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Young peacebuilders from across Europe join forces with regional institutions on the urgency for investing in a long-term strategy for peacebuilding

Wed, 27/09/2017 - 21:27 -- Regina Salanova

Europe-wide forum marks major milestone for global Youth, Peace and Security agenda

Brussels, 27 September 2017 - Forty-four young women and men from across 34 European countries participated in Brussels this week in the European regional consultation for the UN Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS). This landmark event brought together for the first time young European peace-builders with regional and global institutions, and represented a platform to map existing good practice on youth-led peacebuilding at European level.

The regional gathering took place on the initiative of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the United Nations Secretariat for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF), together with the European Youth Forum and the European Partnership for Children and Youth in Peacebuilding (United Network of Young Peacebuilders, World Vision International, Search for Common Ground).

During three days, young people working on peace and security across the European Union, the European Free Trade Association and the Western Balkans, discussed and exchanged good practices on prevention, social inclusion and recognition, participation, cross-cultural dialogue and the role of youth in conflict prevention, sustaining peace and sustainable development in their communities and countries. The outputs of the consultation will be integrated to the global Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security to be presented to the UN Security Council and Member States in 2018.

Key emerging issues highlighted by participants included:

  • National and multilateral institutions to integrate YPS in policies, structures, actions and funding.
  • Ways to increase youth political participation at all levels and in all areas of decision making.
  • Youth promoting conflict prevention through education, exchanges, dialogue.
  • Youth economic inclusion, access to funding and peacebuilding through business opportunities.
  • Non-formal education for peace and new approaches to peace education.
  • Engaging the private sector for supporting youth-led peacebuilding.
  • The need for institutions to invest in youth-led peacebuilding work and access the hard-to-reach voices, including young people from socially different backgrounds;
  • The need to challenge the ghettoization and stigmatisation of youth;
  • The need to invest in visibility actions that support existing youth agency:
  • Funding opportunities for youth-led peacebuilding need to be more visible;
  • Internal capacity of youth-led organisations should be strengthened, including management of funding opportunities, monitoring and evaluation, and visibility;
  • There is a lack of recognition and trust in youth-led actions;
  • Low levels of representation and participation impact on the increasing gap between youth agency and policy-making.

Long-term investment in youth-led peacebuilding

The European consultation on YPS marks a milestone of EU engagement in youth-led peace building. Speaking on the eve of the European forum at the UNHQ, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, underlined the EU’s commitment to the YPS agenda through the European regional consultation and ensuring an effective follow-up: “Young people need to be seen as positive actors for change and not part of the problem. They are the most powerful engine for progress, dialogue, sustainable peace, reconciliation, and change. We need to turn the narrative upside down.” Mogherini added: “We will continue our work on YPS. The best investment to tackle radicalisation and violence is opening up spaces for dialogue and active youth participation.”

The Head of the Multilateral Relations Division at the European External Action Service, Jonas Jonsson, underlined to youth participants that this consultation was the starting point of a process and that the EEAS will work to ensure that youth agency is integrated into the peace and security agendas of the EU. The Head of the Joint UNFPA/ UN PBSO Secretariat for the Progress Study, Cécile Mazzacurati, emphasised the importance of elevating the messages raised by young people across the regions, and the need to link the youth peacebuilding agenda to the global agenda of sustaining peace and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ALF Executive Director, Hatem Atallah, underlined the importance of the large-scale coalition of partners to allow a more sustained investment in youth-led peacebuilding.

Next steps

At the conclusion of the three-day consultation, regional partners and youth peacebuilding networks concluded to follow up with joint effort and commitment towards a long-term strategy for peacebuilding:

  • Positive discourse. The partners put particular strategic importance on maintaining a positive discourse around young people, highlighting their contributions to conflict, prevention, sustaining peace and sustainable development.
  • Aligning YPS with existing policy agendas. Partners will work to integrate the YPS agenda into their implementation of global agendas, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and addressing climate change, as well as into their programming.  In particular, the European Youth Forum committed to take forward the outcomes of the consultation to the upcoming Africa-EU Youth Summit.
  • Embedding priorities into new programming. The ALF committed to embed the priorities emerging from the consultation in its new programming to start in 2018, including grant support for youth-led initiatives between the EU and the Southern Mediterranean region, and the expanding flagship regional programme Young Mediterranean Voices. Search for Common Ground highlighted its commitment to embed the YPS agenda in the worldwide “Battle for Humanity” initiative.
  • Supporting advocacy and connecting peacebuilding networks in Europe to other regional networks engaged in the Youth, Peace and Security agenda. Partners agreed on opening up their youth networks and to support advocacy work to embed youth-led peacebuilding actions in policy-making processes.
  • Mapping on existing funding opportunities. Partners put specific emphasis to work together on a mapping of existing public/private funding support for youth-led work in peace and security in Europe. The United Network of Young Peacebuilders committed to support and work on this mapping exercise on existing funds for youth peacebuilding work.
  • Support the role of children in the YPS agenda. World Vision International emphasised its commitment to invest resources and funding in the YPS agenda, and to expand its support to make children’s voices more central to the YPS agenda.

List of participating countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom.