Youth are vital to establish and maintain peace and security in Africa

Sep 25, 2017

Photo: UNDP Ghana

Spreading a peace-culture through trainings in schools and including young people into Government institutions at national level are some of the positive roles young women and men can play in maintaining and promoting peace and security in their countries.

These were some of the ideas raised by over 40 young peace-builders and ambassadors who attended the West and Central Africa Regional Consultation on Youth, Peace and Security in Cotonou, Benin. The consultation was the outcome of a joint effort by various United Nations (UN) Agencies involved regionally and globally on youth empowerment in the maintenance of peace led by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Held from 11 to 13 September, 2017, the consultation attracted young participants from 23 countries in Western and Central Africa who discussed ways to maintain peace and security on the continent, and to support national Governments in the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250.

The key aims of the consultation and dialogue were:

  1. To identify and prioritize the main peace and security-related issues impacting youth in local, national, regional or global contexts;
  2. To discuss gaps, challenges and priorities in promoting and supporting young women and men’s active involvement in conflict prevention, conflict transformation, social cohesion and sustaining peace in their communities, institutions, countries and regions;
  3. To collect in-depth information on young people’s activities, initiatives and innovation to prevent violence and sustain peace;
  4. To identify substantive recommendations based on the local, national or regional experiences of young men and women, to inform the Progress Study on YPS and guide the implementation of UNSCR 2250.

Youth gave their perception on how the UNSCR 2250 and its 5 pillars, which call for increased involvement of youth at all levels of decision making, are being implemented in their member States. Discussions from the regional consultation will feed into the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, highlighting the positive contributions of young people in peacebuilding.

 “One of the main objectives of the UNSCR2250 resolution is to include youth as a key-actor on the peace and security agenda. It is therefore imperative that the participatory methodology recommended by this consultation is applied. The involvement of youth from Western and Central Africa to the analytical and assessment process represent the most effective way to ensure that member States and the UN system will be able to identify solution for the youth with the youth,” said Mr. Siaka Coulibali, the UN Representative in Benin. 

Organizing the regional consultation for West and Central Africa was crucial for several reasons. West and Central African countries are characterized by a large young population: more than 40 percent youth between 0 and 15 years old, and more than 18% youth between 15 and 24 years old.

The region is also a theatre of social and political instability which has often lead in the past to numerous outbreaks of armed conflicts. The large majority of these since independence have been intra-state conflicts, marked by 5 large-scale civil wars. Different studies reveal various areas of concern - an increase in drug and human trafficking, election related violence, maritime piracy, longstanding ethno-national conflicts and violent extremism - which mostly affect the youth. The conditions of vulnerability under which they live represent a driving factor for radicalization.

It is clear that youth are key agents for change without whom the success of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 would be unachievable.  During the consultation, young participants highlighted they would strengthen their commitment, civic engagement and knowledge of pivotal elements to align with SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), as well as play an active role in peace and security issues.

UNDP, in line with its Youth Strategy 2014-2017, contributes to the implementation of UNSCR 2250 by scaling up its advocacy efforts and supporting youth engagement, global policy analysis and thought leadership, as well as youth-sensitive and policies and programmes on youth leadership, inclusive youth labour policies and youth civic engagement and political participation in peacebuilding processes and contexts. UNDP will also strengthen partnerships and coalitions around this agenda, including through a global ‘Youth4Peace’ collaborative and multi-stakeholder online platform.

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