policies, through measures to address inequalities and boost opportunities for youth. Forward steps could include information sharing on best practices and enhancing the media’s role to recognize young people’s positive contributions. For its part, Jordan had supported a wide range of projects to help youth overcome challenges they faced.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, said young people were a vital driver for peace as their idealism, creativity and energy could provide a meaningful contribution to peace efforts at all stages. For its part, Italy had recently committed to projects aimed at including youth in sustainable development and peace initiatives, and empowering them. He encouraged the creation of a working group on youth, peace and security, similar to the one on women established in relation to resolution 1325 (2000).
ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said youth comprised the largest age group in many conflict‑affected countries, suffering disproportionately. Often, youth were stigmatized as being perpetrators instead of being partners that could contribute to peacebuilding and conflict prevention. The international community must address the socioeconomic, cultural and political factors that led young people to violence. For its part, Brazil had prioritized youth in efforts related to conflict and post‑conflict contexts and in building sustainable peace, including in its role as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission Guinea‑Bissau configuration.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that, despite being repositories of the world’s greatest hopes, young people found themselves at the forefront of some of its biggest challenges. They faced socioeconomic inequalities, political and social exclusion, discrimination and a lack of fair opportunity. The young were also some of the worst victims in situations of armed conflict, humanitarian crises, foreign occupation and long‑standing and unresolved disputes. Yet, the fundamental causes enraging youth were often conspicuous by their absence in discourse on such issues. “If one has nothing to live for, one finds something to die for,” she said, before calling on the international community to break the nexus between desperation and hopelessness. For far too long, young men had been considered perpetrators of violence and young women as victims. While a small minority of youth took to violence, sweeping mischaracterizations of young populations had exacerbated their sense of marginalization. In that light, it was time to recognize that youth were not merely instruments of war‑making, but essential peacebuilding partners.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), aligning himself with the European Union, said the Progress Study recommendations were an important contribution to an evolving framework for action. He encouraged the Council to consider the critical issues and areas for intervention recommended by the study, as public grievances and violence against the State were often driven by politics of exclusion. Exposure to such destabilizing factors could have a profound effect on the future of young people and their relationship to justice and the rule of law. He emphasized the need for greater awareness and understanding among young people about the security sector, as well as the threats it faced. Moreover, young people must assume an active role in the restoration of justice and security as a priority in post‑conflict peacebuilding. In the long run, creating an environment for young people to participate and engage in public life — while facilitating their access to education and employment — was the best strategy for decreasing the risk of violence and increasing human security.
MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq) said that youth were the main reason behind international efforts to achieve peace. Iraq had suffered from many wars that had depleted the potential of its youth. Now, it sought to invest in them to ensure their participation in decision‑making, liberating their land, and combating terrorism. Indeed, Iraq wanted to make young people agents of peace. The national youth strategy, developed in cooperation with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), featured projects to promote positive ideologies, cooperation and solidarity. Iraq also sought to promote sports as an alternative to violence, and encouraged the participation of youth in elections. Iraq’s youth parliament had held its first session last year, creating a free and democratic space, while the Government had developed a human development report, now at the heart of its efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. More broadly, Iraq’s reconstruction efforts were based on young people and extended to its diaspora, which his Government was encouraging to return to invest in the country’s potential.
