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Secretary-General: Invest in youth to deliver peace

4 December 2018

The Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, has launched a UN report that highlights the enormous contributions of young people to peacebuilding and conflict resolution.  It was produced by an independent group overseen by the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office.

The Commonwealth was a member of the report’s steering committee.  At the launch at the Commonwealth’s London headquarters, young Commonwealth scholars and members of its youth networks engaged with report’s lead author so they could understand the key findings.

The report, Independent Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security, finds that young people involved in violence make up a just fraction of the youth population.  Many policies, however, assume that young people as a group are involved in conflict.

Policies based on such assumptions are often counter-productive and expensive.  Instead, the report urges policymakers to understand that a vast majority of young people remain peaceful even in the face of legitimate social and political uncertainties.  The lead author of the report, Graeme Simpson, therefore urged all actors to implement its recommendations which include:

  1. investing in young people’s capacities and facilitating youth-led organisations to maximise their transformative potential for peace;
  2. reinforcing schemes to overcome structural barriers limiting youth participation in peace and security;
  3. collaborating with youth as an equal partner for peace at national, regional and global levels.

Speaking at the launch, Secretary-General Scotland said, “The study draws on and incorporates many concepts and methodologies which, within our Commonwealth approach, we regard as of central importance for empowering and enabling young people to collaborate in creating a more peaceful future.” 

Closing the launch ceremony, young leaders from Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network spoke about the need to address issues such as hyper-masculinity, gender-based violence and inequality. Countering these issues could enable youth to become  fully engaged in the discourse on peace and security.

“We [young people] are not only the future of the world but also the present. Our place should be at the centre of good governance, peacebuilding and development,” said Arush Mehta, a young leader from India.

The report builds on the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 which looks at youth from an international peace and security perspective. It engaged a diverse group of young people, particularly those often excluded from global policy discourse, such as young refugees and former gang members.