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2250 – A vehicle for equal youth participation?

In 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 2250. The adoption triggered young people to step up and embrace the opportunity to participate in the international community. So far numerous efforts have been made by young peacebuilders to advocate for 2250 – and this is only the beginning!

You might ask yourself why 2250 has become so meaningful? 2250 is actually a lot more than a bizarre combination of digits; it is the world´s first UN Security Council resolution on young people and their role in peacebuilding. The resolution obligates UN member states to include young people in decision making. To break it down even more, 2250 offers a direct opportunity for young people to engage in peacebuilding on a national and international level. 

In Finland, the 2250–resolution on youth peace and security has served as a vehicle for youth participation. In less than two years, a lot of advocacy work on promoting 2250 has been done. One of the biggest achievements is the 2250–Youth Peace and Security Network bringing together young people with an interest in peace and security issues. Most of the young people engaged in the 2250-network are active in different youth organizations and have backgrounds in law, political, and social sciences. In a sense, we could draw the conclusion that many of the young people engaged in advocating for 2250 in Finland are so called “privileged” and well-educated youth such as myself.

I have had the opportunity to engage in advocacy work in a variety of youth and human rights organizations for the past 7 years. To me, young people’s and children’s rights as well as creating equal opportunities for active and meaningful participation have always been important.

Ever since 2250 was adopted, I’ve realized that it has a lot of potential. In 2017, I had the chance to contribute to advocating for 2250 by coordinating an international social media campaign on 2250 in partnership with the World Federation of the United Nations. The campaign had a two-folded aim. Firstly, to raise awareness on the youth peace and security resolution. Secondly, to empower and engage young people to advocate for 2250 by filming video clips and posting them online. I was also fortunate enough to participate in a panel discussion on Youth Peace and Security at the UN headquarters in New York. Not only did our 2250–social media campaign video get launched during the event but I also had the opportunity to share my views on the topic of youth engagement.

My aim from the start was to create an inclusive campaign providing the opportunity for all young people to participate. In general, the campaign was successful in raising awareness on the youth peace and security agenda. However, looking back I’ve realized that we might have set the bar bit too high. When evaluating the 2250–social campaign, I asked young people from conflict areas to give me feedback on the campaign. As a general response, it was emphasized that the country context should be taken into consideration when implementing 2250. Basically, in a liberal country such as Finland characterized by a strong civil society, advocating for youth engagement on 2250 is a lot easier compared to a country in conflict. Evaluating the 2250– social media campaign taught me that if one wants to successfully advocate for 2250, diversity should be the starting point.

The question that still puzzles me however is; how can we empower all young people to advocate for 2250? In theory, I think I have the answer. My vision, even though still a bit blurry, is to start with creating more visibility for 2250 at the grass root level. After all, education is the key to empowerment. But in order to educate youth we have to start with putting 2250 into the country context. What works for example in Finland – a country with strong civil society engagement and youth organizations might not be the optimal solution in all countries.

In Finland, advocacy work on the 2250 has been strongly linked to structures such as the 2250-network. But if we want to create new and more inclusive opportunities for youth engagement we need to start thinking outside of the box. To widen our perspectives on youth empowerment creative thinking is essential. I believe that youth from all backgrounds can be empowered to advocate 2250 by simply lowering the bar for engagement. In practice, this means creating equal opportunities for participation or as I like to call it a community of inclusion. To build this community, we need to create a welcoming atmosphere that is respectful of diversity.

Because in the end, if we want to advocate for 2250 and build sustainable peace it will not be an easy effort. On the contrary, it will be a difficult task that requires cooperation characterized by diversity. We all have different skill sets that complete each other and in order to achieve sustainable peace we have to invite all youth to participate in our advocacy efforts!

Text: Emilia Hannuksela
Photos: WFUNA Youth & UN Focal Point on Youth

2017 International Youth Day -campaign video by WFUNA, including UN Youth of Finland

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