JONAS BERING LIISBERG, State Secretary of Denmark, said his Government was a strong supporter of Council resolution 2250 (2015) and had sponsored a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study on youth’s role in supporting peace and stability. “If we did not listen to them, they could be a source of instability and conflict,” he said, adding that young people were not only the leaders of tomorrow, but crucial partners of today. At the same time, he called for the inclusion of youth in peace processes and policy development. The Council resolution was not enough in and of itself; success lay in its implementation. He cited the group Think Peace in Mali, which was working to mitigate violent confrontation ahead of the upcoming elections in the country, as a positive example. Indeed, youth were crucial agents of change, but we must unlock their potential and give them the best conditions possible to promote peace and stability, he said.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), recognizing the important role youth could play in preventing and resolving conflict, said they were also instruments of peace and dialogue, especially in combating poverty, violence and intolerance. Conflict hampered young people’s educational and employment opportunities, leaving them vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups. A sharp focus was needed on the causes of conflict and on the importance of finding solutions that included young people, notably through the 2030 Agenda and the Peacebuilding Commission. For its part, Argentina supported UNICEF efforts to protect children and young people affected by conflict.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said that while the world had been bestowed with the largest youth population ever, it was a challenge to empower and encourage them to participate in decision-making. In recent years, extreme ideologies and terrorist groups had threatened peace and security, with young people being the prime victims and targets of recruitment. At the same time, poverty, ignorance, injustice, apartheid, occupation, armed conflict and exclusion increased their vulnerability. To prevent youth marginalization and radicalization, the international community must encourage tolerance, invest in education, alleviate poverty, end discrimination, liberate occupied lands — especially the Palestinian land — and address conflict situations. Moreover, dialogue within communities had an important role to play in raising the younger generation’s awareness and in fostering tolerance. Calling for online media platforms to be used responsibly, he said they should not be a conduit for spreading extremist views and recruiting young people. Iranian youths had been the most immune to the propaganda and recruitment activities of terrorist and extremist groups, he added.
YURI STERK, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, described current efforts his country was leading as President of the European Union Council, including developing a new youth strategy. For Bulgaria, youth participation was critical, as they could be key agents of positive social change in efforts to build peaceful, inclusive societies. Investing in their education was instrumental for achieving the youth, peace and security agenda goals. Supporting such efforts politically and through targeted funding, Bulgaria reserved the largest part of its humanitarian and development assistance towards providing support for children and youth in conflict‑affected areas and ensuring the right to education in emergencies, he said, adding that in 2017 it had contributed €100,000 to the Education Cannot Wait Fund.
DAN NECULĂESCU (Romania), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said young people played an indispensable part of building and sustaining peace. The study had sounded a wake‑up call by underlining their consistent exclusion and their mistrust of national and global authorities. Their participation in peacebuilding was a right and a demographic necessity in making societies more inclusive and peaceful. “If we are to achieve inclusive, sustainable development and build and sustain peace, we simply cannot afford to lose the largest generation of young people the world had ever known,” he said. The Commission had heard directly from young people about their peacebuilding work, from Burundi to the Solomon Islands. The Commission recognized the lack of funding for youth‑led organizations. To address that, the Peacebuilding Fund’s gender and youth promotion initiative had contributed $15 million over two years to related programmes. The Commission intended to continue and expand its direct engagement with youth in countries and regions it supported and in meetings in New York.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said peace agreements failed when they were not inclusive, and when leaders — mostly male — concluded power‑sharing agreements without considering the interests of the entire population. Such a top‑down approach denied society a say in peace while also preventing broad ownership of the peacebuilding process. Noting that today’s young generation was already shaping the future, he said one example was Germany’s work in South Sudan, where it supported a bottom‑up approach to, and youth participation in, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)‑led peace negotiations. As a Vice‑Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, Germany had also heard from young people across such places as Burundi, Liberia, Kyrgyzstan and the Solomon Islands. Calling on the international community to better understand why young people drifted towards extremist groups, he said a 2017 UNDP study titled, “The journey to extremism in Africa” had found that 71 per cent of those interviewed had cited Government action — including the killing or arrest of a family member or friend — as a driving factor for their involvement in extremism.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said efforts must continue to promote young people’s role as part of a solution to build and sustain peace and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Instead of being politically, economically and socially excluded, youth must be engaged to promote peaceful, inclusive societies. As poverty and marginalization were among the main reasons some youth turned to violent extremism, integrating young people into sustainable development efforts would be an effective tool to prevent that situation. Other efforts could include creating decent work and considering young women and their perspectives. Mexico’s national youth programme sought to tackle the challenges faced by its 38 million young people.
JORGE MORAGAS SÁNCHEZ (Spain) said his country was working to ensure young people had the necessary space and tools to play a positive role in conflict prevention, mediation, maintaining peace and fighting violent extremism. States must adopt policies to encourage young people’s resilience to radicalization, extremism and intolerance. Efforts must also be made to include their perspectives in political and social debates. Spain was strongly committed to improving mechanisms for youth participation and had launched a number of related activities. At the regional level, Spain had hosted an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference in 2017, resulting in the adoption of a declaration reflecting resolution 2250 (2015). Spain also had joined the United Nations youth delegates programme and was committed to ensuring the sustainability of its youth participation policies.
