Why does the youth, peace, and security agenda matter to young people of South Sudan?

On International Youth Day, we look at the UN Security Council Resolutions on youth, peace and security, which urge governments and institutions to make way for younger voices to influence decision making. Here are the reasons why it matters to young people in South Sudan.

South Sudan is a land of immense potential, as the world’s newest nation it has one of the highest proportions of young people – at over 72 percent. The years of conflict and violence have adversely affected its most vulnerable people, especially putting young people’s access to education and economic opportunities at risk. Though young people in South Sudan are often perceived as either perpetrators or victims. The reality is that the important role of young people in building peace and ensuring security is misunderstood and stereotyped.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250 (2015) marked a shift in the understanding of who young people are and role in peace and security. The first resolution was followed by two more resolutions: 2419 (2018) and 2535 (2020). Together the resolutions are known as the youth, peace, and security (YPS) agenda.

Here are SIX reasons why the YPS agenda matters to young people during this pivotal period in South Sudan’s growth story:

In South Sudan, young people are involved in preventing violence, building back economies, driving innovation, transforming leadership, and building peace in their communities. However, their work often lacks recognition and support.

The resolutions drive the narrative on young people, away from the victim or perpetrator dichotomy to them as peace ambassadors, peacebuilders, and agents for positive change. The agenda recognizes the need to combat the stereotyping of young people, as it perpetuates forms of discrimination and violence targeting women.

The resolutions urge countries to give youth a greater voice in decision-making at all levels and to set up ways in which they can participate in peace processes.

The resolutions task countries to take young people’s participation and views into account when negotiating and implementing peace agreements. That includes considering their special needs, supporting local youth peace initiatives, and empowering youth in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. 

The resolutions require countries to ensure the protection of the human rights of all individuals, including young people in armed conflict, including refugees and internally displaced people. Further, the YPS agenda  calls for better protection of young people against sexual violence and gender-based violence by ending impunity and holding those responsible accountable.

The resolutions urge countries to provide an enabling environment to support young people to implement violence prevention activities and support social cohesion. The agenda recognizes the diversity of youth and the need for every voice to be heard. It also encourages to involve the voices of young people in promoting a culture of peace and tolerance through intergenerational, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue, sports and culture. 

The YPS resolutions ask countries to establish and strengthen their partnerships that increase support for young people’s participation and meet their needs. It also asks to engage communities and civil society to promote social cohesion and inclusion to counter the stereotypical narrative around young people. The most recent resolution 2535 calls for increased funding for youth-led organizations and the development of a national roadmap on YPS together with young people.

The resolutions recognize the importance of universal and inclusive education for all youth, including marginalized youth. The agenda requires countries to consider young people’s needs in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration activities. It calls on developmental partners to create inclusive youth employment opportunities through robust labor policies and national youth employment plans. It also urges investment in youth skilling and entrepreneurship that in turn promotes economic growth to build back stronger from conflict.