The present report is the first one on youth and peace and security since the Security Council adopted resolution 2250 (2015), in which the essential role of young people in preventing and resolving conflicts and in sustaining peace was recognized. That recognition has gained further momentum in the years since and was reaffirmed in Council resolution 2419 (2018) and in a statement by the President of the Council made in December 2019 (S/PRST/2019/15).
The publication of the present report coincides with significant milestones: the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, the 20th anniversary of Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security, the launch of a decade of action for the Sustainable Development Goals, the 25th anniversary of the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. The observance of those milestones offers a prime opportunity to highlight the invaluable role of young people. Indeed, the United Nations is marking its anniversary with a series of dialogues held worldwide, aimed in particular at amplifying the voices and perspectives of young people in shaping the future of the world.
Young people provide a solid foundation on which to build. Their talents are diverse, they yearn to engage and even those who live in difficult circumstances are generally optimistic. In 2020, there are 1.85 billion young women and men 10 to 24 years of age in the world,1 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries. One in four young people is affected by violence or armed conflict (A/72/761-S/2018/86, para. 8). Young people around the world are striving for peace, justice, inclusion, gender equality and human rights. Their aspirations, views and demands need to be heard. Their potential must be harnessed and their plight addressed.
Young people face significant challenges stemming from globalization, violence, demographic shifts, inequalities, new technologies, forced displacement, shrinking civic space, changing labour markets and climate change. The situation fuels declining confidence in political establishments and institutions and is felt especially keenly by young people in two ways: a participation gap, a result of which young people find themselves left out of decision-making, and an opportunity gap, manifested most clearly by steeply rising youth unemployment.
The marginalization of young people foments political distrust and hopelessness, challenges systems and structures and adds to national, regional and global insecurity. When such a cycle takes hold, it is all too easy for extremist groups to exploit the frustration and anger that stems from exclusion.
At the same time, false and harmful characterizations of young people as threats have to be avoided. As stressed in the study entitled “The missing peace: independent progress study on youth and peace and security” (A/72/761-S/2018/86), published in 2018 under the coordination of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Peacebuilding Support Office, most young people are resilient and peaceful. Young people represent a vast source of innovation, ideas and solutions. Connected to one other like never before, they are driving social progress, renewing environmental activism and inspiring political change. It is critical that the international community support young people in fulfilling their full potential as a positive force for building peaceful and just societies.
That objective is at the core of the youth and peace and security agenda (General Assembly resolution 72/146, para. 21) and informs the vision of Youth 2030: The United Nations Strategy on Youth, which was launched in 2018. To translate the Strategy’s promise into tangible change, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, working with senior management of the United Nations, advocates for youth engagement throughout the pillars of the Organization – sustainable development, human rights and peace and security – as well as humanitarian action.
In the present report, the five pillars outlined in resolution 2250 (2015), are addressed: participation, protection, prevention, disengagement and reintegration, and partnerships. The report covers trends and progress in implementing the youth and peace and security agenda from the adoption of resolution 2250 (2015), in December 2015, through December 2019. The report is informed by analysis and data provided by the United Nations system, Member States and regional and civil society organizations, including organizations that are led by and focused on young people.
Two clear findings emerge from the analysis. The first is the growing recognition of young people’s essential role in peace and security. It is encouraging to see many instances in which Governments, United Nations entities, civil society actors and others are stepping up to meet the requirements of resolution 2250 (2015). The second is that core challenges remain, including structural barriers limiting the participation of young people and their capacity to influence decision-making; violations of their human rights; and insufficient investment in facilitating their inclusion, in particular through education.
The present report is therefore a call for accelerated implementation. To create a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous world for all, young people need to be involved and conditions that enable them to unleash their full potential must be created. Institutions must be inclusive of young people and adequately represent, engage and address their needs and expectations.
A new age of participation by young people requires mechanisms for continuous and meaningful participation in making decisions, shaping policies, adopting strategies and implementing actions.