As our global landscape reverberates with increasing geopolitical conflicts and resulting mass migrations, the importance of the role youth play in conflict resolution and peacebuilding has never been more critical. Recently a USAID-supported Social Return on Investment (SROI) study calculated that for every dollar invested in the youth-led and youth-supported peacebuilding programs, there is a $5-10 return on investment to youth, to community groups, to the State, and the private sector.
As we celebrate International Day of Peace on September 21st, the spotlight shines on these dynamic young individuals who have taken up the mantle of peacemaking and conflict resolution, and whose untapped potential might just be the lifeline we need to defuse global tensions and restore stability in volatile regions.
In 2015, the United Nations Security Council recognized the vital role youth play in conflict resolution, and peace processes, with the adoption of Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS). It recognized the positive contribution of youth to peace and underlined the need to include youth in peacebuilding decision-making and supporting their work in building and sustaining peace.
However, while this resolution ignited a spark of hope, young peacebuilders worldwide still grapple with considerable hurdles that often hinder our endeavors.
Saumya and Mridul co-founded Youth for Peace International (YfPI), a youth-led organization in 2015. YfPI initiated the Indian Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security (ICYPS) in 2019. ICYPS aimed at rallying young people across India to the YPS cause and providing a unified platform for action. Despite the global wave of optimism, YfPI, like many others, has faced an uphill battle. Engaging non-youth stakeholders, sustaining progress, keeping members active, and raising funds have been some of the pressing challenges that they have had to navigate, mirroring the predicaments of young peacebuilders worldwide.
The question then arises – how can we amplify the efforts of these young peacebuilders? What can global peacebuilding organizations like the USIP do to push this envelope further?
To answer this question, USIP mapped and analyzed a total of 538 initiatives implemented within the last 5-6 years by more than 100 actors, including NGOs/CSOs/INGOs, UN agencies, government organizations, academia, and national youth coalitions. Based on this, the Mapping the Landscape report sheds light on thematic focuses, programmatic approaches, and areas for improvement in enhancing the Youth Peace and Security (YPS) agenda.
Insights and Recommendations for enhancing the YPS agenda implementation:
It is essential that the implementation of a youth agenda is youth inclusive. The followings are the key recommendations to do that:
- Enhanced Role of Youth: Youth should be central in decision-making processes and implementation of the YPS agenda. This requires creating opportunities for youth to contribute to policy formulation, coalition-building, and monitoring implementation on national and local levels.
- Support National YPS Coalitions/Networks: Robust national coalitions and networks foster collaboration, strategic planning, and accountability. Supporting these can amplify youth voices, empower young peacebuilders, and facilitate their leadership in peace and security dialogues on national and regional levels.
- Utilize Multi-dimensional Programmatic Approaches: To optimize youth engagement, programmatic approaches should extend beyond traditional training and seminars. Including research, competitions, advocacy, and participatory funding in initiatives can empower youth further.
- Prioritize Underserved Thematic Areas: Addressing active youth civic participation and youth-led peacebuilding work requires effective protection and sufficient financing mechanisms. Initiatives should prioritize these areas to ensure the safety and security of youth peacebuilders and equip them with the necessary resources to contribute meaningfully.
In conclusion, the adage “Good data makes it impossible to do nothing” rings true. Our research findings underscore the need for a comprehensive, youth-inclusive approach that addresses youth’s diverse needs and promotes their meaningful participation. Keeping youth at the center of peacebuilding enables the international community to harness the rigor, resilience, and comparative advantages of youth to build peaceful societies.