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Youth in Peace & Security

Guidance Note

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Youth is increasingly present in strategies and debates related to peace and security – too often based on references to the negative role young men may play in relation to security, exacerbating conflicts and actively engage in armed forces. There is a range of circumstances that may drive young people to actively engage in conflict, often the main driver being deep hopelessness, no prospects for the future and marginalisation.2

At the same time young people’s potentially positive role and the imperative for involving youth in conflict prevention and peace-building should be recognized as the “missing peace” as emphasized in the recent review of progress since the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 (UNSCR2250) in 2015 and the Compact for Young People inHumanitarian Action in 2016both supported by Denmark.

UNSCR 2250 resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

The United Nation Security Council adopted, unanimously, in 2015, a resolution on Youthyouth, Peace peace and Securitysecurity, thereby recognizing the important role the young people play in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security.3

UNSCR 2250 identifies five key pillars for action: participation, protection, prevention, partnerships and disengagement and reintegration. While the resolution urges the UN and Member States to give youth a greater voice in decision-making at the local, national, regional and international levels, it also recommends mechanisms to be established that enable young people to participate meaningfully in peace processes.4

UNSCR 2250 requested the Secretary-General of the UN “to carry out a progress study on the youth’s positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution, in order to recommend effective responses at local, national, regional and international levels”. The Progress report provides numerous specific recommendations but summarizes these in three main mutually reinforcing strategies. Firstly, it is critical to invest in young people’s capacities, agency and leadership through substantial funding support, network-building and capacity-strengthening. Secondly, the systems which tend to reinforce exclusion must be transformed in order to address the structural barriers that limit youth participation in peace and security and finally, the strategy is to support partnerships and collaborative action, where young people are viewed as equal and essential partners.5


Research shows how youth can play a vital and positive role as strategic ´architects` in peace building, and youth merits recognition for their instrumental contributions to peace. The UNFPA progress study on Youth and Peace and Security6 concludes that young people feel excluded by their governments and international actors, being treated as a problem instead of partners for peace, contributing to an ongoing and strong sense of injustice. As frustration easily fuels anger, it emphasises the need for radical changes in how youth is engaged in peace building and conflict resolution. The study advocates for action to debunk a series of myths about youth7, and immediately turn to “…partnering with and investing in young people to prevent violence, to promote their inclusion and translate the demographic dividend into a peace dividend“.8

An important first step in mainstreaming youth within thematic peace and security programmes or a specific development engagement is to assess the level of engagement among the targeted youth population and the extent to which the environment enables or hinders their involvement and contribution to peace and security. This includes also identifying ways to counteract youth becoming engaged in violence. In reviewing initiatives to disengage youth from violent activities, it is found to be most effective when these are led by other youth, former violent extremists, religious leaders or parents who have their own experience. Engaging families are recognised to play an important role in preventing youth to engage in violence and conflict and recommendations include strengthening family based social networks, encourage families to work with authorities and empower mothers as prevention protagonists.

A number of promising practices with respect to supporting youth in becoming actively engaged in sustaining peace have been identified. This includes interventions which give youth a sense of involvement and recognition, including enhancement of young people’s conflict abilities; i.e. training of youth leaders; support to youth-led organisations; facilitation of dialogue with youth groups – also including rivaling groups - and support to communication of results and media exposure.

Recent research by YouthPower found that the five most important soft/life skills positively impacting outcomes in violence prevention
programs are social, empathy, self-control, self-concept, and higher order thinking skills.9 (ref. Youthhood – life/soft skills)

The full potential of young people in humanitarian actions can only be realised by empowering youth through capacity, knowledge and skills to engage as key humanitarian actors and leaders. Meaningful youth participation bridges across all aspects of humanitarian action, from the initial response to conflict to recovery actions. Moreover, gender-based violence is known to be more prevalent in contexts characterised by need for humanitarian support or prone to conflict, so actions at any stage should address young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) to prevent gender-based violence (GBV), female genital mutilation (FGM), early pregnancies, early marriages, etc.10 It is essential for fostering resilience in humanitarian crises, post-crisis recovery periods and sustaining peace.

Youth in humanitarian action

Youth make up more than a third of the people displaced by conflicts and disasters worldwide. “With the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action (2016) and the landmark UN Security Council resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security (2015) the world is witnessing a strong momentum for advancing the role of youth in humanitarian action and conflict transformation, as drivers of resilience and democratic agents of change.”11

Generally, young people constitute a cohort that is often overlooked in humanitarian response. The implementation of the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action has been initiated with a documentation of young people’s inclusion, testifying that there is progress in integrating young people in and raising visibility.

