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I am speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Partnering with young people is in the DNA of the European Union. Some of our most emblematic programmes are all about youth, such as Erasmus+ and more recently the European Solidarity Corps. These programmes have enriched the lives of more than 10 million young people from Europe and beyond over the past three decades. All young people have the greatest stake in getting our policies right, for the present and for the future. They are among our most important interlocutors, change agents and leaders in implementing the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change as well as in peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
Today’s global youth population, the biggest in history, carries a unique potential for and is at the forefront of driving problem solving. Together, we need to speed up significantly our collective actions to accomplish transformation towards a sustainable world. Our efforts on sustainable development and on addressing climate change go hand in hand with our efforts to build peaceful, just, inclusive societies, based on gender equality and human rights. Each and every country and stakeholder must aim high. States, multilateral organisations and societal stakeholders, including young people, must strive for ever-closer partnership.
Reinforcing partnerships with young people and their organisations is central to our work to strengthen rules-based multilateralism. The year 2020 marks a special moment for multilateralism. The United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary. It is also the 5th anniversary of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda. And, through the COVID-19 pandemic, the year 2020 has also brought home a stark reminder that strong multilateral cooperation and strong multilateral organisations are more important than ever. As the coronavirus has the entire global community in its grip, we are reminded of the importance of solidarity, across borders and across generations. Young people are playing a key role in fighting the virus, including in delivering an effective COVID-19 response within conflict-affected communities. They are already contributing substantially to the well-being of their families and communities, shouldering additional tasks. Young people can be an important force in efforts to answer the UNSG’s call for a global ceasefire. As for the EU’s contribution to fight the pandemic, our global response to COVID-19, the Team Europe package, will amount to more than €20 billion, and it will prioritise regions and countries which are home to the youngest populations, including in Africa.
The EU welcomes the publication of the first-ever report of the UN Secretary-General on Youth, Peace and Security. We strongly support regular reporting to the Council and regular deliberations on this matter. We applaud the leadership of the Dominican Republic and of former Council Presidencies on Youth, Peace and Security. We urge future Presidencies to keep the Council engaged on Youth, Peace and Security, both as a thematic issue and mainstreamed into country-specific discussions.
Young people do not need institutions to give them a voice. They have a voice. However, institutions can work harder to amplify the already strong voices of youth. Institutions can also work to ensure that the voices of youth are taken into account in policies, decision-making and actions. This is central to the EU’s approach to partnering with young people. And this is how we approached this Open Debate as well. We have asked our UN Youth Delegates in the EU what they have to say to the UN Security Council on Youth, Peace and Security.
These are the messages of European youth to the Council:
“We demand a broader understanding of peace and security when solving security challenges, an understanding that incorporates all risks to human security. We urge member states to promote increased financial support to youth led peacebuilding initiatives, which contribute to peaceful societies. We demand all UN bodies and states to create an enabling environment for young people’s meaningful and effective participation in conflict prevention and resolution, peacebuilding, post-conflict processes and humanitarian action. Youth has to play a consultative role in security questions. Women, Peace and Security is an inspiring role model to this approach. Activating the potential of young peacebuilders depends ultimately on the accessibility of knowledge and sharing of information.”
Young people are making their voices heard. Youth-led civil society and environmental organisations as well as young human rights defenders and peacebuilders, including indigenous youth, are playing a key role in calling out human rights violations and abuses while demanding action to protect people, the planet and its climate. It is our generational duty to deliver for them. Ensuring the full realisation of all human rights for young people, and protecting as well as empowering young human rights defenders, is part and parcel of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda. The College of the European Commission adopted a new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for 2020-2024, with specific actions to support the inclusion of young people (in particular young women) and their participation in all efforts to prevent conflict and to build and sustain peace. New age and gender-responsive actions will be put in place to increase the meaningful participation of all women and youth in all spheres of public life, especially addressing challenges faced by youth with disabilities and those facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination The EU is particularly concerned about the rise of reprisals and attacks against young human rights defenders. The EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism, which has benefited 30,000 Human Rights Defenders since 2015, is open to any young defender who is at risk.
