The inclusion of young people at all levels of decision-making is instrumental in ensuring the successful implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda both within a Canadian and a global context. Action Area 6 (Peace and Security) of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy addresses the sidelining of women in peacebuilding as well as the disproportionate amount of violence women face in conflict zones. Additionally, it highlights the barriers and violence faced by youth and children, and their exclusion in the creation of responses and solutions. However, the physical and psychological needs of young people are not the only thing being overlooked – youth are far too often seen only as victims. Young people’s experiences, opinions, and solutions are frequently ignored in conflict prevention, stabilization efforts, and peacebuilding.
Policies on the WPS agenda, including Canada’s 2nd National Action Plan on WPS, cannot be successfully implemented at the local, national or global sphere without the meaningful engagement and participation of young people. In December 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security (UNSCR 2250). This policy framework urges Member States to have inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels. Our current global youth population is the largest the world has ever seen, and the populations of countries affected by armed conflict are a majority of youth. With young people making up such a large percent of the world’s population, their active engagement can have a resounding impact on the creation of sustainable peace. It is important that current world leaders recognize the role of youth leaders and begin to pass the torch onto them.
It is crucial for the Government of Canada to take the implementation of UNSCR 2250 seriously to achieve the objectives set out in the 2nd National Action Plan on WPS. A partnership between the YPS agenda and the WPS agenda is key. Bridging these two agendas would address the gap in participation of young women in peacebuilding and work cohesively to address the violence and discrimination faced by women and girls globally. It would also highlight the importance of the engagement of men and boys through the inclusion of young men in peacebuilding. With a joint approach between decision-makers, women, and young people, we can strengthen our efforts towards achieving sustainable peace.
The five core action areas of UNSCR 2250 are participation; protection; prevention; partnerships; and disengagement and reintegration. The incoming Government of Canada should address these core areas in order to fully engage young Canadians in peacebuilding efforts on all fronts. Here are some recommendations on how the incoming Government can work to implement these actions:
Participation – Participation is one of the pillars of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security. The incoming Government should increase the participation of young people from varying walks of life at all levels of decision-making. The participation of young people needs to be more than a seat in the room. Young people need to be provided the space to be heard and considered among recognized leaders locally, nationally, and internationally. This is important to ensure an intersectional approach to peace and policymaking so that our solutions adequately address the different lived experiences and needs of all women and girls. This will create education and participation opportunities for men and boys to be involved in peace work – which has been traditionally seen as women’s work – to ensure its continued growth and eventual success. This can be achieved in many ways, including the facilitation of young people in important spaces such as the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the upcoming Generation Equality Global Forum, where the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Actions recommendations will continue to be spearheaded by the world’s next generation of leaders.
Protection – Protection is also one of the pillars of UNSCR 1325. The incoming Government needs to address protection issues for women and girls based on their different experiences with sexual and gender-based violence and human rights violations. One of the ways this can be approached is through addressing sexual and gender-based violence on educational campuses across the country and the additional impact on Indigenous women and persons with disabilities, as noted:
“In a campus survey of undergraduate students at the University of Alberta, 21 percent of students reported having at least one unwanted sexual experience at some point in their life, with 15 percent after age 14. Of those students, 42 percent said that it took place while being registered at university. Furthermore, over one-third of those who experienced unwanted sexual experiences said that their most serious experience happened while being a student at university, with over one-half reporting that it happened in their first year of studies.” (Canadian Federation of Students, 2018)
Surveys showed that 60% of male college students would commit sexual assault if they knew they would not be caught. Another survey found that 20% of male college students think sexual assault and rape are allowed if they spent money on a date or if a woman is high or intoxicated. Women and girls should have the right to access secondary and post-secondary education without fear of sexual or gender-based violence. This is relevant to the WPS agenda given the protection of education under the WPS resolutions and its potentially limiting factors for those who are unable to access it.
Prevention – The incoming Government needs to ensure the prevention of violence between and against young people. The Government of Canada found that youth in minority groups, already facing inequality and social disadvantages, are at a high risk of joining a gang. Youth are actively involved in gangs within small communities and across the country with an estimated 434 youth-based gangs with up to 7000 members. This is relevant to the WPS and YPS synergy as many young women are impacted by gang violence and Canada is seeing increased recruitment of young women into gangs. The prevention of youth recruitment into gangs is vital in the pursuit of peace. Policies to address gang recruitment and violence across the country needs to be done in consultation with previous gang members or those impacted by youth gang recruitment in order to create integrated and evidence-based community solutions.
Partnerships, Disengagement and Reintegration – The incoming Government needs to continue working closely and consulting existing youth organizations and councils in Canada. Additionally, the incoming Government should increase reconciliation efforts and work towards sustainable and positive peace for all Canadians. The Government should work towards the implementation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry’s Calls to Justice in partnership with Indigenous leaders, with the meaningful inclusion of Indigenous youth.
Young people around the world are working to implement sustainable solutions in their communities and in our global community at large. Young people are invested and committed to change because it is our generation who will carry the burden of failed approaches to peace and security. The inclusion of young people, through the synergy with the YPS agenda, is fundamental for the successful implementation of the WPS agenda at home and abroad.
Please note that the views in these blog posts are those of the author and may not represent the views of all members of the WPSN-C.