FRANCISCO ALBERTO GONZALEZ (Colombia) said his country had implemented resolution 2250 (2015) in line with the study’s recommendations for providing more education and jobs while strengthening social capital. Measures had been implemented since the start of Colombia’s peace process, including the provision of free schooling and the establishment of awareness‑raising campaigns for decent work policies with a view to promote the creation of new jobs and the protection of workers. Efforts also targeted marginalized groups, he said, noting that Colombia had already seen economic and social gains in related initiatives. To avoid conflict from reoccurring, Colombia had, among other things, strengthened democratic institutions to restore confidence in the State, with young people playing a critical role. The entire peace process had been designed for youth to pave the way to a brighter future for all. Colombia was now empowering them to build such a future, with a view to providing them with options and practices that would help them avert conflict. More broadly, cooperation and dialogue within the United Nations was imperative for enhancing the fight against extremism.
TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan) echoed the call in the progress study to overcome stereotypes that tended to view young men as potential threats to peace and young women as passive victims of violence. At the same time, the international community needed to increase its efforts to empower young people. In some cases, young women and sexual minorities had been deprived of access to power, resources, and political participation. As part of the Global Peacebuilders Programme, Japan had been training civilian experts from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, he said, noting that the programme had trained hundreds of young people from both Japan and conflict‑affected countries. Drawing attention to mental health care — an issue that tended to be less prioritized — he said psychosocial support for young people was imperative for peacebuilding and reconstruction.
MICHAEL O’TOOLE (Ireland), aligning himself with the European Union, urged Member States not to treat the youth, peace and security agenda as a new silo. Not only did it have clear synergies with the women, peace and security, as well as human rights agendas, it also harmonized with the Sustainable Development Goals. The youth, peace and security agenda was also an important component of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture. While it was true that young men could be vulnerable to radicalization, young people could also play a positive role in preventing conflict and countering terrorism. He urged Member States to consider the Progress Study recommendations in order to move beyond “mere lip service” about youth. “We do not need to give young people a voice — they already have one,” he said. That said, it was up to Member States to empower their inclusion in peacebuilding processes.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER, High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, said empowering youth lied at the heart of international peace and security. He highlighted several youth initiatives led by the Alliance that fed into that mission, including its youth peacebuilders programme, which supported youth leaders and their organizations in helping them build skills and bring attention to projects led by young people. Moreover, it had launched a youth solidarity fund that provided youth‑led organizations with seed funding and capacity‑building to build projects regarding intercultural and interfaith dialogue. Furthermore, the Alliance had provided a platform for civil society leaders to experience other regions through visits. Recognizing the role of technology and digital platforms and as part of its media initiatives, it had also developed a series of workshops as ways of building a peaceful understanding among individuals from different religions and backgrounds. More broadly, the Alliance was committed to work with all partners and stakeholders to provide young people with platforms to achieve sustainable peace and security, he said.
NASLY ISABEL BERNAL PRADO (Chile) expressed support for Council resolution 2250 (2015) and welcomed the recommendations of the progress report. Given the role that women played as agents of change and peacebuilders, she commended the synergies between that resolution and the resolutions of the women, peace and security agenda. For its part, Chile supported the initiatives and recommendations on sustaining peace and emphasized the important role the Arms Trade Treaty played in combating small arms and light weapons. Underscoring the important role of education, she urged for schools to be protected in times of peace or conflict as that would determine how well youth could participate in society. She highlighted several national youth initiatives in her country, including an institute that promoted initiatives on human rights and non‑discrimination. Experience had shown that youth participation was crucial to building a safer and more just world for all, she said.
WOUTER H. ZAAYMAN (South Africa) said youth could play a positive role in peacebuilding and sustaining peace. The Progress Study revealed the various ways in which they were already contributing to a broader concept of peace. South Africa supported the recommendation that in order to fully harness and support their innovation, States must invest in their capacities, redress the structural barriers to their participation in peace and security, and emphasize partnerships and collaborative action whereby they were viewed as equal and essential partners. For its part, South Africa acknowledged the role youth could play as change agents and had made their empowerment central to its development agenda. Raising concerns that youth programmes often focused on young men, he said the outcome of the current meeting should reinforce the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security.
