On April 27th 2020, the first ever UN Secretary General’s report on Youth Peace and Security was launched at a live-streamed debate of the UN Security Council. The debate was convened under the presidency of the Dominican Republic through video teleconference. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, non-Council Member States were encouraged to participate in the debate by sending in their official written statements. At the debate, the report and its key recommendations were presented by the Secretary General, António Guterres to the UN Secretary Council members. Additional briefers included Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake and two youth briefers, Olla Al-Sakkaf and Gatwal Augustine Gatkuoth.
Structured according to the five key pillars of UNSCR 2250, the Secretary General’s report takes stock of the progress made on the key UNSC resolutions on Youth Peace and Security 2250, and 2419. It continues to build on the comprehensive and strategic recommendations of the Independent Study on Youth Peace and Security, “The Missing Peace,” while reminding of the importance to maintain a broad and ambitious Youth Peace and Security Agenda.
With the 5th anniversary of the UNSCR 2250 approaching, this year offers a strategic moment to further strengthen the synergies between the Youth Peace and Security Agenda, Sustaining Peace Agenda, the Women, Peace & Security Agenda, and the 2030 Agenda. The anniversary also offers an opportunity to continue operationalizing the Youth Peace and Security Agenda and building on the interconnectedness between the global- regional, and country levels. And while doing so focusing on the essential role young people, in all their diversity, play as equal partners and stakeholders to build and sustain peace in their communities.
This article highlights some of the reflections of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake on the Secretary General’s report on Youth Peace and Security. Ms. Wickramanayake was appointed by Secretary General António Guterres in 2017 and is the second one carrying the mandate. In this role, Jayathma Wickramanayake advocates for UN-system wide youth engagement aligned with the United Nations Youth 2030 strategy . Working with and for young people across the world lies at the core of her mandate. While championing for the Youth Peace and Security Agenda, Jayathma Wickramanayake has brought the voices of young people to the UN Security Council by addressing its members at three open debates of the UNSC; in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Ms. Wickramanayake’s key message has echoed the importance of operationalizing the Youth Peace and Security Agenda from policy into practice while adopting a youth inclusive and participatory approach.
In preparation for the most recent debate on April 27th, the Youth Envoy shared a poll online to engage with young people world-wide. The aim was to understand what young people considered to be the key priorities in the Secretary General’s report, and to integrate their opinions into the Youth Envoy’s briefing remarks.
In her remarks to the UN Security Council members, the Youth Envoy focused on participation, partnership, and protection pillars of the 2250-resolution.
Participation as the key to the Youth Peace and Security Agenda
Participation is a human right recognized by international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. All young people have the right to participate in a wide range of actions, from formal participation in political, electoral or peace processes to informal participation at the community level; “although inclusion has shown to positively impact the sustainability of peace agreements, young people continue to be excluded from decisions that directly impact their present and future prospects for peace.” Ms. Wickramanayake made the case that although participation is a right, it is not always guaranteed to young people. Young people will either inherit a peace agreement’s long-term benefits or long-term consequences. Therefore, meaningful participation of young people in peace processes is essential. In her recommendation to the Council members, the Youth Envoy called for Member States to create meaningful opportunities for youth to participate; inside, around, and outside the negotiation room, as outlined by the Global Policy Paper “We are here-an integrated approach to youth inclusive peace processes”.
Institutionalization of the Youth Peace and Security Agenda through partnerships
Partnerships are key to institutionalizing the Youth Peace and Security Agenda. To date, there are no National Action Plans on Youth Peace and Security. For a national roadmap to be successful a participatory and adequately resourced process is needed. The Youth Envoy called on Member States to develop dedicated local and national roadmaps on youth, peace and security while meaningfully engaging and consulting young people in the process. Ms. Wickramanayake further highlighted the need for Member States to create multi-stakeholder mechanisms to meaningfully engage youth in planning and decision-making on peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, as well as in discussions on resource allocations.
Protection of young people as a prerequisite
Young people are increasingly operating in unsafe civic spaces and communities. Not only are young activists (including young peacebuilders, and human rights defenders) facing physical threats such as harassment and attacks, but repressive conditions are also affecting their collective freedom of movement, assembly, and expression. Some young people have also faced reprisals for cooperating with the United Nations. These human rights violations are in most cases undocumented and uninvestigated and contribute to the shrinking of civic space. In the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns, curfews and increased surveillance offline and online, civic space has continued to shrink world-wide risking progress to stall.
Ms. Wickramanayake emphasized that Member States have an important role to play with supporting and facilitating an inclusive, safe, enabling and gender-responsive environment where all young people are provided with adequate support and protection to carry out their work independently and without undue interference. She further recommended that a dedicated global protection mechanism building on the existing human rights architecture to protect young people should be developed.
Conclusion: The collective way forward
Operationalizing the Youth Peace and Security Agenda requires coordination, coherence, integration, and resources as well as political will and commitment. The time has come to start translating the UNSC resolutions 2250 and 2419 into country level action while adopting our efforts to the current context of COVID 19. “If this agenda is not brought down from a global policy level to a regional and country level with programmatic action; young people will lose opportunities to meaningfully participate and their trust in institutions and multilateralism will further erode”, the Youth Envoy argued. To ensure sustainability and continuity of the Youth Peace and Security Agenda, regular and systematic reporting on the implementation of resolutions 2250 and 2419 coupled with a tracking process are key, the Youth Envoy concluded.
(Jayathma Wickramanayake’s entire remarks to the UN Security Council available; here. )
Emilia Harriet Hannuksela
UN Envoy on Youth on Youth, Peace and Security - Security Council Open VTC Briefing
Jayathma Wickramanayake | Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth | April 2020