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Reflections on the IDPS Dialogue on Youth, Peace and Security

Updated: Jun 30

On April 24-25, 2024, two members of the Canadian Coalition on Youth, Peace & Security (CCYPS) steering committee, Alexandria Bohémier and Katrina Leclerc, participated in the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) Exchange on YPS in Amman, Jordan.

 

It is important to note that Canada’s Minister of International Development, The Hon. Ahmed Hussen, is the co-chair of the IDPS as the representative of the development partners. Alongside him is Sierra Leone’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Her Excellency Kenyeh Barlay, who also serves as the Chair of the G7+ group of fragile states. Given the structure of the IDPS, the convenors select the participants brought to the space. The Dialogue sessions welcomed government and civil society activists from across Africa, the Middle East and donor countries. The CCYPS was invited under the auspices of the Government of Canada as the donor for the Dialogue.

 

Before we dive into the reflections about the Dialogue itself, we wish to acknowledge the welcomed contribution of our government as a financial sponsor to this exchange on YPS. Much of our collective advocacy has been focused on increasing Canadian support for YPS, including in multilateral fora. This fiscal support coincidentally came only weeks after the launch of Canada’s third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), announcing the government’s commitment to harmonizing and supporting the YPS resolutions. From where we stand, this is seen as a win.

 

Reflections from Amman

 

The YPS resolutions came to be largely due to the decades of activism by youth leaders and their allies. This led to the eventual recognition of their leadership by the UN system through Resolution 2250. Now that the focus on the agenda has shifted to institutionalization – much attention has moved to the responsibility of Member States in developing national policies on YPS. The question remains: Whose responsibility is it to implement the YPS resolutions? And who gets to shape this agenda more broadly?

 



 

In parallel to the question of ownership, the challenge of significant distrust between youth peacebuilders, their governments, and the UN system more generally, causes significant challenges to actualizing the policy framework. This question remains one of the biggest roadblocks limiting the advancement of YPS. On the one hand, young people generally distrust their governments and the UN; on the other, governments and the UN operate from a place that often assumes young people are inherently violent, inexperienced, or unable to contribute to building peaceful and resilient societies. These realities were highlighted during the Dialogue. Little did we hear genuine concerns raised by youth activists about their government, especially in their presence, and government delegates often spoke of the “inclusion” of youth rather than our leadership. This disparity and (perhaps) unintended diluting of the principles of YPS remain. To make matters worse, in some cases, the line between government and civil society is blurred. Some activists are seen taking on government positions but retain their hats as civil society in some spaces. In contrast, governments attempt to create their own coalitions – sometimes with the ‘good’ youth activists – to justify their (in)actions, claiming to be for and by youth.

 

Although the Dialogue triggered more questions than answers, it was clear to us that funding of the YPS agenda is a fundamental concern for all youth activists and governments. Institutional funding, including within government structures and civil society, is a common challenge faced by all those who are committed to advancing the YPS resolutions. Here, we wish to point out Marina Kumskova’s reflections from the Dialogue, in which she also alludes to the concept of trust. Marina’s recommendation includes: "Donors could prioritise funding arrangements that establish long-term partnerships that continually build trust and collaboration between donors and young peacebuilders."

 



 

Lastly, we would be remiss to offer reflections without the evident challenge faced by youth peacebuilders who come to these spaces with other intersectional identities. Recognizing the place of privilege we come from, our Coalition has chosen to prioritize ‘queering’ the YPS agenda. Far too often, youth who identify with different groups – in this case, non-cis heteronormative identities – are sidelined or completely absent (read: silenced) from these types of spaces. Requiring activists to leave one or more aspects of their identities at the door due to lack of safe space and general fear of reprisal is a fundamental failure of the YPS agenda. This prompts us once again to ask – who’s agenda is this?

 

Where do we go from here? Recommendations for IDPS

 

Flip the script – pay youth peacebuilders to train government and UN personnel on what the YPS framework is to them and how institutions can support them.

 

Rethink intergenerational exchange – fund intergenerational dialogues that create space for younger practitioners to showcase their best practices and expertise; learning and exchange should be both ways.

 

Be open to not knowing – create space for open discussion and genuine questioning; this can be a first step to developing genuine trust between youth and institutional actors.

 

We offer these reflections as an opportunity for IDPS to move forward with nuanced and constructive conversations around the YPS framework. We encourage the countries belonging to the IDPS platform to continue prioritizing the YPS resolutions, including in their own ways of working, and congratulate them for hosting this important conversation as the first of what we hope will be a long road (partnership) ahead.

 

 

This reflection blog was written by Katrina Leclerc, CCYPS’ Government Advocacy Chair, with inputs from Alexandria Bohémier, Co-Chair of the CCYPS Queering Peace and Security Working Group.

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