Present and with voice – focus on young peacebuilders in Doha’s virtual conference
High level conference on youth inclusive peace processes was organised virtually on 20.-21. January 2022. A group of young experts on peacebuilding and peace processes participated in the conference as part of Finland’s delegation.
The resolution 2250 was adopted in 2015 and it was the first resolution on youth, peace and security adopted by the UN Security Council that recognized the role of youth in maintaining and promoting peace. This resolution gave an impetus to a stronger youth perspective in the UN and broke earlier views of young people as causes of conflicts or as victims.
After the first resolution on youth and peace the Security Council has adopted two additional resolutions (2419 and 2535) which set states responsible to report on actions that they take to enhance participation of youth in peace negotiations, conflict prevention and decision making in the society. In addition, the resolutions urge all states to develop their own national action plans to strengthen the role of young people in decision making. As the first country in the world, Finland launched its national action plan in August 2021.
These three resolutions and their calls and recommendations form Youth, Peace and Security agenda, commonly known as YPS.
Doha’s virtual conference – youth present and with voice
States’ commitment on advancing the Youth, Peace and Security agenda has been in the focus twice in international conferences. Doha’s international virtual conference in January 2022 was the second, following the first YPS conference organized in Finland in 2019. The conference gathered dozens of young peace builders from all around the world to Helsinki. The virtual Doha conference was hosted by Qatar and around 160 young people participated from 74 countries.
Representatives of Finland’s 2250 Network took part in Doha’s conference together with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations. Even though many state leaders attended the two-day conference in the role of giving national commitments on the YPS agenda, young people were most visible and present during the sessions. Young people hosted panels and gave expert statements. There was also a strong visibility of the LGBT+ community members and indigenous people amongst the participants. This got especial acknowledgment as these groups’ visibility and voice is not obvious in every country.
Inclusion of youth in matters of peace and security and especially participation of girls and women were strong themes in the speeches of young people.
During the discussions young people gave many examples on peace work all around the world. For examples, the representatives of Colombia gave examples on the activities of youth in their country which technically is not in an open conflict but in which the mediation and peace process is in a fragile state. It was also highlighted in many speeches that platforms are needed to enhance dialogue in the future. The youth also talked about how they need political space for peace building but also a faster increase of participation, as stated in the YPS agenda. Social media especially has been an important platform for young peace activists, even though equal access to digital platforms is not guaranteed due to poor internet connection and technology and the limits to freedom of speech.
Additionally, online hate speech narrows the digital equality and political space for young people. These issues are being intervened with also within the frames of the YPS agenda. A recurring topic in the conference was trust between young people and governments, which is a prerequisite for implementing the YPS agenda. There were several discussions on different means for strengthening trust between youth and governments especially in countries with distrust and discordance between the civil society and the decision makers.
Many young people also spoke about how a change in the culture and attitudes is needed for building durable peace.
The aims and achievements of the conference
Doha’s virtual conference had two aims to enhance the YPS agenda:
- Secure national commitments to advance country-level operationalization of the Youth Peace and Security (YPS) agenda, and
- Strengthen political will and commitment towards including youth into peace processes and decision-making.
To advance the first aim, two significant publications were presented that offer tools and operational models for governments to strengthen youth participation during different phases of peace processes at all levels of decision-making. A guide made for decision-makers and officials has examples on different ways to organise consultations with youth and initiatives made by youth in official and unofficial peace work. Finland’s 2250 Network also took part in drafting the guide.
Another publication was a five-year strategy (2022-2026) which includes a plan on how to gradually strengthen the inclusivity of young people in peace processes. For example, the strategy suggests that youth participation should be researched regularly, youth committees should be established to support the political decision-making and, in the long run, youth participation should be mainstreamed. In order to reach the second aim of the conference and strengthen political will, governments were encouraged to make commitments in advancing youth participation in peace and security. In the conference, Finland committed to advance Youth, peace and security agenda with an 11-point commitment.
Finland’s commitment in Doha’s virtual conference
Finland is committed to taking the YPS agenda forward by:
1) implementing our ambitious YPS NAP
2) including youth representatives in our delegations
3) supporting implementation of UNSCR 2250
4) supporting work of the PBF (UN Secretary General’s Peacebuilding Fund)
5) supporting youth and CSO work on YPS
6) promoting empowerment of young women
7) sharing best practices and lessons from drafting and implementing our NAP
8) advancing YPS agenda in the EU, through AU-EU cooperation and bilaterally with African countries
9) stepping up support to young peace-builders and mediators
10) advocating for implementation of the five-year strategy
11) promoting intergenerational dialogue.
Additionally, Finland’s first Youth, Peace and Security Ambassador will help advance the agenda nationally and internationally.
Youth participation in Finland’s national YPS action plan
Young people and the youth sector have been working closely with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on drafting Finland’s first national action plan. When Finland announced that it is starting to draft an action plan to implement the UN Security Council resolution 2250 Youth, peace and security, the preparations started with vast youth consultations in 201. Almost 20 actors from the youth sector mapped thoughts of over 300 young people on peace and security all around Finland and online. Additionally, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Finland’s 2250 Network that comprises of actors from youth sector organised virtual workshops for youth in on the five themes of the resolution. Young experts led consultations and workshops which ensured that young people were in the core of decision-making each step of the way. The implementation, monitoring and reporting phase begins in 2022 and young people and the youth sector are also involved.
Wishes for the future
Finland’s 2250 Network and its organisations wish that YPS agenda be strongly resumed in Finland and that the government takes it into consideration in a concrete way. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is not alone in charge of peace affairs. It is important that the educational sector, youth sector, security sector and political actors offer their support and expertise to advance the YPS agenda both nationally and internationally. In the virtual Doha’s conference many country representatives were interested in Finland’s national implementation and its youth participation perspective and wanted to learn more from it. However, the government and the Finland’s 2250 Network should remember that the implementation of our national action plan is only in the beginning and therefore, we still need to learn from other countries and their solutions to advance the Youth, Peace and Security agenda.
Finland’s commitment to advancing the YPS agenda is comprehensive and ambitious. It gives a significant youth dimension to Finland’s international cooperation which supports the recommendations of the UN Secretary General’s Our Common Agenda report: to strengthen impactful participation of young people in building common, sustainable and peaceful world and youth must be partners in a long-term. Finnish civil society and especially the YPS network wishes that Finland keeps the YPS agenda visible during Finland’s term in the Human Rights Council, in EU policy, in the UN arenas and in its own bilateral relations and in development and peace affairs internationally.
Heidi Saarinen, UN Association of Finland
Nanna Hallikainen, UN Youth of Finland and UN Association of Finland