KHALED HUSSEIN MOHAMED ALYEMANY (Yemen), reviewing the situation of youth in his country, said that they were the essence of a revolution for change that began on university campuses in 2011. Following the war launched by the Houthi militia, they were in a tragic situation, with their dreams being dashed. Eighty per cent of the 16,800 people kidnapped and arrested by the militia were young people, he said, adding that that group had committed the most heinous forms of violations against youth, crossing all religious, social and cultural red lines. “The young people of Yemen have lost every hope of a better future,” he said, calling on the international community to protect them in line with, among other things, international law and resolution 2216 (2015).
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said that resolution 2250 (2015) had contributed to an increased recognition of the important role of young people. Qatar believed in the positive energy of young people and their ability to make change for the better. She summarized steps taken by her Government in that regard, including the establishment of an Advisory Committee on Youth to complete State efforts to promote the role of young people in society. Acknowledging the need to address the root causes of terrorism, she noted Qatar’s efforts to work with international organizations to address youth issues and causes of terrorism.
NOA FURMAN (Israel) called on Member States to encourage young people’s involvement in politics, social development and conflict resolution. Indeed, their ideas, creativity and innovation would help build a better future for all. Such efforts were even more critical in the face of terrorism and violent extremism, she said, noting that youth were often targets for radicalization and recruitment. At the same time, our approach must not be limited to countering violent extremism. It should also encourage youth to become leaders for peace and security. By including people as part of the solution, Member States could help build their sense of belonging and purpose, improving their well‑being and boosting their self‑esteem. Such efforts would, in turn, lay the foundation for sustainable peace. The international community could not allow terrorist groups to continue indoctrinating young people with hateful views and inciting violence, she said, noting that groups like Hamas were recruiting youth to terrorist summer camps, while ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) exploited social media platforms to recruit young people. “Let us ensure that summer camps remained for play and social networks for uniting people,” she said. For its part, Israel was working to empower young citizens through diverse initiatives, with many efforts focusing on building bridges, common understanding and mutual respect, as well as economic development.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that while today’s youth were the most interconnected ever, they faced challenges that disrupted their lives and the lives of others. Many grappled with poverty, a lack of education, terrorism, violent extremism and transnational organized crime. He highlighted the importance of building a sense of belonging in youth, as well as empowering them as full members of societies. He also called on Governments to invest more in education and employment opportunities to prevent their marginalization. Given Indonesia’s large population of young people, his Government was working to ensure youth could exercise the full extent of their rights. At the same time, the country recognized the importance of fighting for the hearts and minds of its youth, encouraging dialogue and partnering with them to build strong communities that could counter the negative messages of extremism. Indeed, young people played an important role in maintaining and promoting international peace and security, he said.
MELITÓN ALEJANDRO ARROCHA RUÍZ (Panama), welcoming the Progress Study presented today by Mr. Simpson, agreed that “there is no room for stereotypes and stigmatization in this process”. The Council’s adoption of resolution 2250 (2015) had underscored its commitment to help countries lay the groundwork for the inclusion of youth as strategic allies in peace and security. Recalling that Panama had hosted a seminar for young people to discuss conflict prevention and the promotion of peace, he added that the United Nations Special Envoy for Youth had also visited the country in March 2018 to advance that agenda. While young people had more access to and experience with technological resources than any other generation in history, they were also more exposed to transnational crime and terrorism networks. In Panama, young people were active agents of policy development, and the Government invested significantly in quality education. The country had also developed an Inter‑Institutional Plan for Young People, which sought to promote their social inclusion, education, access to high‑quality health care, decent housing and access to credit, among other critical elements.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said the current debate provided an opportunity for the international community to renew its commitment to the 2030 Agenda. It was crucial to aggressively attack the root causes of why some young people became vulnerable to the violent narratives of extremists, including economic deprivation, systemic injustice and exclusion. From the Arab Spring to the March for Our Lives movement, youth had energized the people, inspired action and held politicians accountable, among other things. The international community must provide them with a safe environment and effective tools so they could fulfil their potential. Sri Lanka was implementing resolution 2250 (2015), he said, noting that its population, unlike many other countries, faced a rapidly ageing population. Having survived three decades of living under the yoke of terrorism, including two youth insurrections, Sri Lanka understood the challenges of addressing related challenges. As a result, it had created a national youth council and a related commission to enact land reform laws. Other efforts included a responsive rehabilitation and reintegration programme for more than 12,000 ex‑combatants, the inclusion of young people in building a post‑conflict reconciliation and peacebuilding mechanism and the implementation of programmes promoting education.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador) said that, in the wake of 12 years of armed conflict, his country had a historic commitment to its young people, who were important agents of change in building a culture of peace. While important challenges remained to be overcome, El Salvador was committed to implementing resolution 2250 (2015) to fill gaps left by armed conflict. Young people were considered an at‑risk group, but also as subjects of the law and as strategic actors for development, he said, adding that youth, peace and security were inextricably linked to the 2030 Agenda.