Recent examples of the engagement young people in humanitarian action, is provided in “Igniting Hope”.12In providing protection of vulnerable groups of youth during conflict, UNFPA highlights the creation of safe spaces as a vital strategy, especially for girls and young women. Safe spaces have served young women, being engaged in responding to the Syrian crisis, and in situations from Kenya, Madagascar, the Philippines among others. Such spaces afford young women an opportunity to rebuild networks, acquire skills and become empowered. Also in north-eastern Nigeria, safe spaces have served to build resilience and empower young women fleeing Boko Haram. UNFPA, p. 13. Collaboration between a number of partners in Iraq has enabled “arche noVa”, an NGO founded by young people, to train professionals and students to assist in humanitarian actions. In Iraq, arche noVa training, benefitting mostly displaced young people, empowered them to educate and mobilize their communities around the provision of daily necessities, such as water, sanitation and hygiene.13


Theory of Change (ToC) – Peace and Security
The following figure illustrates some of the key features and causalities important for youth, which should be considered when developing a ToC and a results chain for a programme engagement in peace and security. As such, the ToC is intended to provide inspiration and supplement to the development of the sector specific ToC and is not a stand-alone tool, nor is it a by youth tool. It is for inspiration in the Youth Context Analysis and understanding of the background against which youth mainstreaming and youth engagement should be formulated, planned and implemented. See also Aid Management Guidelines: Guidelines for Programmes and Projects, January 2018, p. 19.


Peace figur



Programming and Youth Assessment Tools: Peace and Security

General assessments
The matrix below describes some of the common and overall hindering and enabling factors at different levels that may impact young people’s opportunities for being involved in peace and security.




Hindering factors

Enabling factors



Young people are deprived access to engage in and contribute to peace and security by virtue of:


Young people are contributing to peace and security as a result of:



  • Attitudes towards youth, labelling and stereotyping them as being irresponsible, inexperienced, rebellious and violent etc.


  • Acknowledgement of the need for the active involvement of youth in peace building to ensure a positive role of youth



  • Cultural and social norms and parental authority affecting the access of youth to participation in groups and forums addressing peace issues


  • Gender inequality - young women facing extraordinary exclusion


  • Opinion holders understand and advocate for young people’s active involvement to ensure their positive support and avoid recruitment of young men to armed groups


  • Communities recognise the positive role of young women and supporting their active participation



  • Government bodies, International peace keeping missions and multilateral institutions ignore and exclude youth from participation service providers


  • Selected government bodies, International peace keeping missions and multilateral institutions engage in consultations with youth and support their propositions for mechanisms to be applied



  • Lack of knowledge, skills, motivation to participate.


  • The young person gains insight and motivation to engage in peace building activities.

The following example of guiding questions for a contextual assessment of the realities of young people in relation to peace and security is a supplement to the general thematic and contextual analysis and appraisals (cf. Annex 1: Context Analysis in the Guidelines for Programmes and Projects, AMG, January 2018.).

Level to which youth are being engaged in peace building

Key conclusions

To what extent do young people have access to media and information about actors, and patterns behind the driving forces in conflict development?


To what extend do young people have access to protective spaces and to learn about conflict related protection issues such as SRHR, gender-based violence, early marriages, and the dangers of extremism, migration and trafficking?


To what extent do young people have access to capacity building to strengthen their ability to engage in organised actions for conflict mitigation?


To what extent have young people organised themselves around their contributions to sustaining peace?



Level of enabling environment

Do special measures exist to protect particularly vulnerable young women and men?


Do specialised measures exist to counteract the recruitment of young people into armed activities?


Do leaders of key institutions understand the pertinence of youth participation in peace?


Do leaders and stakeholders consult and include youth in peace building forums?


Identify and assess the contribution by other actors/donors’ involved in youth peace building programmes


What are the general perceptions of youth and their role in relation to conflict?


To what extent are ´no harm` mechanisms in place?



Further reading and inspiration on Peace and Security:


Youth4Peace: This joint home page established by UNDP and a number of partners contains information about the UNSCR 2250 and related discussions and resources. One finds a wealth of reports and accounts of the perspectives of youth as a total of close to 5.000 youth who have been interviewed.


USAID: What works engaging young people in peace building? The YouthPower website contains resources which seek to identify best practices, bright spots, and possible opportunities for their replication with a primary focus on preventing violent extremism/countering violent extremism (PVE/CVE).


UN: There are several documents and relevant material on young people’s participation in Peacebuilding and principles developed by working groups on how to involve youth in peace building.


UN: Youth Civic Engagement (2016) takes stock of youth related themes including peace and security. The report addresses the challenges regarding the role of youth in radicalism and extremism as well as their contribution to peace and security.


Agenda for Humanity: This website presents the main documents related to the Global Compact for Humanitarian Actions.


UNFPA: Igniting Hope a comprehensive review of the role of young people in humanitarian action.


1 The World 2030, p. 18

2 UNFPA:The missing peace”, 2018, p. 21

3 Youth4Peace.

4 Ibid.

5 GASC:The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security”. (2015), p. 18.

6 Findings from this report can be considered especially valid as it is based on interviews with 4,230 young people from 27 countries.

7 The focus on the positive role of youth is response to so-called “youth bulge theories” that focus on the negative role and youth as a danger to peace and security.

8 GASC:The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security”. (2015), p. 3.

9 YouthPower, p. 5.

10UNFPA: Adolescent Girls in Disaster & Conflict. (2018)


12UNFPA:”Igniting Hope”, 2018

13Ibid., p. 24



Ministry of Foreign Affairs


2 Asiatisk Plads

DK-1448 Copenhagen K


Tel. +45 33 92 00 00


In case of questions, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Global Youth Advisor, Thomas Rudebeck Eilertzen (