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#ActForEqual through meaningful inclusion of young people: Reflections on Generation Equality Forum

June 21, 2021 by Molly Hamilton

On March 30, 2021, I had the privilege of speaking during the Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action Compact Coalition (WPS-HA Compact) networking panel alongside Kyra Luchtenberg, UN Women Policy Analyst, Heela Yoon, founder of Afghan Youth Ambassadors for Peace Organization, Mallika Iyer, Asia Programs Coordinator and Humanitarian Action Specialist at the Global Network for Women Peacebuilders, and Rezwan Rahman, member of Our Generation for Inclusive Peace’s Advocates Network. The session, which was part of the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City (GEF Mexico), was an opportunity for young people to reflect on how to integrate intergenerational leadership in the Compact and also how to push to ensure the achievement of the goals of the various thematic working groups within the Compact. Below is an excerpt from my contribution to the discussion.

After strong advocacy and efforts from civil society, and in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Generation Equality Forum, as well as the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the WPS-HA Compact was created to harness the existing extensive normative framework on WPS and HA. The Compact will accompany institutional and coordinating mechanisms, to action and realize commitments on WPS and humanitarian action. The WPS-HA Compact is an innovative, intergenerational, inclusive approach to bring together Member States, civil society, international organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders in order to create a more comprehensive approach to addressing the continued gaps in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and Humanitarian Action.

Twenty years after the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and twenty-five years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, women, young women, gender-diverse peoples, and 2LGBTQ+* people continue to be significantly excluded from formal peace processes. Moreover, the stalled nature of several formal and informal peace processes raises the question of whether to add women into broken processes or develop new processes by reshaping the peace table. I think this is where we, as young people, have an opportunity to grasp this moment and push for a more innovative and transformative process.

In order to rebuild more sustainably and equitably and ensure we achieve the goal of young people’s meaningful participation in both formal and informal peace processes, the peace and security community must ensure there is meaningful intergenerational leadership at all levels. To do so, we must:

  • Recognize and name Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) as a key nexus to include young people meaningfully in peace processes, as agents of peace rather than as agents of war.

  • Young people should occupy designated seats in decision-making processes, and we need to go as far as re-designing the table to be intentional, inclusive and diverse, and ensure that a process cannot start without the voices of young people.

  • The strategy of regional networks, such as those belonging to the Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediator Networks, must be inclusive of young people and pay significant attention to young people and their potential. These networks can encourage more young people to join and foster mentorship opportunities and inter-generational capacity-building.

  • Resources have to accompany all these efforts. Provide core funding for these networks and coalitions, especially those working to push the YPS agenda, such as the Canadian Coalition for Youth, Peace & Security, and the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, as almost all of them are volunteer-driven and operate with little to no funding. And yet, they are the key drivers of many of these peacebuilding movements.

The goal of the GEF Mexico was to generate urgent action and accountability on gender equality, spotlighting the power of women's rights activism, feminist solidarity, and the leadership of youth to achieve transformative change. The Forum in Mexico City reviewed progress since the historic Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most comprehensive framework for achieving women's empowerment and gender equality and shaped a programme of concrete measures to advance gender equality between now and 2030.

As we prepare for the Forum to culminate in Paris from June 30 to July 2, 2021, my biggest takeaway from the Mexico City Forum was that we need to include more young people in the main events. It seemed that during the Mexico City Forum, young people were, for the majority of the time, only included in side events and rarely in the main events where most of the participation happens, especially the participation of Member States. For example, I joined the “Imagining 2026 Youth Panel Discussion” which was a conversation between Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, and four young women sharing their thoughts on the future and the work that they do. It was a fascinating session with extremely bright young women, yet it was disappointing to see the audience numbers were low in comparison to the main, high-level events. Therefore, my hope for the Paris Forum is that more young people will be invited to speak during the main panel events and be able to engage meaningfully with Member States and decision-makers.

To conclude, young people are an instrumental constituency in the GEF and worthy of special recognition, of being paid attention to, and of being respected as experts. We are the future dividend that will see to the implementation and realization of these aspirations and therefore, we have a right to be involved in the decision-making and ability to influence the outcomes of our futures. Noting the purpose of GEF which is a global movement for gender equality, I believe it is important that the Forum should not leave behind a strategic constituency: we, the young people.

*Referring to members of the community who identify as two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender-diverse, gender-fluid or other sexual orientations.


About the author:

Molly Hamilton is the Women, Peace and Security Programme Officer at ACCORD. She will be leaving ACCORD to pursue her Law degree at McGill University in Fall 2021, as she hopes to pursue a career in human rights law. Her areas of interests include women, peace and security and more specifically, countering sexual violence and gender-based violence.

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