Young people are central to the UN Secretary General’s New Agenda for Peace

In September 2021, the UN Secretary-General released his report on ‘Our Common Agenda’ which is a culmination of several consultations leading up to the 75th Anniversary of the UN. Our Common Agenda seeks to strengthen the work of the UN by accelerating the 2030 Sustainable Goals. It represents the vision of the UN Secretary-General on future global cooperation and multilateralism which is key in achieving international peace and security.

Member States requested the UN Secretary-General to share his recommendations on how to advance this common agenda based on the following priorities;

  • renewed solidarity between people and future generations
  • a new social contract anchored in human rights, 
  • better management of critical global commons, and 
  • global public goods that deliver equitably and sustainably for all. 

One of the key proposals made in Our Common Agenda is the idea of a New Agenda for Peace. The New Agenda for Peace seeks to address underlying drivers and systems of influence that are sustaining conflict while building consensus across states on security responses through new and improved steps to manage emerging risks.

The world today as we know it is experiencing a myriad of challenges. The climate crisis, authoritarian governments, violent conflict, exclusion of different populations, and lack of trust in global governance, all of which affect the current and future generations. This is why young people are central to this New Agenda for Peace.

Prior to the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250, young people were perceived as victims, perpetrators, or beneficiaries of peace processes. Yet, young people have always been and continue to build peace and prevent conflict in their communities. The recognition of young people’s agency has strengthened their inclusion and meaningful engagement in peace processes. There has been progress in the implementation of the Youth, Peace, and Security Agenda and the world benefits from the different actions and initiatives that young people, activists, and peacebuilders are doing to address the drivers of conflict.

To respond to the UN Secretary General’s Call for recommendations to the New Agenda for Peace, the Bahai International Community and Kofi Annan Foundation held a discussion with key stakeholders on 11 January 2023. I had the opportunity to speak particularly about how this New Agenda for Peace should include young people and their priorities.

In my presentation, I highlighted the lessons from national and local implementation of the YPS Agenda and recommendations for building sustainable peace. I shared young people’s aspirations, particularly lessons from initiating the Kenya Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security. 

  • Collective peace and security are possible only if we can achieve individual personal and social safety. To say that, the global has to be rooted in individual experiences in communities. The New Agenda for Peace must be intersectional if we are to ensure that it is sustainable and inclusive of young people.
  • The New Agenda for Peace must be deliberate about the inclusion and meaningful engagement of young people particularly groups that have been historically excluded such as youth with disabilities, young refugees, LGBTQIA+ youth, and youth in rural areas. The New Agenda for Peace must be shaped with these groups in mind ensuring there are adequate resources to facilitate their inclusion
  • The New Agenda for Peace must be anchored on multilateralism that is guided by trust and shared solidarity. 
  • Building young people’s power by equipping them with lifelong learning and employment opportunities will prepare them for the world we live in and the future we want.
  • Mobilizing across sectors, themes, and populations and strengthening the interlinkages between peace and security and other key themes that youth care about such as the climate crisis. We will not have a world to protect, no populations to empower if we do not address the climate crisis now
  • The New Agenda for Peace should re-affirm our shared purpose of achieving a greener and a safer world

But all of these aspirations will not happen with no financing. Young peacebuilders experience significant challenges when it comes to resources to implement YPS. For example, the newly launched Kenya Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security has been engaging online limiting its advocacy to only youth peacebuilders in cities and those with access to the internet yet profound peacebuilding work is happening in rural and remote areas of Kenya.

Therefore, I shared the following key recommendations for consideration in the New Agenda for Peace

Financing;

  • Increase financing and allocation of resources that go to youth programming and policy interventions with a focus on financing youth peacebuilders directly.
  • Mobilize stakeholders to identify sustainable ways of financing peacebuilding and development work. Researchers, the private sector including Big Tech companies, member states, and civil society must come together and create alternative financing options. We cannot continue to take from the planet to save the planet

Youth Inclusion

  • The New Agenda for Peace is an opportunity to re-commit to ‘Leaving No One Behind.’ by ensuring that all peace processes from the local to global level include young people and socially excluded groups. Information and opportunities to contribute to peace must be accessible for persons with disabilities. 

To me, the New Agenda for Peace is an opportunity to encourage youth participation in peace processes and global governance. It is not enough to include youth peacebuilders and activists. Every young person must have so much faith in multilateralism that they organize and contribute to decision-making processes whether or not they are an activist, peacebuilder, or community leader. But we also need member states to commit to the social contract by promoting human rights and creating a conducive environment for youth to engage meaningfully.

The Future We Want and The UN We Need is the one where every young person regardless of their socioeconomic identities is safe, free, and can access opportunities that enhance their development.

 

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