The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security on the Role of Youth in Transitional Justice


UN Study

Although there are plenty of arguments for giving youth a key role in Transitional Justice  processes, this has seldom happened in practice. As a starting point for further reflection, we bring you an excerpt from the groundbreaking study, published by the UN in 2018, with thekey arguments, the examples mentioned and the recommendations concerning Transitional Justice.

The arguments for a key role of youth (p. 103)

  • From the perspective of societies transitioning from conflict to peace, or from autocracy to democracy, youth are critical to the future, even if they have been marginalized in the present. Young men and women are potential purveyors of both historical memory and residual trauma to the next generation. As such, they are among the most strategically important constituencies in the transitional justice exercises of truth-telling and truth-seeking, rebuilding civic trust associated with institutional reforms, and ensuring that past crimes cannot be repeated.
  • They are also the potential primary beneficiaries of reparations for past violations, and the arbiters of accountability or impunity for past violations.  
  • As with peace processes more generally, transitional justice processes may offer youth a vehicle for active participation; an opportunity to alleviate their suffering, tell their stories and potentially address their trauma; or even a means to access reparations for past violations.
  • Young people’s role in the design and implementation of transitional justice mechanisms has the potential to transform the very shape and orientation of these instruments for dealing with the past and shaping the future. Youth involvement can help to move truth-seeking and other transitional justice tools away from elite-led and externally driven processes and approaches.
  • This must involve creating opportunities within transitional justice mechanisms for youth to talk to each other and their leaders about a violent and often controversial past, and to face and reflect on uncomfortable truths and realities.

The examples mentioned (pp. 47-48, 53)

  • The Réseau Action Justice et Paix (RAJP) in Côte d’Ivoire partnered with UNICEF to develop training and organize retreats on conflict prevention for young people, and drafted recommendations for the reparations policy of the National Commission for Reconciliation and Compensation for Victims.
  • The Kenyan youth-led initiative Picha Mtaani, which hosted a 24-hour street exhibition that was visited by about 500,000 people nationwide to reflect on the violence that occurred after the 2007–08 elections (Kenya CFR).
  • The Japanese youth’s ongoing participation in the People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition. This vibrant youth-based and youth-focused nuclear disarmament campaign holds workshops, dialogue forums and exhibitions, and uses these to advocate for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • The partnership in Côte D’Ivoire between the International Center for Transitional Justice and UNICEF to create a radio programme in which youth could discuss current issues and the national reconciliation process.

The Transitional Justice related recommendations (p. 120)

  1. Involve young people, including young women, as key stakeholders in the design, implementation and monitoring of transitional justice processes, including truth-seeking, reparation and reconciliation programmes, institutional reform processes aimed at rebuilding civic trust and preventing repeat violations, criminal justice and accountability for past violations, and memory and memorialization programmes aimed at future generations.
  2. Youth-friendly information about the functions, roles, responsibilities, scope and reports of various transitional justice mechanisms should be made available to young people on as broad a basis as possible, with special attention given to those most affected by the conflict, and those harder to reach, or less involved in civic and political processes.

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Background of the Study

In December 2015, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted, under the leadership of Jordan, resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS). Resolution 2250 requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations “carry out a progress study on the youth’s positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution, in order to recommend effective responses at local, national, regional and international levels.”

In August 2016, the UN Secretary-General appointed an independent lead author, Graeme Simpson, to develop the study, as well as an advisory group of experts, including 21 scholars, practitioners and young leaders. A steering committee, composed of 34 partners from the UN system, civil society, non-governmental organizations, inter-governmental organizations and foundations, oversaw the preparation of the study.

The study is an agenda-setting document, defining a strategy for the implementation of SCR 2250. It was developed through a unique participatory research process, including face-to-face discussions (focus group discussions, national and regional consultations) with 4,230 young people, as well as research in 27 countries, and surveys and mapping exercises.

Issue: Youth

Those born afterwards bear no direct responsibility. They may choose to ignore history or identify with perpetrators or victims. What can be done to awaken young people’s interest in history and motivate them to engage in building peaceful relations between communities?