When a peace treaty is signed and an conflict ends, one might think peace will come automatically. However, after the weapons have been put down there is still a lot of obstacles left to be overcome for the healing society. For the excombattants this means everything from finding a place to live, a way to support themselves and reuniting with family members – sometimes after decades of armed conflict.

In Colombia, we are currently working with young excombattants to make their transition back the life they want, easier and meaningful.

Want to get involved? Contact us!

In 2016, Colombia made headlines around the world when the peace agreement between FARC and the government was signed. Although the majority of the colombian population rejected the agreement in a referendum, after some modifications the agreement was still able to put an end to a 52 year old armed conflict. Although peace has been accomplished on paper, there is a lot left to be done for the people of Colombia to feel peace. Reports continue showing increased killings of Colombian human rights leaders and the government´s slow implementation of the peace agreement has been heavily criticized.

On top if this, Colombia just faced its first presidential elections after the the agreement and many are worried about its impact on the ongoing peace process. Will the new president endanger the peace agreement?

The fifth pillar of UNSCR 2250 handles another key issue for long lasting and sustainable peace: that of disengagement and reintegration.

This specific area refers to what many people working in the field would associate with Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), action plans that are used for peacekeeping operations after conflicts and civil wars. This pillar builds on the principles of DDR, but is specifically directed towards young people victimized by armed conflict, whether as an active combattants or as someone being hurt by violence conducted by other actors. Disarmament and demobilization refers to processes of laying down arms and dissolving military troops from a combat-ready status.

However, UNSCR 2250 recognizes and emphasizes the role of reintegration, and the returning to civilian life. In this sense, processes of involving all relevant actors (private sector, public sector, civil society, intergovernmental organizations, etc.) to strengthen youth employability, capacity building efforts should be planned in order to increase incentives to promote a culture of peace.

The fundamental key here is to recognize capabilities, skills and most importantly the need of youth and create inclusive policies that prevent exclusion and marginalization of young people.  

“No man is an island” as the Englishman John Donne put it hundreds and hundreds of years ago, is a phrase that refers to the fact that human beings are social beings that don´t perform well when isolated. Although the quote might be old, it is by every mean still relevant and applicable in a peacebuilding context.

The UNSCR 2250 stresses the importance of establishing alliances and partnership between actors from various sectors of society for the construction of sustainable peace. Creating bridges between the state, intergovernmental organisations, the civil society and the private sector will be crucial for the successful implementation of the resolution.

The Partnership-pillar of the resolution is also key when it comes to the implementation of the resolution´s other four pillars – or more adequately put with the use of UN-language: they’re interdependent. Cooperation is necessary when it comes to technically, logistically, financially and politically viable solutions within the implementation of this historic resolution.

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Imagine this: you have just bought a new car after years of saving money and you are more than excited to take it out for a spin. You have never owned a car before so maintenance and routines to avoid malfunctions isn’t really anything that you have been thinking about and you’re going hard, trying the car’s limits.

But one day, the car breaks down and you take it to the service station where you are informed that you could have avoided this hefty bill with just a few proactive actions and routines.

The UNSCR 2250’s focus on prevention is based on the same principle, only that here it is focused on the need to prevent violence and conflicts. Think of it as actions seeking to work proactively as well as reactively to prevent bad things from happening.  It’s simply just more efficient to accomplish something sustainable and long lasting if we take action before the harm is done.

By recognizing young people as important agents of change and establishing mechanisms to promote peace, youth must also be included in decision-making processes and in creating incentives to become active in the work for sustainable peace.

Hopefully this goes without saying: no one is born violent! Violence is something we learn through our environment, so by searching for its roots and creating inclusive and participatory processes where young people can decide what’s best for young people – we will prevent a lot of the violence that stems from the exclusion and marginalization of youth.

Important to underline however is that the majority of young people are not involved in violent activities, so let’s make sure that those who are working against it has the proper tools, skills and recognition to carry out the work that is required to create sustainable peace.

If you were to decide what measures to take in your local community in order to prevent violence, what would be your first measure? 

Do you think you would feel safe walking to school by yourself every day on a conflict-stricken road? Well, most people wouldn’t.

To get our human rights met, such as the right to education, depends on the fact that we both are secure and feel secure in our everyday life. Exposed groups in our societies, like many youth groups, need special attention when it comes to protection during conflict and post-conflict scenarios. This is why the UN resolution 2250 requires governments and urges other stakeholders to assure the protection of civilians and ending impunity by bringing to justice to those who has committed crimes such as genocide and war crimes against young civilians. Efforts and actions for protection should also be provided towards to the most vulnerable groups  in our societies.

Protecting ourselves from violence by using violence is, however, a way to feed more violence. Despite this, many young women and men decide to join militias and take to arms in order to protect themselves from violence. Why, one would ask? Well, maybe because of the simple fact that we do not feel secure and resort to our last option – fighting fire with fire. Looking at this from a broader perspective, this might not be so surprising. Young people have often not been guaranteed protection in the same way as other more traditional groups and the protection provided has not always been based on the specific needs of young people. In order to guarantee the protection of young women and men, our specific needs must be taken in to consideration.

What do you need to feel secure and protected?

Did you ever sit on the bench watching your football team lose a game, thinking that if they only put you on the pitch at least you could have contributed to some sort of change that would have helped the team?

Football and policymaking is not as different as one might think.

We, the youth, are put on the bench. Yet we are expected to accept that we need to stay strong in defeat when we are losing because of someone else´s decision. How will we ever win a game if we are not included and consulted in the tactics before we start the game?

