posted on Mon 13 Jul 2020 11:31 PM
Youth, Peace and Security: Vote on Draft Resolution

Tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 14 July), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution on youth, peace and security under the agenda item “maintenance of international peace and security”. The vote will take place in the ECOSOC Chamber, where the Council will be meeting in person for the first time since 12 March. The adoption follows the 27 April open debate on this issue, convened during the presidency of the Dominican Republic. The draft text was put in blue on 10 July by the co-penholders, the Dominican Republic and France, following an extensive and complicated negotiation process that began in early June. The draft resolution is open for co-sponsorship by the wider membership.

The present draft will be the third resolution adopted by the Council on youth, peace and security, following resolution 2250 of 9 December 2015 and resolution 2419 of 6 June 2018. Resolution 2250 recognised the contribution of youth in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, while resolution 2419 requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the implementation of resolutions 2250 and 2419 no later than May 2020.

This marks the first time that a permanent member and an elected member of the Council have collaborated in initiating a resolution on this issue. Non-permanent members were the penholders on resolutions 2250 (Jordan) and 2419 (Peru and Sweden).

The draft text in blue builds on the previous resolutions on youth, peace and security and on the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s 2 March report on the issue. It also adds several operational provisions aimed at promoting and institutionalising the implementation of the youth, peace and security agenda by the Security Council, UN entities and member states.

A key element of the draft resolution is that it requests the Secretary-General to submit a biennial report to the Security Council on the implementation of resolutions 2250 and 2419 and on the provisions included in the draft text in blue. The draft resolution thus establishes a regular reporting requirement on youth, peace and security for the first time. This has been a contentious issue in negotiations on previous resolutions. It appears that during the negotiations on resolution 2419, China and Russia opposed an annual reporting obligation on youth, peace and security; as a compromise the Secretary-General was requested to submit a single report on the implementation of resolutions 2250 and 2419 by May 2020.

China and Russia had previously taken the view that youth, peace and security is a thematic issue not directly relevant to the Security Council’s agenda and one that can be more appropriately addressed in other UN bodies. This sentiment was expressed by Russia during an April 2018 open debate on the youth, peace and security. The 27 April debate on youth, peace and security marked a possible change of tone from both countries. China made references to the importance of youth participation in political processes, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction. Russia also appeared to adopt a less critical position. It seems that during the negotiations on the current draft text in blue Russia also refrained from pressing its earlier position of youth, peace and security as not being relevant to the Council’s agenda. Russia did, however, raise concerns over an earlier draft of the text, which had called for annual reporting on youth, peace and security to be accompanied by a set of global indicators to help track progress on the implementation of the agenda. The draft resolution’s call for the report to be biennial rather than yearly, and without a request for global indicators, appears to have been the compromise solution. While the frequency of the reporting obligation in the draft text put in blue was reduced, the resolution still achieved the goal of several Council members to solidify the youth, peace and security agenda as a topic of regular Security Council discussion.

Other components of the resolution include concrete provisions aimed at the mainstreaming of the youth, peace and security agenda into the work of the UN secretariat. The draft text calls on the Secretary-General to develop guidance on the protection of young people, including those involved in peacebuilding activities. It asks the Secretary-General to provide guidance for UN peacekeeping and other relevant UN missions on the implementation of the youth, peace and security agenda and urges UN missions to develop context-specific strategies on the agenda. It further calls for UN entities to improve capacity-building and technical guidance and to integrate the youth, peace and security agenda into their planning and activities, including by appointing youth focal points.

During early rounds of negotiations on the resolution, several Council members raised concerns regarding possible budgetary implications of these provisions. To address this issue, the final draft text states that these provisions, including the appointment of youth focal points, should make use of existing human resources.

The resolution also seeks more systematic reporting on the youth, peace and security agenda by the Secretary-General in country-specific cases, calling for his regular reports and briefings to the Council to include information and recommendations regarding progress in youth participation in peace processes.

Some Council members believe that more progress could be made on this front. While resolutions 2250 and 2419 contain a request to the Secretary-General to include information on the implementation of the resolutions in his reports on situations on the Council’s agenda, only a quarter of the reports submitted to the Council between December 2015 and December 2019 provided information on activities carried out by peace operations to implement the agenda.

During the negotiations, disagreements arose around language that would have referenced the role of young people in responding to the effects of climate change. Several European and African members of the Council, among others, sought to include such language, and maintained that many young people perceive climate change as one of their main security threats. However, specific references to climate change were removed after three permanent members broke silence on the proposed text. It seems that language referring to “increasingly frequent and severe weather events and natural disasters”, taken from a 29 April presidential statement on conflict and hunger, and the role of young people in addressing these challenges in humanitarian responses, was included as a compromise.

Human rights issues were another matter of discussion in the negotiations. The draft in blue goes further than the previous resolutions on youth, peace and security in calling for the protection of the human rights of young people and in condemning hate speech and incitement to violence. However, while the text states the need to protect the civic and political space to create a safe environment for young people working on peace and security, references in earlier drafts to the need to put an end to restrictions on freedoms such as the freedom of speech and assembly were not included in the final text in blue due to resistance from some permanent members.

Members’ positions also differed on how to frame links between youth and violent extremism. It appears that the earlier draft circulated by the penholders contained no references to terrorism, as many Council members, including European and African members, preferred the draft to highlight the positive role young people can play as agents of change in peacebuilding and conflict resolution rather than as victims of terrorist violence or targets of recruitment. However, other Council members—including China, Russia and the US—sought to add language similar to that contained in resolutions 2250 and 2419 on countering violent extremism among youth. Ultimately, although the final text in blue contains references to links with terrorism, it highlights the role of youth as agents of positive change more than the previous two resolutions on this issue.

The Dominican Republic intends to convene an Arria-Formula meeting on 28 July which will focus on the implementation of resolutions 2250 and 2419 by UN peace operations. This meeting can serve as a platform to discuss ways in which the Council can utilise the new resolution on youth, peace and security to encourage the meaningful participation of young people in peace and security efforts, including through existing mandates of peace operations. Such a discussion can refer to initiatives that have been taken by peace operations in Colombia, Kosovo and Somalia, among others, to engage with young people locally to promote peace in conflict and post-conflict situations.