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Guidance Note - Youth in Peace and Security

Guidance Note


Youth is increasingly a part of strategies and debates related to peace and security – too often based on references to the negative roles that young people may play in relation to security, exacerbating conflicts and actively engaging in armed forces. There is a range of circumstances that may push young people to actively engage in conflict.  Abductions and forced enrolment in armed groups are examples of external push factors, whereas deep hopelessness, no financial or social prospects for the future and marginalisation are strong contributing factors to driving young people to participate in armed conflict.

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


UNSCR 2250: resolution on youth, peace and security

In 2015, the United Nation Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on youth, peace and security, that recognises the important role which young people play in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security.

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 to enable young people to participate meaningfully in peace processes.

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, and summarises them 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 to address the structural barriers that limit youth participation in peace and security. Finally, the strategy is to support partnerships and collaborative action, where young people are viewed as equal and essential partners.


UNFPA progress study on Youth and Peace and Security concludes that young people feel excluded by their governments and international actors, and feel that they are 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 prevention and resolution. The study advocates action to debunk a series of myths about youth, 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“.

Youth can indeed play a vital and positive role as strategic architects in peace building. According to the UNYO Peacebuilders, the generational divide that exists in all communities necessitates the inclusion of youth to reflect the diversity of society. Moreover, youth offer a number of key attributes which can positively and effectively contribute to peace and security:

  • They are open to change. Young people have a greater potential of having inclusive, compassionate and dialogic worldviews as compared to adults with more set dogmatic discourses.
  • They are knowledgeable about the reality of their peers. Young people are already involved in their communities and know the needs of their peers.
  • They are idealistic and innovative. Young people have historically been the front-runners of social change, and often have the creativity, initiative and time to develop more peaceful ways of being together.
  • They are courageous and oriented towards the future. Young people in conflict situations are relatively risk averse and have the will and capacity to contribute to preventing and resolving conflict.

Countries and communities need therefore to acknowledge the aspirations of youth to participate in peacebuilding processes, and to offer meaningful avenues for young people to contribute to peace and security.

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 in and contribution to peace and security. This also includes 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 youths, former violent extremists, religious leaders or parents who have their own experience. Engaging families is recognised as playing an important role in preventing youth from engaging in violence and conflict, and recommendations include strengthening family-based social networks, encouraging families to work with authorities and empowering 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 including rivalling groupsand support to communication of results and media exposure.

Research by YouthPower found that the five most important soft/life skills that positively impact outcomes in violence prevention programmes are social, empathy, self-control, self-concept and higher-order thinking skills (Youthhood - a Period of Personal and Social Development).

The full potential of young people in humanitarian actions can only be realised by empowering youth through building capacity, knowledge and skills to engage as key humanitarian actors and leaders. Meaningful youth participation bridges across all aspects of humanitarian action, from prevention and preparedness over the initial response to conflict to recovery actions.

Moreover, gender-based violence is known to be more prevalent in contexts characterised by a 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) and aim to prevent gender-based violence (GBV), female genital mutilation (FGM), early pregnancies, early marriages etc. This is essential for fostering resilience in humanitarian crises, post-crisis recovery periods and sustaining peace.


Inspiration for a Theory of Change (TOC) on 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 it is a supplement to the development of the sector-specific ToC and not a stand-alone tool, nor is it a by youth tool. It is intended for inspiration in the youth context analysis (Youth Situational 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 Country Strategic Frameworks, Programmes and Projects.

Peace figur

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 and added value ofactive 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 young people’s active involvement to ensure their positive support and impact on peace building, and avoid recruitment of young men and women 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 rights, knowledge, skills and motivation to participate.


  • The young people gain 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).

Contextual assessment: level to which youth are being engaged in peace building


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 extent 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 violent 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?


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 decision-makers and leaders of key institutions understand the pertinence of youth participation in peace?


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


To what extent is the contribution by other actors/donors involved in youth peace-building programmes identified and assessed?


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


To what extent are ‘no-harm’ mechanisms in place?



In case of questions, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Global Youth Advisor at [email protected]