On 9 December 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted the Resolution 2250, the very first resolution on Youth, Peace and Security, urging Member States to increase representation of youth in decision-making at all levels. Are young African Peacebuilders aware of its substance, are they using it to structure their work? How can it improve their impact towards building more peaceful African societies?
This is the concluding statement of a young Liberian “Wallbreaker”, reporting on his attending the most recent the 2019 ECOSOC Youth Forum, held on April 8 – 9 at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. He has experienced a breathtaking career in social and humanitarian work, to be representing the Liberian and all African youth at this high-level international meeting focussed on “Youth”. Overview of the journey of a young humanitarian, active millennial, outstanding leader of today, and inspiration for his peers and the next generations.
From local to global: advocate, humanitarian and blogger
At 23, Wantoe is an advocate, humanitarian and blogger from Liberia currently studying in New York, who served as Chairperson of the Liberian National Children and Youth Advisory Board where he led a team that engages on anti-rape awareness campaigns. His engagement started since he was 9, with participation in several rallies, petitions, and awareness campaigns to advocate for the rights of children in Liberia and worldwide.
In-depth participation in shaping the Global Humanitarian Agenda
Between 2013 and 2016, he consecutively served as a member of a global youth steering committee to develop and implement the Global Voice for Change project, which helped young people around the world connect, learn and advocate together at an international level. He then represented Liberian Youth at the launching of the Doha Youth Declaration on Reshaping the Humanitarian Agenda in Qatar. This expertise led him being appointed as a Country Focal Person by a country led committee of the United Nation’s Major Group for Children and Youth West and Central Africa Regional Leadership for Humanitarian.
A West African Youth Voice at the World Humanitarian Summit
As a result, in 2016, he delivered a preliminary statement at the World Humanitarian Summit, where he gave a summary of their work with orphans in the fight against the Ebola epidemic in Liberia and the whole region, described the multiple challenges they faced as a youth-led organization. Describing the precarity in the Ebola outbreak, he called on the United Nations and world leaders to support these local organizations and volunteer youth-led humanitarian organizations to fight that epidemic in West Africa.
A youth 2030 model for the United Nations
Leading projects locally, engaging youth globally
“The Future we Want depends on youth”, seems to be the creed of Wantoe, who has never stopped putting one step in front of the other to move towards building a better future for the children of Liberia and the whole world. In 2018, he intensified his initiatives and actions, becoming Ambassador for the Friendship Foundation Campus, to mobilize Liberians for the 2018 winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations, ending up certified as an Esteem Campus Ambassador. He brought forward the project called “Liberian Youths involvement in climate change action” with the aim to improve food security and resilience to climate change in 20 communities around Liberia, encouraging low land farming and Forestry Development Authority to halt deforestation. This made him the winner of the Global Young Voices SDGs Cup. In the meantime, his blogs were featured in Voices of Youth, The Huffington Post, Global dailies, Icon episode and other platforms.
Now attending Mount Saint Vincent College, he keeps on multiplying impact and for instance, he got his resolution passed as he joined his college’s delegation to attend the fifty-second iteration of the University of Pennsylvania Model United Nations Conference in Philadelphia. ‘Never stop learning and improving your skills’: he completed a course with the Obama Foundation on Community Leadership: Assets & Dialogue after being selected through a competitive process. He is organizing youth around issues and changes that matter to them and many events and activities aimed at insuring the understanding of community issues and inclusion. Earlier this April, he was appointed to serve as the student director of The College of Mount Saint Vincent 2019 MILLENNIUM FELLOWSHIP CLASS first Inaugural Millennium Campus Network. The Millennium Fellowship is organized by The United Nations Academic Impact and MCN. It provides Leadership development program on selected campuses worldwide, convening, challenging, and celebrating student leadership that advances the Sustainable Development Goals.
Advocating at the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum
April 8 – 9, 2019, Samuel joined hundreds of global young people at the 2019 ECOSOC Youth Forum at United Nations Headquarters in New York on the theme “Empowered, Included and Equal”. Attending the breakout session entitled “The Empowerment and Inclusion of Young People in Africa: Towards Durable Solutions for Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa”, he gave his views, emphasising on the fact that African countries should adopt policies and agendas that respects the rights and dignity of every African irrespective of geographical bearer or economic status. On a reporting post, he wrote:
Like always, our failure has been forging resilience after Disasters. For instance, our approach since the Ebola outbreak remain even more vulnerable than we were due to the lack of an extensive multi-hazard and multi-sector, comprehensive, accessible and efficient preventive approach to Ebola preparedness. Two third of our ministers don’t cultivate existing policies due to their lack of knowledge on these international frameworks. Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and Kampala Convention on Internally Displaced Persons are feared by our Government after disasters but consider tools during disasters and force displacement discussions. As young people we find these dialogues essential but effective will it be after we tasked our Leaders. All the same what do I know, when our African ministers of Youth are still 60 and 70. _ Wantoe Teah Wantoe
The adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security in December 2015, acknowledges the power of youth-led peacebuilding as essential to building peaceful communities. However, many questions remain about how to harness the power of youth in peacebuilding processes, ensuring their meaningful participation and establishing avenues for young people to proactively engage in peacebuilding efforts. Moreover, prevailing negative narratives continue to undermine the role that young people play in preventing violence and building peace in their communities – shaping policy, programming and funding in many countries.
