First International Symposium for Youth Participation in Peace Processes takes place in Helsinki

Helsinki, Finland | March 6th, 2019 –  The First International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes took place today in Helsinki, Finland from 5-6 March 2019. The event was co-hosted by the Governments of Finland, Qatar, and Colombia, and co-organized by the office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, and Search For Common Ground in partnership with United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Development Programme, the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.

The symposium brought together for the first time ever, young women and men from the frontlines of conflict alongside mediators, practitioners, researchers and civil society, government, and international organisation representatives. Its aim was to discuss and develop new and innovative ways of fostering young people’s meaningful participation in peace processes. The event built on United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 2250 and 2419, as well as on Youth 2030 – The United Nations Youth Strategy – as a way forward in creating spaces for young people to contribute to peace processes and mediation efforts at national levels.

“Young people account for a considerable share of people living in the developing world and in conflict areas but they are often left outside of the scope of all decision-making in society, including peace processes,” said H.E. Timo Soini, Foreign Minister for Finland. In light of their sheer number and vital force, young people are key stakeholders in development, sustaining peace initiatives, democratic governance, and peacebuilding interventions. As such, there is a need for an integrated and inclusive approach that involves empowering young men and women as decision makers, so that they can continue to participate actively and meaningfully in peace processes that affect their lives.

“While there has been progress in advancing the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, we cannot stop now,” said Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth at the Opening Ceremony of the Symposium. “This symposium is the global clarion call for a collective response in bringing voice and credibility to young people on the frontlines actively leading efforts to shape peace processes.”

Young people in this Symposium are represented as speakers, moderators, facilitators, and rapporteurs throughout all plenary discussions and working groups. This Symposium is intended to provide space for intergenerational discussions for participants to exchange views and best practices on the involvement of young people in formal and informal peace processes.

One of the most prominent outputs of the conference is the release of a global policy paper, co-written by researchers Irena Grizelj and Ali Altiok, that sheds an elaborated light on youth participation in past and current peace processes. The policy paper is to be released to the general public shortly after the conference.

As Youth Participant Leonardo Parraga said, “Young people are bridges. They play a key role in connecting local actors like civil society organizations, with decision-making actors that have a seat inside the room.”