Will “Young People” Bring Peace or Chaos to The World?

Note: This article was first published in PolitcallyForward. I serve as the Senior Contributor, Humanitarian Affairs at PolitcallyForward.org

The United Nations Security Council unanimously thinks that young people can bring peace to the world, but not as onlookers on the sideline but only as steadfast activists who get in the game of conflict prevention and reconciliation. The United Nations Security Council took a bold step in 2015 and adopted UN Resolution 2250, which urges member states to increase representation of youth in decision-making at all levels.

But to the United Nations, “young people” is a very strictly defined category. According to the Resolution, “young people” are defined as “youth” and is elaborated as persons between the ages of 18 and 29. The resolution stems from the belief that war and conflict is a direct result of the radicalization of young people around the world and their ability to move fast in spreading their political ideologies. Their ability to integrate this century’s technology has been one of the foremost challenges faced by international law enforcement agencies. The hope of the resolution is that by integrating youth leaders into the decision-making process in countries of the world, that they will bring their demands and contributions to the civil table which will reduce radicalization.

The resolution also encourages member states to understand the repercussions to the world when young people become refugees and displaced as a result of war and conflict. It develops a domino effect around the world and reduces the capacity of the global labor market and costs it in billions of unaccounted expenditure and spending. The resolution provides a solution on a four-step progressive agenda; (1) protection of all young people in war and conflict, (2) prevention of youth radicalization, (3) increasing partnerships of government and nongovernmental organizations, and (4) disengage youth from conflict and reintegrate them in economic, social, and political industries that contribute to growth and development.

That was in 2015 and a lot of things have happened since. Here’s some food for thought; Since 2015, the United States has removed themselves from the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the United Kingdom has scheduled its departure from the European Union by March 2019, and the war in Syria has escalated to an all-time high. But around the world, pioneers and support circles of this resolution is making a change in the community even without the world’s biggest supporters.

The concept practiced by the Council of Europe is “shared governance.” The idea stems from sociologist Roger Hart’s “Ladder of Youth Participation.” This theory outlines that there are 8 ways a country or an entity can involve youth in the decision-making process. It explains levels of youth participation that ranges from level 1 (wherein adult-led activities, youth do as directed without an understanding of the purpose for the activities) to level 8 (where youth-led activities, in which decision-making is shared between youth and adults working as equal partners).

In the Joint Council on Youth of the Council of Europe specializes in involving youth in the decision-making process. They have included youth as explained in level 8 by Roger Hart’s Ladder of Youth Participation. The Joint Council on Youth allows young people to be included in the decision-making on policies on an equal basis. The Joint Council on Youth is made up of 30 youth representatives from the Advisory Council and government representatives from member states of the Council of Europe. The European Youth Forum has an observer status and is contributing to and supporting the selection of members of the Advisory Council to ensure that the voice of young people is properly heard. Incorporating a shared governance of this type comes with a lot of practical challenges, but achieving this status provides long-term benefits to the world and member states involved.

In most parts of the world, youth involvement is tokenized. “Tokenism, Decoration, and Manipulation” are the worst three levels of Hart’s Ladder of Youth Participation. In these three levels, they are all adult-led activities where youth don’t understand the purpose but is still blindly involved, or they understand the purpose but has no input on how they are planned, or youth may be consulted with minimum opportunities for feedback. This is a practice in some countries, institutions and government entities practice where they “decorate” their activities with young people for a show but have no input in how decisions are made.

Another movement that has been mobilized to attain the goals in Resolution 2250 is the “Not Too Young to Run” movement. The movement advocates reducing the “age limit restriction” to run for public office. They believe that if the youth has the ability to vote when they are 18 and has the authority to elect their public officials, they should be able to run for such office themselves. According to statistics available on their official website, 73% of countries restrict young people from running for office, even when they can vote. They also exposed that 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old but only 2% of them are members of Parliaments.

The best way to get yourself and your community involved in shared governance is to advocate for change in policy that restricts such involvement and activity. It is evident that these movements have always sprung up in small, close-knit communities which later on evolved into international movements that change the pace of the world. We live in a much better world than 50-100 years ago, but there is so much room for radical improvement in the society and the UN Resolution 2250 is a bold positive step but implementing on the ground level and taking the initiative of the change we want to see is our responsibility. Only then, will we be able to build a politically forward-thinking global community.