This is what led two organizations, namely Peace Direct and the United Network of Young (UNOY) Peacebuilders, to organize a three-days online consultation from 8th to 10th April 2019, aiming to explore what youth-led peacebuilding looks like in practice and understanding how to operationalise the principles behind the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.
Going through youth peacebuilding experiences
The consultation went from introductory reflection pieces by moderators to comments, ideas and discussions within the group of about 140 selected participants from all over the world. Daily discussions themes were wide opened around Deconstructing the role of youth in peacebuilding, Moving towards empowerment and inclusion, Investing in youth peacebuilding capacities.
Deconstructing the role of youth in peacebuilding
Opening all discussions, this theme sought first to map out youth-led peacebuilding activities and highlight the diverse approaches taken to engage youth in peacebuilding, and secondly, to break down what youth means as a conceptual category, moving beyond generalisations and simplistic narratives.
It explored three main sub-themes driving ideas and discussions during the day. “Youth peacebuilding in practice” questionned contextual youth-led peacebuilding and resilience, individual contributions to the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) Agenda, and diverse inspiring potential innovative approaches or actions carried out. The “Debunking asumptions” explored third party and personal perceptions, impacts of the narrative around youth in peace and conflict as well as various ways used by young peacebuilders to make their voices heard and drive impact through their actions. “Diversity and gender among youth peacebuilders” specifically highlighted the local context, barriers to recognition and challenging stereotypes.
Moving towards empowerment and inclusion
On the day 2 of the online consultation, the sub-theme “Meaningful political inclusion” was addressed, considered as the key issue at the heart of youth engagement in peacebuilding:
“the political participation of young people is indispensable to their recognition and dignity. It also helps to promote civic engagement and active citizenship, and offers institutionalised avenues for addressing grievances and conflict issues to prevent frustration and potential violence”. _ Dimitri Kotsiras, Research and Advocacy Officer, Peace Direct
Based on the fact that global unemployment is on the rise with a third of the world’s active youth population, about 71 million youth, either unemployed or living in ‘working poverty’, and that several factors including market conditions have made it difficult for young people to secure jobs, and the current global rate of youth unemployment stands at 13% (ILO, 2018), the “Economic inclusion – looking beyond employment” sub-theme was addressed. It questionned stakeholder’s actions to secure youth economic inclusion, while exploring effects of the economic status on peacebuilding activities, and then, questionning the way how alternative economic models can boost peacebuilding involvement, inclusion and impact.
The topic “Youth leadership and accountability” focussed on the way how inclusive youth leadership frameworks that can help inform the development of ‘peace leaders’, while questionning young peacebuilder’s perceptions on leadership in their respective roles.
Investing in youth peacebuilding capacities
The day 3 started with the sub-theme “Bridging the Gap Between Youth and Adult Peacebuilders”, exploring inter-generational partnership models that would best bridge the gap between both stakeholder groups as well as obstacles faced by both parts in trying to establish a partnership with each other.
In the meantime, “Moving towards financial sustainability” came across to point out the fact that “the ability to operate on a long-term basis without threat of stopping work due to lack of financial means, is a critical challenge for all civil society organisations, particularly those engaged in peacebuilding activities which donors might view as ‘too political’ or risky.”_ Dimitri Kotsiras. And considering this, participants were called to mention their biggest challenges to financial sustainability, their creative ways to secure fundings and insure financial sustainability, the role of funding in their specific peacebuilding activities and impacts of having fundings or not.
Finally, a “Participant-led open discussion” triggered many insights on various topics and discussions, leading to both the deepening of the addressed topics and the ways forward.
Way forward: Involving for action
The youth peacebuilding online consutltation’s instigators agreed to publish in the coming weeks, a global report of the consultation which will inform various peacebuilding stakeholders on stakes of the youth peacebuilding in practice.
Apart from this report, the UNOY Peacebuilders has published in late February this year, the UNOY Youth4Peace Training Toolkit authored by Romeral Ortiz Quintilla, with the help from UNOY members, youth trainers and experts from all over the world. The Training Toolkit divided into 4 parts and including templates for an easy use, presents tips for youth to develop their own training on peacebuilding & conflict transformation and creating peaceful narratives. A downloadable version compelling it all together can be found here.