Peace is a state of mind many monks want to achieve. Peace is that long-term objective that many countries have been pursuing for years. Nonetheless, this larger peace, the peace of a country, the chance of having a community that is thriving and achieving its full potential seems to easily slip away. The big question is then, what does it take to achieve sustainable peace? One important step would be to give a seat at the table to the upcoming generation, the youth, the architects of the future that we all want to see.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security is explicit in highlighting how the different states should engage the youth not as beneficiaries but partners. We have oftentimes seen in the development field how the lack of engagement of a key stakeholder is the single most important factor of failure. This limits youth to be seen as victims that cannot find ways to transform the conflict. I believe this is the ‘missing peace’ of our societies. There is no sustainability if there is no profound change of mindset, where the culture embraced by each country is one where no citizen is left voiceless, where each member feels that they can influence the agenda and that their concerns are not left behind. We, young people are a creative force that knows how to turn few resources into innovation, scale up and engage with many other young people as I believe there is power in numbers.
In Colombia, after the No vote won the peace agreement referendum in 2016, several youth movements started to show their vision of what a country in peace would look like. The main streets were flooded with marchers who wanted to see a new peaceful era, in what was called “the March of Silence”, a demonstration fully organized by students. Some youths organized an encampment in Bolivar Square for 40 days to ask for a permanent ceasefire and a newly confirmed peace agreement. Other youths were part of “the Paz a la Calle” (Peace to the Streets) movement, where citizens met in a public space, brainstorm ideas to move forward the peace agenda and organized in different working groups in such a way that each one played a role. These are just a few examples of the youth engagement with peace that emerged. However, what became clear was the following.
- There was no invitation from the government for the youth to formally participate.
- There were no spaces to have a dialogue and co-create proposals that were meaningful for the youth’s peace vision.
So what we did was – invite ourselves to the meeting and bring a folding chair to sit at the table. The way to be heard was by creating a strong enough pressure that could not be ignored. Focusing on this point, I believe the Resolution 2250 falls short. While there is the initial framework to involve the youth, there are important points that remain vague and that is why the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2419 came into place. One of its key elements is that the youth should also participate in the planning, negotiation and implementation of peace agreements. Young people are one of the most affected groups in a conflict and thus should have an input in how to move forward and leave behind war.
Recently, the 72nd President of the General Assembly at United Nations, Miroslav Lajčák, created the Youth Dialogue, a space to give the floor to the youth, where we, young people, do most of the talk and have a space to express ourselves and our vision regarding how to move forward with different themes, one of them being peace. We celebrated the existence of the Resolution 2250 and how it creates the awareness of the importance of engaging youth in peace strategies. Nonetheless, as it happened with the resolution on Women, Peace and Security back in 2000, its implementation can take a considerable while and the steps forward happen really slow. Consequently, without proper and constant funding for the resolutions 2250 and 2419 to be implemented and a seat at the table to participate and make decisions that concern us, we (the youth) will remain the missing peace for generations to come.