Youth Still Largely Excluded from Decision-making, Despite Key Role in Building Sustainable Peace

Politically Speaking
3 min readApr 18, 2024


Young people play a crucial role in preventing conflict and building sustainable peace. But despite increased efforts to foster youth engagement in political and peace processes, young voices remain largely excluded from decision-making.

The meaningful participation of young people in conflict prevention and peace processes is mandated by three Security Council resolutions (2250, 2419, 2535) that recognize the contribution of youth to the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security.

These resolutions, which outline the UN Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) agenda, urge member states to give youth a greater voice in decision-making at all levels, pointing to the benefits of their contribution to peace and security.

“The potential and opportunity for renewal that young people represent […] means that they must be part of the broader discussions shaping our societies,” Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said during a Security Council meeting on 17 April.

DiCarlo also stressed the disproportionate impact of conflict on youth.

It is estimated that one in four young people around the world is affected by violence or armed conflict, with girls and women particularly vulnerable to neglect, abuse, and exploitation. Conflict also impacts the mental health and psychosocial well-being of children, who often carry that impact into their adulthood.

“The impact of war and violence on youth is well known,” DiCarlo said, adding that “what is still not sufficiently recognized is the many ways young people — with their energy, innovative ideas and creativity — can make the search for peace more sustainable and effective.”

Barriers to youth participation

While there is broad agreement on the benefits of youth inclusion in decision-making, progress on the implementation of the YPS agenda remains slow.

According to the UN Secretary-General’s 2023 YPS report, there is growing mistrust between youth and governments. At the same time, institutional barriers, such as age-based laws and practices, limit youth participation in political processes.

For many young people, moreover, participating in informal or alternative spaces is more economically viable than joining political parties or standing for office. Electoral violence is also hindering participation in elections according to a UNDP study.

Peace processes also often fail to include young people. According to a study by the University of Glasgow, only 12 per cent of peace agreements between 1990 and 2022 mentioned youth or young people.

And at the UN, as DiCarlo pointed out on 17 April, in recent years the number of young briefers to the Security Council has decreased, as has the number of resolutions with references to youth.

Progress on the YPS agenda

At the same time, there are encouraging developments on the ground, the latest YPS report shows. Some special political missions (SPMs) managed by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs have stepped up their efforts to mainstream the YPS agenda.

In 2023, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), for instance, fostered youth-government collaboration through consultations, while the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and the African Union invited young people to share their views on youth-led climate action and conflict prevention.

At the national level, some countries are also making progress, with new national action plans developed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Philippines. Other countries, like Albania, Morocco, Serbia, Lebanon and Somalia included YPS in their strategies, national policies or laws.

Regionally, the League of Arab States has recently endorsed a Youth, Peace and Security strategy for 2023–2028.

Institutionalizing the YPS agenda

The need for a more inclusive approach to decision-making was also recently reiterated in a letter to global leaders ahead of the Summit of the Future to be held in September.

“We are calling on all leaders and institutions to take immediate action to make global policymaking and decision-making spaces more representative of the communities they serve,” the letter reads.

The Secretary-General has also called for greater space for young voices in decision-making processes. In his policy briefs A New Agenda for Peace and Meaningful Youth Engagement published in 2023, he called for the YPS agenda to be institutionalized and adequately funded.

As DiCarlo told the Security Council, “We will need more adequate, predictable, and sustained funding to translate youth inclusion from a political commitment to tangible practice.”



Politically Speaking

The online magazine of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs