Empowering Youth as Agents of Peace

Apr 29, 2021

Central African youth reaffirm their commitment to peace. MINUSCA/2016

Unanimously adopted on 9 December 2015, the UN Security Council resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security (UNSCR 2250) was a milestone in affirming the critical role of youth in global peace processes. Comprised of five pillars, (1) participation, (2) protection, (3) prevention, (4) partnerships, and (5) disengagement and reintegration, this resolution aimed to empower youth as agents of peace capable of preventing conflict, fostering sustainable peace and enacting tangible change within their communities. Since its adoption nearly six years ago, UNSCR 2250 has markedly paved the way for meaningful youth inclusion across peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.

This month, leading up to the International Day of UN Peacekeepers (29 May), we’re recognizing the significant role of youth in shaping and sustaining peace efforts. With its official theme, “The road to a lasting peace: Leveraging the power of youth for peace and security,” we’re highlighting the invaluable contributions from local youth and young peacekeepers in realizing international peace and security. While portraying youth as peaceful advocates for change, the photo essay below captures empowered moments of hope, development and peace as youth across the globe assume their role in the advancement of peace and reconciliation processes.

Youth theatre for peace and reconciliation in Gao, Mali. With support from MINUSMA, Gao youth relaunch a culture of peace and reconciliation theatre project. MINUSMA/Marco Dormino (2015)
Hundreds of women and youth gathered in Bangui, Central African Republic, to peacefully march through the capital’s streets and call for inclusion and civility during the December 2020 legislative elections. MINUSCA/2020
On the occasion of World Radio Day (13 February), a group of young students studying journalism visit Radio Okapi. MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh (2015)
Through wheelchair basketball, South Sudanese youth with disabilities promote lasting peace. UNMISS/2020
In the Central African Republic, youth strengthen their involvement in peace and reconciliation efforts. MINUSCA/2016

I. Participation

While highlighting the invaluable role of youth in efforts for lasting peace, UN Security Council resolution 2250 represented a paradigm shift in the discourse towards youth in conflict-affected settings. While moving away from depictions of youth as victims, targets or perpetrators of violence, this landmark resolution empowered youth as critical agents of change on the path to peace.

In South Sudan, the National Youth Union calls for calm and unity while marching for lasting peace. UNMISS/2016
In Cyprus, UNFICYP launched the Youth Champions for Environment and Peace initiative to promote environmental peacebuilding. In September, they held their first meeting in person with Head of the UN in Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar. UNFICYP/2020
UNFICYP peacekeepers and Youth Champions rolled up their sleeves to combat the solid waste problem inside the Buffer Zone in Cyprus. UNFICYP/2020
Youth theatre for peace and reconciliation in Gao, Mali. With support from MINUSMA, Gao youth relaunch a culture of peace and reconciliation theatre project. MINUSMA/Marco Dormino (2015)
Youth theatre for peace and reconciliation in Gao, Mali. With support from MINUSMA, Gao youth relaunch a culture of peace and reconciliation theatre project. MINUSMA/Marco Dormino (2015)

In promoting the inclusive and meaningful representation of youth throughout all levels of decision-making processes, UNSCR 2250 stresses the importance of integrating youth-inclusive considerations within peace and political processes.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of Youth Peace Ambassadors commit to fostering stability and peaceful relations throughout their communities. MONUSCO/2020
After years of intra-ethnic violence, South Sudanese youth leaders support the signing of a truce between the Kuei, Rup and Pakam communities. UNMISS/2019
During the first Youth Assembly in Pristina, Kosovo, empowered youth work to advance sustainable peace and development. UNMIK/2017
During a joint event hosted by UNFICYP and a local NGO, local youth discuss the role of women and youth in influencing social change in Cyprus. UNFICYP/2019

II. Protection

Under the protection of civilians mandate, the Security Council reaffirmed that “states must respect and ensure the human rights of all individuals, including youth, within their territory” and that “each state bears the primary responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.”

During a security patrol in Bangui, Central African Republic, two UN Police peacekeepers discuss safety and security with local youth. MINUSCA/2021
UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake, listens to the many concerns of young men and women staying at the UNMISS protection of civilians site in Juba, South Sudan. UNMISS/2020
In Bamako Mali, a UN Police peacekeeper from Niger explains MINUSMA’s mandate to local youth. MINUSMA/2016
The Head of the Office of South Kivu, Karna Soro (left), and the Head of the Sub-Office of Uvira, Ould Mohamed El Hacen (right), interact with youth of Kavimvira, who are reassured by the presence of MONUSCO peacekeepers following the attacks by militiamen in South Kivu, D.R. Congo. MONUSCO/2016

Within the context of youth, peace and security, adopting gender-sensitive initiatives to uphold the rights of women and end gender-based violence is further critical in preventing the marginalization of youth.

