New report calls for inclusive representation of young people in conflict prevention and peace processes

On Wednesday 17 July, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake announced the publication of #WeAreHere: An integrated approach to youth-inclusive peace processes, a policy paper co-authored by Ali Altiok and Irena Grizelj. The launch took place at the United Nations Security Council meeting on the implementation of the youth, peace and security agenda. The paper includes case studies from countries such as Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Syria and Yemen.

Youth Symposium participants at the House of the Estates in Helsinki in March. Photo: Nikke Puskala

#WeAreHere highlights the positive ways in which young people around the world are able to promote peace and participate in peace processes. The paper recognises the important role young people play in ensuring that peace agreements are successfully implemented. Not only do young people often make up the majority of the population in conflict-affected countries, but they are also inevitably engaged in rebuilding trust and leading reconciliation across generations. Therefore they should not be excluded from decision-making processes.

The outcomes of Altiok and Grizelj’s research challenge the traditional notions of what inclusion in peace processes means. For their role to matter for peace processes, young people have to be able to build relationships with each other in the room, around the room and outside the room of formal peace negotiations. UN Secretary-General António Guterres would like to see policymakers, community leaders, mediators and peacebuilders to consider the paper’s key messages and recommendations as a source of guidance and inspiration in their efforts.

Finland advocates young people’s role in peace processes

#WeAreHere was drafted during the Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes, which took place in Helsinki on 5 and 6 March. Financed by the Finnish Government, this international symposium was the first of its kind. It brought together young peacebuilders and representatives of civil society organisations from more than thirty countries.  The discussions at the symposium were also founded on another report, Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, mandated by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.

The foreign ministers of Finland, Colombia and Qatar and UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake at the Youth Symposium’s opening session. Photo: Nikke Puskala.

Mediation is one of the long-term priorities of Finland’s foreign policy. In its efforts to support peace processes, Finland pays special attention to an inclusive approach, such as methods to increase the ownership of women and young people. Inclusive processes increase the likelihood of a sustainable peace. It appears that, as one of the leaders of the UN youth, peace and security agenda, Finland will be the first country in the world to draw up a national action plan to implement the Security Council’s Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security.

You can read Altiok and Grizelj's #WeAreHere paper here.