Participation is a fundamental right and a cornerstone for successful democracy. The UNSCR 2250 therefore asks every government to increase young people’s participation in decision making processes at all levels.

So when decisions about the wellbeing and future of the youth is made, let’s not get stuck on the bench anymore, watching our team lose. Let’s change the game by participating and actively contributing to the future, the future we are supposed to live. Young people’s needs and perspective are to be taken seriously at all levels and we will never be taken seriously if do not participate and have our saying about the decisions that are made about us.

What do you need in order to be able to participate in decision-making processes to reduce and prevent violence and build peace in your local community?

Needless to say, the concept of youth is complex, and Operation 2250´s perspective is just one way of looking at it. For us, youth is a relationship, rather than a phase, within an age-system that assigns what is associated with adulthood the truthful knowledge, skills and the right to impose restrictions, as well as to define social reality.

This relationship of dominance forces young people as social groups to deny their experiences and skills and their ability to change their living conditions, since they are understood as recipients of an imposed knowledge from above.

Visibility and recognition of this unequal relationship enables simultaneous reassessment of the meaning of the concept from other positions. We do not understand youth as passive recipients, but as active subjects with individual and collective life experiences and thus knowledge. We are not based on a biological understanding of youth as a specific age. For us, it is a socially constructed group within a power order.

It is worth emphasizing the importance that the term does not cover any homogeneous whole. There is no universal character or understanding of youth, but rather different youth realities characterized by both class, racialization and gender (to take a few examples) as well as multiple experiences and knowledge in different time and space. It is crucial to take into account this complex dimension, which enriches the understanding of youth without simultaneously reproducing power relationships when defining the concept.

So, what is youth, to you?

On Wednesday, June 6th, The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution on youth, peace and security: UNSCR 2419. It calls for increased representation of young people in efforts to prevent conflict and negotiations to end fighting and implement peace agreements.

Just as UNSCR 2250, this new resolution further recognize the role youth could could play in conflict prevention and resolution, if actively engaged, recognizing both their diversity and the need to counter any stigmatization or homogenization and it urges for a youth´s views taken into account in security related discussions, and for facilitating their equal and full participation at decision making levels. Further, the resolution highlights that the youth, peace and security agenda is a crucial part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The resolution calls on all relevant actors to consider ways for increasing the representation of young people when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, recognizing that their marginalization is detrimental to building sustainable peace and countering violent extremism.  It also notes the independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, titled, “The missing peace”, that gave vocie to 4 000 young people, which we will be telling you more about soon.

The Council calls on Member States to protect educational institutions as spaces free from all violence, ensuring they are accessible to all youth and taking steps to address young women’s equal enjoyment of their right to education. It recommends the Peacebuilding Commission to include in its advice ways to engage young people in national efforts to build and sustain peace, particularly urging appropriate regional and subregional bodies to facilitate their constructive engagement.

It also requests the Secretary‑General to consider including in his reporting progress made towards young people’s participation in such processes as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and interlinked community violence reduction programmes, as well as considering internal mechanisms to broaden young people’s participation in the work of the United Nations. No later than May 2020, a report on the implementation of the current resolution, as well as resolution 2250 is asked to be submitted by the Secretary-General.

We, Operation 2250, welcome this resolution as another important step to further put youth on the peace and security agenda. Here you can read the resolution in its whole.

December 9, 2015 was a historic date for youth: it was finally recognized officially on the peace and security agenda. It is the day when the member countries of the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously in favor of resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. Its focus on youth, peace and security is the first of its kind, recognizing young people as key agents of social change in situations of prevention and conflict resolution, as well as strategic actors in the construction of prosperous, inclusive societies with lasting peace.

It defines young people as between the ages of 18-29 – an age that is swallowed up by what is legally considered as adulthood, despite the fact that it is often not recognized the same rights as those considered adults, in practice. So far, youth has been limited to be considered as or a group to defend (describing some youth groups as victims) or as a group from which society needs to defend itself (describing some youth grupos as perpetrators of violence). With this resolution, for the first time a vision of young people as protagonist actors that can play a central role in the construction of peace and the fight against violence is promoted.

The birth of the resolution comes from the work that was done in Jordan on August 21 and 22, 2015 at the World Forum on Youth, Peace and Security. This forum was organized to recognize the important role that young people have in the construction of peace. Young people have long participated in the prevention of violence, the fight against violent extremism, the transformation of conflicts and the construction of peace in their communities. However, their work often lacks recognition and support. During this forum, the first thematic debate on youth, peace and security was promoted with more than 100 countries around the world. The more than 600 participants, among whom  many were young people, but also UN agencies, academics, governmental agencies, and donors, shared experiences on the impact of youth in the prevention of violence and in the consolidation of peace.

During this forum, the Amman Declaration was written, which includes recommendations for an international scenario which is more sensitive and conducive to the participation of young people. It also reflects the commitment of young people to work for peace through a common vision – and – establishes a roadmap to reinforce a political framework that supports young people in the transformation of conflicts. After the forum in Amman was over, conversations about the role of young people continued in the security council of the United Nations.

Like every UN resolution, the UNSCR 2250 is based on other resolutions already approved by the security council, in order to recognize and enforce the work previously done. The resolution itself refers to a variety of resolutions on Women, peace and security, on counteracting the spread of terrorism and post conflict peacebuilding. One of these is the UNSCR 1325, on Women, Security and Peace that was approved in the year 2000. The 1325 was a milestone for the inclusion of women in peace and security issues. The pillars of the resolution are:

– Participation
– Protection
– Prevention
– Parthership
– Disengagement and reintegration

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