From the outset, the EU has been a frontrunner of implementing the Youth, Peace and Security agenda. The EU was the first multilateral organisation to join the Champions of Youth Group in the UN. In May 2018, the EU hosted its first-ever Conference on Youth, Peace and Security, realised in partnership with the UN, civil society and young people. The Conference brought together 70 young change makers from 27 EU Member States and 29 partner countries in an interactive dialogue with the leaders of the EU and the UN.
Over the past years, we have been working with partner countries, multilateral institutions and with young people and their organisations to jointly translate policy to practice, to implement the Youth, Peace and Security agenda on the ground. We have supported the creation of extended networks and initiatives with young people from Europe, Africa, the Middle-East, Asia and elsewhere. We have established open channels of communication to discuss global, regional and local issues, to connect young people and leaders from the EU and from our partner countries. Our Young Mediterranean Voices initiative connects civil society, educational institutions and policy-makers across the Euro-Med region to promote mutual understanding and to foster youth engagement and leadership in view of shaping solutions to common challenges. Indeed, the EU Delegation and the Permanent Mission of France to the UN just hosted an exchange with young leaders from the Young Mediterranean Voices community to jointly prepare for this open debate. The discussion confirmed that young people are part of the solution and must be given the platforms and tools to deliver, including as regards their economic and physical safety. As summed up by a youth leader from Libya: “Younger people are asked to fight the wars, but when it comes to creating peace they are excluded”. In the Sahel, our programme ”La voix des jeunes du Sahel” has offered thousands of young people a chance to exchange with policymakers and to co-create development policies that impact them. Our Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange connects youth in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean in a meaningful intercultural on-line experience to enhance dialogue, media literacy and active citizenship. Our network of Young European Ambassadors fosters cooperation and sustainable links between young people and youth organisations from the EU and our Eastern neighbours, focusing on people-to-people contacts and dialogue-driven activities. We have supported the One Young World Peace Ambassadors initiative, dedicated to preventing and countering violent extremism, promoting peace-building efforts and conflict resolution through youth-led initiatives in vulnerable communities. Support is also provided to the European Youth Forum, a platform of over 100 youth organisations in Europe.
Crucial to the accomplishment of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda is to make a difference to all young people, and to other generations, on the ground. Presently, the EU is conducting close to 30 crisis prevention and response actions on four continents to strengthen youth resilience and to promote youth-led peacebuilding. Many of our actions are carried out in cooperation with the UN. For instance, together with UNICEF, we are working with adolescents and youth in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh to enhance peaceful co-existence and to empower young people as agents of change and help prevent negative and violent behaviours. Also in cooperation with UNICEF, we have strengthened the resilience and civic engagement of adolescents and youth in conflict-affected eastern Ukraine. Together with UNFPA, we are contributing to the stabilisation of the Far North region of Cameroon through increasing the resilience of the most vulnerable youth towards violent extremism, with a focus on women and girls. A global action with UNESCO aims to increase equitable access to quality education for children and youth in crisis situations, by supporting the education sector in fragile and crisis-affected countries.
Since last year, the EU is also contributing to the UN Secretary General’s Peacebuilding Fund, and welcomes its increased focus on empowering women and youth with 25% of total funding dedicated to this for the period 2020-2024. We particularly welcome the recently released call for proposals under the Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative 2020. The meaningful inclusion of young people is an important aspect of the 2020 comprehensive review of the UN peacebuilding architecture. In this context, we echo the call of Youth Delegates advocating for the elaboration of a Youth, Peace and Security strategy in the UN Peacebuilding Commission.
We are inspired by the passion, conviction and energy of the millions of our young people making their voice heard on our streets and in our hearts. It is young activists, young human rights defenders, young peacebuilders who bring the Youth, Peace and Security agenda to life, including through their own initiatives. Working across countries and generations, we can achieve our ambitions for today and for tomorrow. We can win the fight against COVID-19, we can overcome the existential threats of climate and environmental degradation and we can transform our societies and economies in a way that unlocks the potential of all people, including those left furthest behind. And together, we can fulfil the promise of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.