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Recognizing growth: How peace and security agendas can diverge and remain mutually supportive

July 8, 2021 by Micaela Crighton and Katrina Leclerc

Peace and security frameworks have been instrumental to ensuring key populations and thematic areas remain at the forefront of the United Nations’ priorities. In October 2000, when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1325, feminist movements across the world rejoiced in their achievement to push for a thematic resolution on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). Similarly, fifteen years later, young peacebuilders and their allies celebrated the adoption of Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS).

Many peacebuilders, policy professionals, and academics have recognized clear linkages between these two thematic frameworks - they are dubbed in some circles as mother-child duos. However, due to age, advocacy, and support, there is much more knowledge within the world of peace and security on WPS as compared to YPS. Leading to YPS actors operating within WPS frameworks to advocate for issues related to young people in order to gain recognition. As we seek full implementation of both agendas it becomes crucial that governments, civil society, and individuals working with peace and security policy understand both WPS and YPS agendas, and how to implement them, while addressing the similarities and differences of their demographics.

The WPS agenda has four pillars: participation, protection, prevention, relief and recovery. It has since grown to a suite of ten UNSC resolutions; the most recent addition being Resolution 2493 in 2019 which called for more comprehensive promotion of women’s civil, political, and economic rights.

In comparison, YPS is relatively new and only has three resolutions that make up the current agenda. It is built around five key pillars: participation, protection, prevention, partnerships, and disengagement and reintegration. Three of these pillars overlap with WPS - participation, protection, and prevention.

Many understand the synergies of the agendas with regard to young women, which is a great starting point. However, this understanding is not enough for the meaningful implementation of YPS. A central similarity often overlooked in these synergies is the concept of agency. On one hand, understanding that actions without the meaningful participation of those directly affected by peace processes and peacebuilding will not address the needs of the communities in a holistic manner. On the other hand, notions of empowerment and victimhood are prominent within both agendas, which inherently counters the notions of agency - ironic, really. While some governments, UN agencies, civil society and stakeholders recognize the need for agency instead of empowerment and victimhood, this idea is too often lost in high-level policy debates due to barriers in accessibility for grassroots organizers.

Exploring how YPS is similar to WPS serves for coordinated work for implementation in certain areas of the agendas. Understanding how the agendas diverge, however, allows us to better act for the full and sustainable implementation of both agendas.

Too often, young people face the violence of exclusion, wherein they experience additional barriers to participation for social, political, or economic reasons and are excluded from taking space in rooms about young people (or otherwise). Young people who are allowed into these spaces often face challenges navigating precarious work conditions, unpaid internships, and risk the loss of opportunity should they voice concerns or ideas that challenge those in power. While WPS does face many barriers to participation, ageism towards young people is a key challenge which is largely ignored or not reflected within WPS conversations. Young people are often expected to be represented by one individual who should feel privileged to occupy space and speak on behalf of the masses - the entire 1.85 billion of us. Those with fewer barriers are thus selected to represent all young people, resulting in a small pool of experiences being allowed in each space and perpetuating the violence of exclusion.

The binary approaches to gender also impact how youth are tokenized in these spaces, with young men portrayed as perpetrators of conflict, resulting in a denial of necessary protections needed for all youth peacebuilders to engage in peace work. This harm is exacerbated by the framing of YPS as an agenda largely focused on radicalization and violent extremism - this is slowly changing in some spaces (good!). On the other side of the binary token, patriarchal structures have often established young women as the sole victims of violence and thus wholly excluded from peacebuilding spaces. Due to the additional barriers faced by gender-diverse youth, they are mostly altogether excluded from peace and security work, something several YPS actors are actively challenging. However, YPS generally takes a more gender-inclusive lens than WPS does and examines impacts on how both young women, young men, and gender diverse young people experience conflict and various forms of violence - including structural violence - taking into account these differential experiences in the agenda.

The lack of understanding of YPS and its differences from WPS have significant impacts on the implementation of the YPS agenda. This is due to the lack of available resources that allow for meaningful participation of young people outside the scope of WPS. While the important YPS work of UN agencies such as UNDP and UNFPA cannot go unrecognized, there exists a continual gap within many UN agencies whose championing of this agenda exists primarily in the context of their pre-existing mandates, if at all. Overall the larger international recognition and mainstream understanding of WPS forces the YPS agenda to operate within it in several spaces. Creating a false dichotomy of competition for resources between grassroots peacebuilders.

If there was true, substantial, youth-led and driven investment into YPS (beyond the newly launched community-led YPS Fund), there would be further ability for the implementation of both agendas and greater action of their synergies while still responding to their divergent needs.

Meaningfully engaging with youth leaders who are experts - based on their experiences - and supporting the implementation of the agenda will allow for YPS to flourish in peace and security spaces. Allowing YPS to emerge from its mother’s shadow will allow both agendas to thrive and collaborate in order to achieve sustainable peace.


About the authors:

Micaela Crighton is a Co-Chair of Advocacy for the Institute for International Women's Rights - Manitoba (IIWR-MB) and co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for YPS (CCYPS). They are an active member of גֶּשֶׁר, Bridge, جِسْر, an interfaith dialogue group in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that works to promote awareness, dialogue, and empathy-building regarding Israel and Palestine. She holds a bachelor’s in human rights and theatre and film from the University of Winnipeg and is a former research advisor focusing on gaps in federal policies for 2LGBTQIA+ youth.

Katrina Leclerc is a PhD student in conflict studies at Saint-Paul University. She holds a master’s in peace and conflict from the University of Manitoba and a bachelor’s in human rights and conflict resolution from the University of Winnipeg. Katrina is a Youth, Peace and Security policy specialist with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for YPS (CCYPS).

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