The Guiding Principles
UNOY Peacebuilders together with over 60 UN entities, international NGOs, civil society organizations and donors, has been leading the effort to deepen collective attention to the positive role young people can play for international peace and security and have formulated Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding to support the needed substantive shift in approach to this issue.
UNOY Peacebuilders is a global network strengthening sustainable youth-driven peacebuilding. We connect 80 youth peace organizations across 50 countries.
Our goal is to create a world where young people have the opportunity and skills to contribute to peace. We work to strengthen youth-led peacebuilding initiatives, facilitate a safe space for dialogue and conflict transformation, develop the organizational capacities of our members and to bring the voices of young people to policy makers on a regional and global level.
We support youth peacebuilding organizations and to build their capacities. This will further enable them to become more effective in mobilizing youth to become constructive, pro-active and non-violent agents of change addressing root causes and the impact of violence in their communities.
We advocate for increased youth participation in peacebuilding, in the shape of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 that recognizes and addresses the specific needs, assets, potentials, and experiences of youth in (post-) conflict scenarios. Such a resolution gives recognition to the work by young peacebuilders, ensure support to young peacebuilders and put pressure on governments to meaningfully involve young people in issues of peace and security.
YOUTH AND PEACE
Today almost half of the world’s population (48%) is under the age of 24. Of these, more than one billion are defined as youth, being between the ages of 15-24. This is the largest youth population the world has ever known. Developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), have predominantly young populations. A large share of the world’s young people live in a fragile and conflict-affected state or in a country where levels of criminal violence are very high.
Why are youth key?
- Young people are more open to change.
- Young people are future-oriented.
- Young people are idealistic and innovative.
- Young people are courageous.
- Young people are knowledgeable about their peers’ reality.
A young population offers an opportunity for innovation, development and economic growth, but today’s young people are confronted with violence and armed conflict. A dichotomous viewpoint of youth as either perpetrators or victims of violence is very common. UNOY argues for an alternative viewpoint: one in which youth are recognized as positive agents of change and as advocates for peace.
The positive role that youth play in building peace and transforming conflict must be recognized. This recognition needs to take into account the interrelationship between social justice, sustainable development, human rights and peace as pervasive in the daily lives of the world’s youth. As stakeholders and (future) leaders, the inclusion of young people in peacebuilding processes ensures a relevant, representative and active category of society is equipped to positively contribute to peace and security.
Youth at the frontline of peacebuilding.
Limited economic, social and political opportunities are strong contributing factors driving youth to participate in armed conflict. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that this does not reflect the majority of the youth population, and that many young people in conflict and post-conflict countries are working for peace. Only a minority of young people turn to violence in any context.
Young people can be protected from violent conflict by offering them a possibility as proposed in the UN Security Council Resoultion 2250 to shape their futures through participation in issues that concern them, including peace and security, and the provision of quality educational and livelihood opportunities. Additionally, young people’s resilience to social and political pressures pulling them towards violent actions needs to be supported.
PARTICIPATION IS ESSENTIAL
Currently, the motivation to incorporate youth in issues of peace and security is born primarily out of a perception of youth as a potential security threat, instead of a desire to work with youth as equal partners. There is also a tendency by decision makers to talk about youth, rather than work with youth. Infrastructure and institutions need to acknowledge the needs and aspirations of youth to ensure meaningful youth participation in peacebuilding processes, and to offer meaningful avenues for young people to shape the future of their countries.
Ensuring the active, systemic, and meaningful participation of youth in issues of peace and security is a demographic and democratic imperative. It is also a way of preventing armed conflict. Studies show that social exclusion is an important factor that triggers a relapse into violent conflict. Furthermore, participation in decision making supports young people’s resilience in the face of social pressures, giving them a sense of belonging.
Young men’s and young women’s participation in peacebuilding is a largely untapped resource. Their actual contribution and further potential, as a key to durable and inclusive peace, stability and economic prosperity, should be valued, recognised, and supported. The inclusion of young people will have an influence on all social, economic and political sectors at the family, school and community levels of society.
There must be a shift from distraction to interaction and from passive partnership to participatory partnership. This shift needs to alter the perception of youth as sources of conflict to seeing them as resources for peace and development, and from asking them to wait to asking them to lead the way. Young people need to be included as partners for peace.