Landmark UN Security Council Resolution Shines Light on the Youth Factor in Security
By: Nicole Goldin
The UN Security Council, under a U.S. presidency, unanimously adopted Resolution 2250, on Youth, Peace, and Security on December 9, 2015. Despite the historic nature of the resolution—the first specific to youth and security—it is not necessarily surprising that this first of its kind resolution should come now, as the world is seeing widespread instability, fragility, and violence. Extremist and jihadi groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, and the conflict and terror attacks they incite, are wreaking havoc on the world order, creating unprecedented numbers of refugees and migrants, and undermining growth in already struggling and fragile economies. What may be surprising, however, given that today’s security incidents increasingly involve youth, is that the vote occurred with comparatively little fanfare or media coverage.
As the resolution recognizes, these security dynamics are coupled with unprecedented demographics: half the world’s population is under age 30, making it the largest youth generation in human history. Importantly, the youth bulge is largest where the security situation is most tenuous: a significant majority (85 percent) of the world’s youth lives in lower-income countries and fragile states.
Youth are disproportionately affected by violence and armed conflict, as both perpetrators and victims. Similarly, though youth tend to drive social, political, and peace movements, they don’t necessarily see the benefits of reforms or regime change and are too often excluded from high politics and decisionmaking. Beset with record unemployment and facing rising education costs that often exclude those most in need, young people increasingly feel marginalized. As a result, they are more vulnerable to extremist recruitment and susceptible to engaging in destabilizing violent or criminal activities. As the most connected generation, today’s digital natives find opportunity and voice through the Internet, and nefarious actors have mastered the art of global online recruitment. A recent study found that the average age of Western ISIS fighters is 24.
What is important about Resolution 2250 itself is that, while stimulated by and acknowledging the risks of the youth bulge, it offers a positive approach that sees the constructive role young people can—and overwhelmingly want to—play in preventing violence and promoting peace and security. It encourages member states to protect and utilize youths’ collective strength by ensuring that policy environments and systems are conducive to education and employment and that they stimulate youth action through meaningful channels of participation in governance, dispute resolution, and online engagement. In doing so, it echoes Resolution 1325, which advanced women in peace building and inspired more than 50 national action plans.
As the United States and its partners continue to fight security threats at home and abroad, they would be wise to take note of this landmark resolution and follow its lead and spirit to identify and support strategies and mechanisms to invest in and harness the assets of youth toward more inclusive societies and longer-term security for all.