Peace and Stability Has to be Built With Youth

Statement by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka for International Youth Day 2017

On International Youth Day we celebrate young people’s critical role as both drivers and beneficiaries of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This year, under the theme of “Youth Building Peace”, we focus especially on young people’s influence on preventing conflict and sustaining peace.

Despite increased recognition of youth’s role since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2250 in 2015, peace and security interventions tend to prioritize young men, and to rely on gender stereotypes: young men are perceived as potential ‘spoilers’ of peace processes, and young women as ‘victims’. Women, peace and security advocates have worked to defy and undo these stereotypes and to promote the recognition of women as powerful agents of peace in the prevention and resolution of conflict and peacebuilding processes.

In Kyrgyzstan, 15-year-old Diana Ruslan Kyzy is part of a group of young people partnering with civil society organizations to lead local peacebuilding initiatives; María Alejandra Martínez, the daughter of FARC-EP fighters in Colombia, helped found Aliarte, a network of young people which uses art and participation to prevent youth involvement in Colombia’s armed conflict; and in Haiti, 25-year-old Sophia Pierre-Antoine of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), recently participated in the first regional consultation for Youth, Peace and Security in Panama City, which brought together 63 youth leaders to discuss issues that impact youth and to advance their role in building a peaceful world. They are just a few of the many young women and girls around the world working to create and sustain peace in their communities.

Their stories illustrate the complex reality of adolescent girls’ and young women’s roles in conflict and post-conflict contexts. As UN Security Council resolution 1325 and its subsequent resolutions highlight, women—including young women—play diverse roles in peace and security contexts. They manage multiple layers of disadvantage and violence stemming from patriarchal norms and rigid cultural and traditional mores.

Adolescent girls and young women face double discrimination that stems from both their gender and their age. As a result, they can be overlooked in peace and security efforts; they do not fit into many male-dominated youth-focused peacebuilding and prevention programmes, and are too young for many women-targeted peacebuilding interventions.

But this does not mean that they are not significant and active agents of peace.

In recent years, we have worked to strengthen young women’s participation in policy discussions, consultations and regional or country-level programmes. We recognize the need for gender-sensitive and age-sensitive analysis that can be translated into responsive policy and programming so that we appropriately address the differentiated experiences and roles of young women and men, hear their voices and ensure their needs are met.

The Global Study on Women, Peace & Security (2015) highlighted that peace processes inclusive of civil society have a greater chance of success, while societies with higher gender equality markers were proven to be more stable and less at risk of conflict. The same logic of inclusive processes and agency extends to the youth, peace and security agenda.

Peace and stability cannot be built without young women and men, and it cannot be built for them—it has to be built with them.