In Bangui, Central African Republic, MINUSCA organized an outreach initiative to empower local youth with the knowledge and tools to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel. MINUSCA/2021
While wearing traditional costumes, youth in Aweil, South Sudan, join voices to reject early marriage and demand their right to education. UNMISS/2019
South Sudanese youth in Bentiu, South Sudan, raise community awareness on the impact of sexual harassment and violence against women and girls. UNMISS/2019

III. Prevention

The prevention pillar calls on Member States to cultivate inclusive and enabling environments where youth actors are provided with adequate support to prevent and mitigate conflict. Additionally, this pillar highlights the importance of youth-centred socio-economic development policies that contribute to peacebuilding efforts. By strengthening early opportunities for employment, education, vocational training and political engagement, youth actors can promote a culture of peace, tolerance and inter-community exchange.

Members from the UNMISS Civil Affairs Division in Bentiu, South Sudan, train local youth on conflict management. UNMISS/2016
Members of the South Sudanese Scouts Association attend an awareness-raising workshop on the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan. UNMISS/2016
In resolution 2531 (2020), the UN Security Council urges the Malian authorities, with the help of their partners, to continue their action in favour of sustainable socio-economic development with a heightened focus on youth. MINUSMA/2020
Indian peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo conduct community engagement activities, including a class on electrical and mechanical repairs, so that youth can develop skills and access jobs. MONUSCO/2018
Young people are a crucial part of preventing conflict and rebuilding societies, including in the Central African Republic. MINUSCA/2016
The South Kivu Brigade of MONUSCO has trained 53 youth of Wulungu in masonry, electrical and auto mechanics. The graduation ceremony of this training programme was presided by the Commander of the South Kivu Brigade and the acting administrator of Walungu territory. The training offers local youth a good occupation and prevents their recruitment from armed groups. MONUSCO/Alain Likota (2017)
Force Commander, Major-General Paolo Serra, observes two students working on a generator in UNIFIL Headquarters, south Lebanon. UNIFIL/Pasqual Gorriz (2012)
In Bor, South Sudan, Korean peacekeepers serving with UNMISS train local youth on agriculture, welding, construction, electricity, baking and carpentry. UNMISS/2019
UNMISS engineers from the United Kingdom work alongside local youth to rebuild a community school in Malakal, South Sudan. UNMISS/2019
UNMISS engineers from the United Kingdom work alongside local youth to rebuild a community school in Malakal, South Sudan. UNMISS/2019
In Bor, South Sudan, Korean peacekeepers serving with UNMISS train local youth on agriculture, welding, construction, electricity, baking and carpentry. UNMISS/2019
In Bor, South Sudan, Korean peacekeepers serving with UNMISS train local youth on agriculture, welding, construction, electricity, baking and carpentry. UNMISS/2019
In Malakal, South Sudan, local youth acquire new computer skills thanks to training from UNMISS peacekeepers from India. UNMISS/2019

IV. Partnerships

While urging Member States to increase their political, financial, technical and logistical support, this pillar identifies the importance of local, regional, and non-governmental partnerships in countering violent extremist narratives regarding youth.

Youth empowerment centres supported by UNICEF are providing new opportunities for young people in Somalia, giving them a sense of hope and skills for the future. UNICEF/2020
The Peace Through Adult Literacy programme, run by the Association for Literacy in Songhai and Tamasheq (AALST), has been organizing classes in French, Songhai and Tamasheq in Gao, Mali. Currently, more than one hundred adult men and women benefit from these courses. The centre operates with the support of the academy and its partners, with three classrooms constructed and equipped by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), with the aim to bring about a change in the local population’s perception of the Mission’s mandate. MINUSMA/2017
While humanitarian action in Beirut is in full swing after the two explosions that hit the city on 4 August 2020, killing hundreds and displacing more than 300,000 people, even as COVID-19 cases rise, Lebanese youth have taken to the streets, masks on, providing food and assistance to those in need. UN Women/Dar Al-Musawir/Ramzi Haidar/2020

V. Disengagement and reintegration

To support disengagement and reintegration efforts, the UN Security Council “encourages all those involved in the planning for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration to consider the needs of youth affected by armed conflict.” In highlighting the importance of inclusive youth employment and education opportunities, this pillar further recognizes the interdependent role of education, employment and training in preventing the marginalization of youth.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Child Protection Section, together with UNICEF and the South Sudan National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Committee, facilitated the release of 32 former child soldiers in MirMir in South Sudan’s northern Unity region. The youth are trading in their weapons and uniforms for backpacks filled with essentials. Most of them will now be reunited with their families. UNMISS/2019
MINUSTAH’s Community Violence Reduction section developed and implemented a training programme for youth in Haiti that focuses on mechanics, electrical, building, plumbing, tailoring and cosmetology, in a drive to reduce community violence by offering young people from disenfranchised neighbourhoods the skills to find employment. MINUSTAH/2011
As part of MONUSCO’s Community Violence Reduction Programme in Komanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, demobilized ex-combatants, vulnerable women and at-risk youth were trained on soap-making. MONUSCO/2018
As part of Community Violence Reduction activities in Kaga Bandoro, Central African Republic, Pakistani peacekeepers serving with MINUSCA train local youth to sew. MINUSCA/2020


Empowering Youth as Agents of Peace was originally published in We The Peoples on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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