JORGE SKINNER-KLEÉ ARENALES (Guatemala) said that, while young people’s inclusion in the resolution of conflicts could positively contribute to peacebuilding, they could also be tragically recruited into violent extremism. Resolution 2250 (2015) was therefore critical, as it had considered ways to involve youth both during and after the resolution of armed conflicts. Despite notable progress in raising the visibility of young people as drivers of sustainable development, there nevertheless remained a gap between that awareness and actual investments in their political participation as well as the realization of their rights. Guatemala was committed to the culture of conflict prevention as a way to support peace and sustainable development, and it supported the central role of youth in achieving lasting social change.
BACHIR SALEH AZZAM (Lebanon) said young people comprised 60 per cent of the Arab region, which unfortunately had seen a waning of optimism among them. Despite Lebanon’s efforts to address economic challenges, a lack of opportunity for youth persisted, exacerbated by the financial implications of Syrians displaced by war and 37 per cent youth unemployment. Governments must uphold their share of the responsibility, he said, noting that Lebanon had endorsed a national youth policy to empower youth in an inclusive manner. Civil society must also play its role, opening doors for youth to have a growing and impactful presence in the public sphere. Youth must also be included in counter‑terrorism efforts and those to prevent violent extremism.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said his country, like others, faced a “youth bulge” made up of educated, unemployed and vulnerable young people. While the Government was making efforts to create opportunities for decent work, more needed to be done. Africa must seize upon the demographic dividend arising from the youth bulge to enable young people to contribute to the continent’s development as well as to peace and security. In that regard, the youth bulge was a resource to be harnessed. The time had come to partner with youth with innovative and forward‑looking thinking, he said, calling on the Council to request annual reporting by Member States on youth, peace and security, as well as a stronger partnership between the Council and the Secretary‑General’s Youth Envoy.
NARJES SAIDANE, Permanent Observer of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, supported the holding of regular Council follow‑up meetings on the issue of youth, peace and security. In 2014, the organization convened a summit in Dakar, Senegal, which focused on the roles of youth and women in development and peacebuilding. Noting that the meeting’s outcome document had resulted in a human rights‑based youth strategy, she expressed concern that crisis‑exit negotiations and other crucial international debates around the globe continued to regularly exclude young voices. “We need to step away from simplistic stereotypes” that viewed young people as irresponsible and uninformed, she said, outlining some of the Francophonie’s highly inclusive initiatives. For example, young people were included in its radicalization prevention network, which was currently being established, as well as similar national initiatives in Benin and Côte d’Ivoire. Today’s discussion revealed that to address today’s emerging challenges, all actors — national, regional and international — must act hand in hand to support the inclusion of young people.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS GRANT (Canada), pointing out the synergy between peace and security agendas on youth and on women, said his country was currently implementing a feminist foreign policy and international assistance policy, with the latter including the need to engage men and boys. Recognizing the critical work civil society organizations were doing at the local level, he said Canada would allocate $150 million over five years to respond to women’s groups’ needs to advance the rights of females of all ages. His country also supported the engagement of youth in the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and had in 2017 developed the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, the latter having been endorsed by 63 States. Member States had a responsibility to advance the youth, peace and security agenda, with the United Nations having an important role to play. Together, they could do more to facilitate young people’s meaningful participation in peace negotiations and peacebuilding processes. Like the women, peace and security agenda, the 15‑member organ should mandate regular reporting from the Secretary‑General on the youth agenda, ensuring that their participation was included in Security Council mandates.
BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan) said national reforms included youth and protected their rights. Research had shown that crimes linked to extremist activities and violence were committed primarily by people under age 30. Underlining the importance of fighting “for the hearts and minds” of young people, he said efforts should foster the conditions for self‑realization, while also combating the spread of violent ideologies. In that vein, Uzbekistan would host in June a conference on young people’s role in preventing and countering violent extremism and radicalization. In 2017, Uzbekistan had proposed to the General Assembly the development of a United Nations convention on the rights of youth, he said, expressing hope that Member States would support that proposal.
CHRISTIAN BRAUN (Luxembourg), associating himself with the European Union, voiced support for the recommendations contained in the progress study, adding that a new Council resolution on youth, peace and security was necessary to break up silos and finalize a normative framework. Too many young people had lost trust in their Governments, spawning a feeling of injustice and of being left behind, he said. Young people’s inclusion must be fostered, as they were the planet’s greatest asset. He added that Luxembourg would welcome an annual implementation report from the Secretary‑General as well as annual Council debates like the one today.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, said young people’s potential to contribute to conflict prevention around the world had yet to be fully realized. Georgia supported youth participation in diplomacy as well as access to quality education. One such national initiative, known as “A Step to a Better Future”, was aimed at improving education access for youth in Georgia’s “occupied Abkhazia” and Tskhinvali region as well as South Ossetia. It was also vital to address flagrant violations of human rights in those regions, including kidnappings, killings and restrictions to freedom of movement. The Russian Federation’s occupation prevented the Georgian Government from exercising its duties and responsibilities, while the so‑called “law on the legal status of foreign citizens” imposed by the occupation regime had deprived local Georgians, including youth, of their full participation in public life. Furthermore, young people of ethnic Georgian origin in both occupied regions were deprived their basic human rights — including the right to freedom of movement and to receive education in their native language — and were targets of ethnically based violence and discrimination.
Mr. MAHFUZUR (Bangladesh) said the voices of today’s briefers resonated with the concerns and aspirations of youth all over the world, including those in the Occupied Palestinian territories and Rakhine State. With its large youth population, Bangladesh would be harnessing its demographic dividend until 2035. In recognition of their seminal role in peace and development, a “digital Bangladesh” vision aimed to create an enabling environment for them. An inclusive educational policy would foster critical thinking as well as a culture of peace among young people, who must also be enlisted as sentinels against violent extremist elements at the community level. Emphasizing that investment in youth made imminent sense, he said the case for financing youth‑centric and youth‑led initiatives was relevant for national authorities and international development partners alike.
SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that many challenges in the Middle East could not be solved without exploring the potential of youth and their active involvement. His Government’s role was to provide youth with the tools for success, including a good education, competitive job markets, equal opportunities and a nurturing environment. The United Arab Emirates took pride in supporting a model of tolerance and moderation that provided an alternative to extremism and violence that aimed at unlocking a talented, creative and innovative generation. It was the duty of Member States to mainstream and embrace youth in their work at the United Nations as a solution to reach their goals.
ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) said nearly 90 per cent of the world’s young people lived in areas where United Nations peacekeeping missions were deployed. However, they were often conspicuously absent from peace agreement negotiations, she said, recalling that the 2030 Agenda had acknowledged the growing role of sport in promoting global health, education and social inclusion objectives. The Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace, led by Monaco and Tunisia, advocated for the role of athletics as a simple way to bridge social, ethnic, gender and religious gaps, as well as to reduce discrimination. Such activities were especially critical in crowded refugee camps, she said, spotlighting a recent football championship organized by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which had sought to promote education and social cohesion.
FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic) said the Progress report considered by the Council today served as an inspiration to leverage the unique energy of youth. Countries must avoid viewing young people as only victims or perpetrators of crime, he said, calling instead for their active participation in the processes aimed at improving societies. The Study had reaffirmed the need to guarantee young people with quality education, economic empowerment and social protection, while also revealing such disturbing and persistent trends as violence against women. In that vein, he said the Dominican Republic was working to change attitudes among boys and young men, while also involving young people in campaigns such as those related to the impacts of climate change. Youth, peace and security would feature among the Dominican Republic’s priorities as it sought a seat on the Security Council for the period 2019‑2020, he concluded.
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said Egypt was a young country, with people aged 18‑29 making up 24 per cent of its population. Youth were a driving force for development, with the Constitution requiring the State to guarantee them opportunities to work and to build their talents and skills. Recalling that Egypt had hosted the World Youth Forum in November 2017, he said it was crucial to include young people in the Sustainable Development Goals and to harness their innovative capacities so as to spur economic activity. Their needs in connection with peacebuilding must be acknowledged as well. He went on to say that the situation of youth in occupied Arab territories should be noted in future reports by the Secretary‑General.
CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal) said young people were essential to ensuring effective responses to today’s complex crises, preventing conflict and preparing for the future of their countries. It was Member States’ responsibility to ensure that young people were listened to and recognized as partners for peace, which was only possible if their rights were fully respected. In response to a sense of marginalization, as well as social and economic exclusion, young people were often more vulnerable to violent extremism and prone to recruitment into extremist groups, he continued. That was exacerbated by the increased use by such groups of information and communication technologies to incite, recruit, fund or plan terrorist acts. There was no greater tool than education to ensuring that young people were part of the solution instead of the problem. In that context, he called upon Member States to support the Global Platform for Syrian Students, which he said was an excellent example of how the international community could work together and create opportunities for those affected by crisis.
MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) recalled that the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted in 1995 by the General Assembly, had laid out the first framework for the United Nations to consider young people in the context of development. Today, youth were increasingly bearing witness to a world of conflict, lack of opportunity, divisions and social exclusion, resulting in frustration that was often exploited by extremist groups. The long‑term solution to that challenge was the building of more egalitarian societies, she said, noting that Morocco had long worked to include young people in the development of its national policies. Among other things, it had established a National Institute for Youth and Democracy and put in place a quota for youth in its Parliament. Also citing the creation of a special parliament for young African leaders, held in Rabbat, she said increased dialogue would help youth build up their resistance to the lure of extremist rhetoric. Their inclusion in public life was also a critical element of any successful efforts to achieve sustainable development targets.
LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan), listing numerous challenges faced by young people in the world’s conflict‑stricken and fragile regions, said common negative stereotypes nonetheless portrayed youth either simply as victims or as perpetrators. In the face of increasing global threats, prevention was the most effective strategy to protect societies from armed conflicts and violent extremism. Only by tackling the underlying root causes could Governments prevent the spread of, and eradicate, those scourges. Calling for soft strategies that could identify and pre‑emptively address radicalization and other factors driving conflict, she said young people were more susceptible to adopting extremist ideologies. Intercultural dialogue was critical to ensure respect for pluralism, diversity and human rights among young people. Azerbaijan, with its tradition of tolerance and peaceful coexistence of ethnic communities and its three major religions, had successfully incorporated multiculturalism into State policy, and the “Baku Process” launched in 2008 had become a key global platform for dialogue between people.
MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia), noting that young men and women since 2011 had peacefully changed the course of his country’s history, said States had a responsibility to create a conducive environment in which youth could thrive. That could only be done by listening to and understanding young people and their needs, he said, noting a reinforcement of the role of Tunisian youth in upcoming municipal elections. He called for greater resources that favoured young people, and for young women to be provided with training opportunities so as to take an active part in peacebuilding.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) emphasized the importance of investing in youth and their role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in order for justice, tolerance and peace to prevail. State institutions sought to address stereotypes associating youth with violence and extremism. Other initiatives undertaken in Bahrain included the King Hamad Award for youth action and youth enablers, established in cooperation with UNDP and the Economic and Social Council, as well as a conference on the role of sports in achieving the Goals. He noted the value of social media in enabling youth to be heard by those in Government.