The Role of Women and Youth in Peace and Security: Perspectives from CSW62 Delegates
During the United Nations 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, at the high-level side event, “The Role of Parliaments in Women, Peace, and Security,” contributor and co-founder of The International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) Sanam Naraghi Anderlini expressed a passionate albeit frustrated account of how 18 years ago she and fellow women’s civil society organizations had urged for the inclusion of women in peacebuilding and security responses. Throughout CSW62 it became clear that often the voices most systematically removed and ignored in security measures continue to be of those most affected by conflict. As UNA-USA Delegates at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, we recognize the importance of information-sharing for empowering communities and creating partnerships. Ensuring inclusion and representation for women and youth at decision-making tables related to peace and security must be a top priority if sustainable peace is to ever be more than an aspirational agenda.
Affirming the critical role of women in creating sustainable peace, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 in October 2000. UNSCR 1325 acknowledged the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, and urged the prevention of women’s rights violations, the increased support of women’s participation in peace negotiations, and the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict. UNSCR 1325 legitimized the position that the inclusion of women in local, national, and international strategies for mitigating and countering violence is pivotal in sustainable peace agreements.
Rather than women merely being victims or perpetrators of violence, this resolution established women’s roles in the prevention of violence, as well as in the creation and implementation of conflict resolution and peacebuilding initiatives. Additionally, this resolution stipulates that at all levels and stages of conflict and peace negotiations, the human rights of women must be taken into account and upheld.
With the largest population of young people in history, the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 in December of 2015 was an important step forward in taking youth seriously. The resolution on Youth, Peace and Security, the first ever of its kind, recognized that conflict, war, and terrorism adversely affect young people. In fact, according to the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, young people under 25 are the majority of those in conflict-affected societies and represent one-third of those displaced by conflict. UNSCR 2250 acknowledged that young peacemakers are pivotal in peace negotiations and initiatives, and have unique perspectives and ideas to contribute.
The adoption of Resolution 2250 was an important moment of legitimization for youth by the global community. It recognized that ignoring the voices and power of young people as partners in peace could only ever be to the detriment of peace and security. The priority to value, invest and engage youth in peacebuilding is key. UNSCR 2250 resolves to create space at the table for young people to participate and be represented at all levels of peacebuilding decision-making, to protect the lives and dignity of young people, and to create mechanisms for the prevention of youth recruitment into violent extremist groups.
CSW High Level Side-Event on Youth Inclusion in Peace & Security
The call for inclusion of women in peace and security through UNSCR 1325 was a pivotal moment. There is much to be learned from what has been achieved since its adoption as we work to implement the Youth, Peace, and Security agenda of UNSCR 2250. At the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, moderated a high-level side event to discuss the lessons learned from the implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda (UNSCR 1325). The Envoy on Youth made the following recommendations to advance the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda (UNSCR 2250):
- Create/expand the networks of young peacebuilders
- Include young people’s voices in policy-making
- Fund youth led peacebuilding
In opening remarks at the high-level side event, Her Excellency Ms. Fatoumata Tambajang, Vice President of the Gambia, highlighted that like women, young people are often only portrayed as victims of conflict instead of potential contributors to peacebuilding.
However, young people are rich assets who are essential to achieving and building sustainable peace. At the CSW62 Side Event, Her Excellency Ms. Karen Ellemann, Minister of Equal Opportunities of Denmark, expressed support for youth involvement in peacebuilding saying, “Youth are the leaders of tomorrow which means [they] are crucial partners of today.”
CSW Side Event: Preventing Violent Extremism Through Women’s Empowerment at the Community Level — Lessons Learned Through Peace and Security Programming
It is clear that omitting women and youth from security initiatives is not only an obstacle to the success of any programs executed, but also a missed opportunity. Countries who are actively working on implementing programs that create a role for women in their peace agenda serve as models for how governments can turn promises into action. The Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN, the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the UN, Georgetown University, and UN Women held a side event highlighting the successes and lessons learned from their regional women’s empowerment peace programming.
In the United States we have often seen how empowered communities can organize and mobilize when exhausted by the violence they are subjected to in their lives. Now, through the #metoo, #marchforourlives and #timesup movements, momentum has built for both youth and women to take the lead in creating peaceful communities here and around the world. Momentum is a precious commodity that must not be taken for granted. UNSCR 1325 and 2250 legitimized on an international level what has been clear to many in civil society organizations for more than 18 years: it makes no sense to remove women and youth from peace agendas. With only 73 UN member states with national actions plans for actual implementation, we must hold governments accountable. The power of advocacy for peaceful and legal solutions to issues of violence in communities is a powerful tool for ensuring government accountability.
In looking at the role young people play in peace and security, we must look to the women’s inclusion movement. In many ways, the women’s peace movement is years ahead of the youth movement and there are many lessons to be learned from both the successes and challenges they face. Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals requires full inclusion and engagement of both women the youth in peace and security agendas. As UNA-USA Delegates for the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, we hope to encourage our peers to take their seat at the decision-making tables on these issues.