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Youth Participation at CSW60: Good Initiatives But More is Needed

By Erin Quinn, Research and Advocacy Intern, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders

 

Youth and their role in peace and security was of broad and current interest as part of the 60th U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. GNWP, in partnership with other organizations, hosted and organized two panel discussions concerning this topic. Additionally, a group of 11 students from the University of Winnepeg in Canada volunteered with GNWP to participate in and attend CSW events, providing a youth perspective to the events.

 

The first event, which took place on March 14, was titled “Youth Speak Out on Sustainable Peacebuilding Tools.” It featured female youth speakers and their experiences with peacebuilding and its sustainability. Moderated by Professor Marliou McPedran of the Institute of International Women’s Rights at the University of Winnipeg, the panel included GNWP research and advocacy intern and human rights student also from the University of Winnipeg, Katrina Leclerc. Leclerc presented on GNWP’s Girl Ambassadors for Peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and described the integral role youth play in peacebuilding and post conflict societies. “Through the programming, such as Girl Ambassadors for Peace, we can clearly see that youth are at the heart of our communities and have great potential to bring change,” expressed Leclerc. She continued, “I think it is essential to involve youth in every process of peacebuilding in order to develop sustainable peace in our communities.”

 

Other youth panelists included Breanne Lavallee-Heckert, from Plan International Global Youth Advisory Panel, Gabriela de Carvalho of Taking IT Global, and Kasha Slavner Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. Slavner, who is also a 17-year-old filmmaker, photographer & social entrepreneur, explained her recent documentary project in East Africa and Southeast Asia, which aimed to highlight the stories of youth who are shaping what it means to be global citizens.

 

Coming from Mexico, Carvalho discussed the role that media plays in contributing to the body image and confidence of young girls and women. She described, “media taught me, that as a woman, I should aspire to be just like the models that spend hours applying makeup and getting their hair done only to be photoshopped.” However, a wave of body positivity recently in the media, specifically for Carvalho, Dove’s Real Beauty campaigns have helped to counter this. “Dove, inspired me to accept who I am, and that I am beautiful no matter what the magazines say. If I am happy with myself, that is enough.”

 

The second event discussed the complementarities between the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda and the Youth Peace and Security Agenda, especially given the U.N. Security Council’s recent adoption of Resolution 2250 on December 9, 2015. UNSCR 2250 focuses entirely on the role of young men and women in peacebuilding and countering violent extremism. The panelists included: H.E. Benedetto Della Vedova, the President of Libertiamo and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Italy, H.E. Dina Kawar, the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN, Laura Londén, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Honn. Betty Ogwaro, a Member of the National Legislative Assembly of the Republic of South Sudan and Representative of GNWP, Yousef Mahmoud, a Senior Adviser at the International Peace Institute. The only actual youth panelists were, Mr. Sölvi Karlsson, the Leading Coordinator at United Network of Young Peacebuilders and Hajer Sharief of the United Network of Young Peacebuilders and Together We Build It.

 

Although the discussion of the panel focused on the great importance of youth voices in peacebuilding processes and the successes made leading up to UNSCR 2250, it was disappointing that there was only one actual youth panelist in the room for this event. Hajer Sharief, the other youth panelist, was only available through skype after her visa was denied. It is disheartening that technical difficulties as experienced during Sharief’s presentation, like the attainment of a visa, can keep youth voices from being expressed.

 

Despite the unanimous approval by the Security Council on Resolution 2250 in December, there are still many obstacles in the path of youth participation in peacebuilding. There are often high-level discussions of youth, peace, and security matters without youth representatives in the room or with youths in the room while other voices dominate the conversation. University of Winnipeg student volunteers were denied access to a youth networking event during the CSW, although the majority of the room was filled with participants over the age of 35. Although this issue may be one of physical space at events, there needs to be a greater effort to let youth voices into the room and lead the discussions that concern them. Without active participants from youth, the Youth, Peace, and Security Agenda cannot move forward because it will not know what youth want or need.

This blog does not necessarily represent the views of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.

Please contact the writer for questions and comments: erin.gnwp@gmail.com.