It is a pleasure for me to be here today discussing the important issue of youth leadership in peace and security.
We have so much to learn from being more inclusive vis-à-vis young people – as I know from being taught how to use my iPhone by my 10 year old grand-daughter!
I thank our hosts, the Permanent Missions of Eritrea and Finland, for the invitation to speak to you today.
This discussion is taking place at an exciting and challenging time.
The world now has more young people than ever before in human history. 46 per cent of the world’s population is under 25. Africa and the Middle East have the highest proportion of young people – around 60 per cent of the population.
This presents a unique opportunity for developing innovative solutions for peace and development.
But far too often, the political lingo around young people focuses on the problems they allegedly present. Sadly, young men are portrayed by some as frustrated potential extremists and young women as passive victims.
This runs counter to the fact that the vast majority of young people around the world are practical idealists with strong values, who have a commitment to peace and a life in dignity for all. They are agents of change in their communities and societies. They are subjects of positive action, not objects to be contained or manipulated.
Young people should be valued for their potential and promise, not seen as a peril or problem.
An important way to counter damaging and inaccurate narratives is to amplify and strengthen the voices of young men and women themselves.
Young people are often seriously affected by conflict. Decisions made by earlier generations may affect them for their entire lives. They need and deserve a place at the table, if they are to be fully engaged in peacebuilding, economic and social development and building effective, inclusive institutions.
The UN Security Council recognized the crucial role of young people as peacebuilders in December last year, when it adopted resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security. Let me just say here what an important role the UN Envoy on Youth Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi played in the adoption of this resolution together with the Peacebuilding Support Office.
This was a historic step towards recognizing the need for an active role of youth in making and building peace – just like Resolution 1325 established the same role for women 15 years ago. I hope we will move faster on the youth track that we did on the women track.
In June, the UN Peacebuilding Fund launched its Youth Promotion Initiative which offers youth organizations financial support to implement peacebuilding projects. The Fund is operating in 15 countries to advance Security Council resolution 2250.
I would say that resolution 2250 marks the birth of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda.
The first anniversary of the Resolution is approaching. Already we have seen a growing focus on the positive role young people can play in promoting peace.
The Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security mandated by Resolution 2250 will show how new forms of engagement between the UN, civil society and young peacebuilders can strengthen the voices of young people. It aims to remedy their historic marginalisation and exclusion.
It should provide ways for young people to address not only youth-specific issues, but the full range of the peace and security agenda.
Beyond the Progress Study, there is still much work to be done.
The Youth Delegate Programme to the United Nations is an important first step. However, only 30 out of 193 Member States currently send youth delegates. I encourage other governments to follow the example of the 30.
There are several other important measures we can take to turn Resolution 2250 into a reality.
- Firstly, funding youth organisations on the ground – particularly small and local ones.
- Secondly, recognising the need for gender-sensitive approaches to youth inclusion in political processes.
- And thirdly, holding Member States accountable for protecting the human rights of young people, respecting their freedom of speech, and their right to education and employment. The recently appointed Special Envoy on Youth Employment Werner Faymann will be a strong advocate together with the Youth Envoy in tackling key youth employment challenges. This will bolster our efforts in enhancing opportunities for decent work for youth around the world.
You, the young leaders here in this room, have the key both to the present and the future.
You need and deserve a say in decisions that will affect your lives.
The two countries hosting this event, Finland and Eritrea, both have strong youth movements.
I have been following with interest the evolving bilateral cooperation between Finland and Eritrea in this area. I commend the collaboration between Eritrean youth and Finnish youth organisations. I welcome the research undertaken by Finn Church Aid and Berghof Foundation on young people's role in mediation and dialogue processes. This will be one of the background thematic papers for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security.
Young peacebuilders will serve as role models, as we continue to push for young women and men to be fully included in the peace and security agenda. We must not only work for youth – we must work with youth. All of us will gain by doing so.
In closing, I wish to point out how connected are the three pillars of peace, security and human rights. If one is weak, the whole system is weak. That is the beauty of these resolutions which, like the ambitious goals of the SDGs, underline the importance of working together across sectors both inside and outside the UN.
I thank you and wish you a successful meeting.