A Round-Up of the Panel Discussion on Youth
A Round-Up of the Panel Discussion on Youth, Peace and Security at Chatham House (2 May 2018)
By: Mary-Jean Nleya (Member of Commonwealth Youth Human Rights & Democracy Network)
Youth involvement in international peace and security is on the radar of the United Nations (UN). Similarly, 18 years ago (the year 2000) it was all about the women – the landmark resolution on Women, Peace and Security (Resolution 3025) was tabled into the UN agenda. This time, almost three years ago (on December 2015), the UN formally recognised youth in peace processes, through UN’s Security Council Resolution 2250. The extent to which youth are adequately involved in decision-making continues to be discussed and debated.
On Wednesday, 2 May 2018, Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, in London hosted apanel discussiontitled “Giving Young People a Greater Voice in Peace and Security”. The debate provided different perspectives on the ways in which the UNSC Resolution 2250can be implemented as a framework to incorporate young people’s voices in the decision-making process at all levels.
The panel took place upon the backdrop of the Progress Studyon Youth, Peace and Security – an independent study that was commissioned to conduct country-specificresearch and evidence on youth participation in peace processes and on countering violent extremism, sustainable development, transitional justice and migration issues. The panel discussion was moderated by Joyce Hakmeh, Cyber Research Fellow of the International Security Department and Co-Editor of Cyber Policy, Chatham House.
The lead author of the Progress Study, Graeme Simpson, was one of the panellists and he discussed the evidence gathering and research process that was involved that later culminated into the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security. Simpson said that it was important to hear the nuanced views of the youth in the respective countries for purposes of the Progress Study. He said this process acted as “an antidote to [the youths] marginalisation” and the “trust deficit of their governments” many expressed. Simpson also elucidated the importance of partnerships with civil society in the on-the-ground research process. He said he and his team steered away from making generalisations and stereotyping youth because such “stereotypes have resulted in policy assumptions”. Simpson also said that youth in different contexts have different challenges that they tackle; however, there are best practices that can be gleaned from one context and used in another context.
Salim Salamah – a Syrian-Palestinian activist who was appointed as a member of the UN Advisory Group on Youth, Peace and Security – also one of the panellists, said it was (and it is still) important to “make sure that the resolution is relevant to youth on the move and youth who are displaced” because the “perpetual sense of displacement is increasing and this is a difficult aspect”. He also highlighted that there is already a “sense of anger and betrayal” that many youths on the ground feel and that it is vital to guard against having Resolution 2250 “just being one of the other many instruments” that operates at the international level in a silo and not in tandem with the other grassroots operations.
The Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, also a panellist shared his remarks, and said: “The centrality of Resolution 2250 is in involving young men and women in real consultations and not just as tokens.” Fernandez-Taranco highlighted that there should also be inclusivity in drawing in different youth perspectives and that there should not be an “elite capture of the sense of youth – because ‘youth’ includes both urban and rural youth leadership”. Therefore, in incorporating various youth perspectives, attention should be had to “creating local capacities of youth leadership and participation”.
Nur Laiq, member of the UN Advisory Group on Youth, Peace and Security and author of “Talking to Arab Youth: Revolution and Counter-revolution in Egypt and Tunisia”, also a panellist opened her remarks by recalling a quote, she had heard in Egypt that was used to describe the youth involvement in the early stages of the Arab Spring, “They’re just young people holding up traffic.” The transformative effect of those “young people”, she said, was easily dismissible at the time; however, with the benefit of hindsight it is evident what transformative role those “young people” had. She later said that it is fundamental to move from “the normative to the transformative”. Laiq also argued that there is already “significant youth involvement on the ground, but Resolution 2250 has the potential to streamline this involvement”.
Resolution 2250 is an attempt at drawing young people into various policy debates on peace and security – and much of the panel debate was on how to move away from mere rhetoric to implementable frameworks at varying levels: the international, regional and national.