Let’s talk about decolonizing the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS).

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a class on decoloniality as part of my postgraduate in International Gender Studies at the University of Iceland. Learning theories and concepts of gender, particularly on decoloniality was mind-blowing for me to say the least.

I found myself taking stock of who I am today and what informs my daily practices. I could trace the roots of my habits and beliefs to colonialism. Many of us (subconsciously) reinforce colonial practices through our work and work ethics. I am not one to argue whether colonialism was a good or bad thing, absolutely not. If you know me, you know where I stand on this. 

Colonialism is woven neatly into our daily life and ingrained in our governments, justice system, schools, modern practices, and workplaces. These days, it is referred to as neo-colonialism. So let me start by acknowledging that none of us is above colonial practices. The best we can do is take little steps to decolonize our minds, and our daily habits and begin to think outside what we know as ideal or objective practice. I believe that these little actions can help in disrupting the power dynamics that continue to enable social inequalities.

Back to my class on decoloniality, our lecturer tasked us with an assignment; How can you decolonize your work?

My work is primarily focused on advocating for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security.

Now…

My groupmates and I were ambitious, and I say this very sarcastically now but not in spite…

We wanted to Decolonise the United Nations…

Can we decolonize the UN?

Yes and No!

Yes, because equality and justice are only possible in a world of dreamers, disruptors, and those who are ambitious enough to tackle the powers that be. Someday, we will be able to fully decolonize the UN

No, because the UN is institutionalized in a way that preserves power within a few states, predominantly the US and the other Permanent Members of the UN Security Council. Although change is possible, it requires a change in the UN Charter, and to do that you need a majority of Member States to agree to it. This is close to impossible in a world where many Members States are still dependent on their colonizers for development funding and aid.

Would you bite the hand that feeds you? 

After long (unproductive) discussions of identifying ways we can decolonize the United Nations, for purposes of our assignment, we decided to focus on decolonizing certain aspects of the UN, for example, the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on YPS.

What is colonial about the YPS Agenda?

We know that knowledge is a great tool for building or influencing power. The lack thereof access to knowledge enables inequalities. The Youth, Peace, and Security is the first landmark resolution that acknowledges the agency of young people and their contribution to peace processes. It is a great advocacy tool for youth and youth-led organizations when it comes to meaningful engagement and partnerships with decision-makers. Yet, this tool is only available in 6 languages. 

Simply put, if you are a disabled youth, your chances of accessing this information for yourself are close to zero. 

If you do not speak Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish, you cannot access this information for yourself. 

Language remains a big obstacle to promoting meaningful youth inclusion and engagement in decision-making. The presumption that all youth are literate, and have similar access to information is slowing progress in achieving youth development. Limiting information to a particular group of people, primarily the literate and/or elite is not only a colonial practice but also ableist, in the sense that there aren’t alternative formats for disabled youth with visual or hearing impairments.

How can we decolonize the YPS Agenda? We identified two main solutions;

  • Budget Allocations in all youth programming to support the translation of the UNSCR 2250 in local languages and in alternative formats for youth with hearing and visual impairments
  • Institutionalization of accessibility through; passing a memo that would mandate all country offices to translate the UNSCR 2250 into local languages and ensure popularization and wider dissemination of this tool.

Even though the UN is the international government for 179 Member States, it would be close to impossible to expect all knowledge produced by the UN to be translated into local languages. However, providing alternative formats for disabled individuals is a bare minimum for an institution whose principle is ‘Leave No One Behind.’

Hence, the need to provide budgets and institutionalize this mandate at the country level where this information can be translated into popular languages and contextualized to ensure it suits the needs of the population. In Kenya, there is a Swahili version of the YPS Agenda pillars and it has strengthened the advocacy of informal youth networks and movements.

Perhaps, we can not decolonize the Security Council, but ensuring every young person has access to tools and resources critical for their empowerment and development is a step forward to shifting power dynamics between youth and the state.

This blog is a written format to a Powerpoint presentation prepared collaboratively by Akhil, Bleona, Orlando, and Wevyn as part of a group assignment in the Theories and Concepts of Gender module taught by Giti Chandra.

Cover Image courtesy; Google Images

 

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