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Young people must have ‘a seat at the table’ in peace efforts: Guterres

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Young people in Burkina Faso participte in “Caravane Faso Jeunes”, a roadshow that encourages youth participation in peacebuilding.

Although young people have been at the forefront of efforts to build and sustain peace, opportunities for them to make a meaningful contribution remain insufficient, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday. 

Addressing the opening of the High-Level Global Conference on Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes, taking place online, he urged the international community to step up support. 

He said numerous young peacebuilders, especially young women, report that their participation is not welcomed by the public or those in positions of power.  

“We need to ensure that young people have a seat at the table – forging inclusive solutions that combine peace and security, sustainable development and human rights,” he said.  

Expand investment  

The Secretary-General listed examples of UN support, including through the Peacebuilding Commission, which has provided young peacebuilders a platform to present their work and recommendations.    

Last year, the Peacebuilding Fund provided nearly $26 million to projects implemented with civil society partners working in the areas of youth, peace and security. 

This investment must be expanded, he said, with additional and more accessible resources, to support youth-led initiatives. 

New ‘Youth in Politics’ tool 

Amid reports of threats and violations against young peacebuilders and rights defenders, the Secretary-General also highlighted the need to strengthen human rights protections and safeguard civic space. 

“In this regard, the UN will develop a Youth in Politics Index to track the opening of political space in countries around the world that younger generations are so clearly demanding,” he said. 

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Mr. Guterres praised young people for speaking out as the world faces profound crises that include the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, rising conflicts and discrimination. 

Young people must have ‘a seat at the table’ in peace efforts: Guterres

In Glasgow, Scotland, people take part in a demonstration for climate action, led by youth climate activists and organized on the sidelines of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

‘Powerful’ agents for change 

Though heavily affected by these challenges, they are on the frontlines for action and solutions.  

“I salute young people around the world for raising their voices – in the streets and online – and standing up for climate action, gender equality, racial and social justice and so much more,” he said. 

As the world strives to recover from the pandemic, Mr. Guterres underscored the need to address the root causes of the exclusion of young people and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

“We must invest in providing prospects and opportunities for young people, especially young women, and including through education,” he said.  “Young people are not only citizens with equal rights but also powerful agents for change whose voices must be fully heard.” 

Advancing the agenda 

The virtual two-day global conference, which concludes on Friday, is being co-hosted by Qatar, Finland and Colombia. 

Among the aims is strengthening political will and commitment towards including youth in forging peace agreements, with a particular focus on young women. 

The Secretary-General was pleased that ahead of the conference, participants had already produced two important documents, which include a five-year strategy on Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes. 

He expressed confidence that these resources will help to advance the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda in every country. 

“You can count on me,” he told participants.  “You can count on the United Nations to continue to amplify young people’s voices and support your efforts towards a peaceful, sustainable and inclusive future.” 

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