Resolution 2535: Recognizing the capacity and strength of including young people in peacekeeping efforts
by Elliot Mur
In 2020, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2535 that called for the full implementation of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda into peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations. Recognizing the motivation of youth wanting to participate in peace initiatives and their ability for unique contributions, UN Peacekeeping missions acknowledge that inclusion of this demographic is essential to drive positive change and build and sustain prosperous societies.
Having more than 70% of the country’s population below the age of 30, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) not only recognizes the importance of including young people in peace processes but understands the necessity of their meaningful participation to preventing conflict. In an event that gathered forty youth representatives from the five counties of Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, the Civil Affairs Division of UNMISS led a workshop on capacity building and conflict management. Participants discussed how youth may be vulnerable to manipulation and are vulnerable to being utilized in violent intercommunal conflicts with oganizers providing training on open-mindedness and constructive dialogue as tactics to resolve conflicts.
“From this workshop, I will go back to my community in Aweil North and immediately talk to my peers. I will tell them about the dividends, the benefits, of peace, which is what we need. South Sudan’s revitalized peace agreement is not only for politicians in Juba, it belongs to us as well.”
— Santino Thiep Arou, a young man who attended the UNMISS-led workshop.
The Youth, Peace and Security agenda and Resolution 2535 noted that armed conflict disrupts youth access to education and economic opportunities, which may lead to their engagement in criminal activities. In another workshop hosted by UNMISS alongside the non-governmental organization Nonviolent Peace Force in early 2021, young men and women spent a day learning to build social harmony and reconciliation and discussed how “a spirit of national identity can be promoted to support the revitalized peace agreements and avoid conflicts.” Workshops such as these bring yout htogether to learn new ways to adapt to the existing challenges and offers opportunities for peacekeepers and UN personnel to empower young people. William Ketto underlined that youth will be playing a crucial role in promoting and maintaining peace in South Sudan, and that such workshops facilitate youth development in peace processes.
“It was a very productive event. The youth reinforced their commitment to refrain from violence and expressed their willingness to be role models when it comes to mitigating intercommunal conflicts and promoting peaceful coexistence in their areas.” — William Ketto, Civil Affairs Officer with the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan
Similarly, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has been acknowledging for years now that “the future of Kosovo lies with its youth and their understanding and participation in political, socioeconomic and environmental processes.” To do so, UNMIK appointed the very first UN Mission Youth Focal Point in May 2016, which has now expanded to two, one Pristina and the one in Mitrovica, to aid in the coordination betweens youth and the peacekeeping mission.
Through the years, UNMIK has arranged numerous activities to engage with local youth, including the UNMIK-led, UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo. This event first organized in 2017, connected young people from different communities with a multi-ethnic platform for them to express their concerns and issues and participate in various creative workshops to come up with innovative youth-centered solutions. Out of this event, the “Kosovo Roadmap on Youth, Peace and Security” was created, which brought in recommendations by more than 800 Kosovo youth from different communities. Moreover, the NGO United Youth Task Force, who we heard from in May, was formed to connect local youth with opportunities to participate in decision-making processes. The United Youth Task Force, has continued to support UNMIKs activities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing 3D-printed face shields to NGO’s and health workers.
Continuing on the theme of championing young people for peace, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), along with the British Council and the COOPower Project, launched an initiative entitled “UN Youth Champions for Environment and Peace” for a young Cypriot to learn about the island’s environmental challenges and to develop ideas that might benefit people and the planet. This two-week program allows young people to develop their skills, to collaborate with youth who live on the opposite side of the divide in peacebuilding efforts, and to strengthen the connection between UNFICYP and local youth.
Finally, in order to successfully carry out a peacekeeping mandate, educating and engaging with local youth about the role of the mission is crucial. The United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) has in the past attended fairs organized by universities in Beirut or visited schools to develop a stronger understanding of its activities and to offer a space for young people to engage with international organizations on ways they could make a difference.
Implementing the Youth, Peace and Security agenda and Resolution 2535 is an ongoing process of peacekeeping missions. UN Peacekeeping operations continue to conduct outreach and find new and innovative ways for youth to get involved in preventing and resolving conflicts to develop lasting peace. Carrying out workshops, informing about the mandate and hosting events are just a few of the ways of bringing youth into a conversation that affects them and their future. It is thus critical that these efforts continue in order to enable young people to reach their maximum potential.
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Resolution 2535: Recognizing the capacity and strength of including young people in peacekeeping… was originally published in We The Peoples on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.