Secretary-General, at Conference on Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes, Says Young People Need Seat at Negotiating Table, Protection against Forces Aiming to Silence Them

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres remarks at the opening of the High-Level Conference on Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes, held virtually and in New York, today:

I am very happy to see all of you joining us today, and I want to thank you for your efforts to advance the implementation of the youth, peace and security agenda.  I am grateful to the Governments of Qatar, Finland and Colombia for hosting this event, in collaboration with the United Nations and youth organizations.

Our world is facing profound challenges — the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, rising conflicts, discrimination, the digital divide, the erosion of civic space and declining trust.  And yet [young] people are not only heavily affected by these crises — they are on the front lines 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.

And youth must be at the centre of efforts to address these challenges and build more peaceful, just and sustainable societies.  That is the spirit of my report on Our Common Agenda:  to work with young people, recognizing the pivotal role of youth as designers of your own — as well as our shared — future.  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.

I salute young people for already stepping up and leading by example.  You represent a source of innovation, ideas and solutions.  From monitoring ceasefires to mediation, humanitarian assistance and post-conflict healing, young people are engaging and mobilizing broader constituencies by using traditional platforms, as well as new technologies.

Time and again, young people have been at the forefront of efforts to build and sustain peace, including through activism and peaceful protests.  And many Member States are taking steps to harness that potential as a positive force for building peaceful and tolerant societies.

However, opportunities for meaningful participation remain insufficient. Numerous young peacebuilders — especially young women — report that their participation is not welcomed by the public or those in positions of power.  The international community must step up its support to young people in these efforts.

The Peacebuilding Commission has provided young peacebuilders a platform to present their work and recommendations.  And the Peacebuilding Fund includes a youth promotion initiative to support the youth, peace and security agenda.  Last year, we provided nearly $26 million in projects implemented together with civil society partners.  But, we need to expand that investment — with additional and more accessible resources to support youth-led efforts.

Reports of threats and human rights violations against young peacebuilders and human rights defenders are also of grave concern.  We must strengthen human rights protections, safeguard civic space and ensure an environment that enables young people to meaningfully and safely participate in peace and security efforts.  In this regard, the United Nations 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.

Finally, as we strive to recover from the pandemic, we must address the root causes of the exclusion of young people, and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.  We must invest in providing prospects and opportunities for young people, especially young women, and including through education.  Young people are not only citizens with equal rights, but also powerful agents for change whose voices must be fully heard.

I am pleased that your work ahead of this conference has already produced two important documents:  a set of guidelines for Member States to operationalize the youth, peace and security agenda, and a five-year Strategy on Youth-Inclusive Peace Processes.  I am confident that these resources will make a meaningful difference in advancing the agenda in every country.

You can count on me.  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, and I thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.