8629th Security Council Meeting: Peace and Security in Africa

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02-Oct-2019 02:56:36
African youth activists call for greater inclusion of young people in continent’s development, as Security Council takes up ‘silencing the guns by 2020’ initiative at 8629th meeting.

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Youth activists from Africa, sharing stories of hardship and determination and of choosing peace over conflict, called for the engagement and inclusion of millions of their peers in building a fairer, more peaceful future on the continent, as the Security Council today debated how to mobilize young people towards the African Union initiative “Silencing the Guns by 2020”.

African youth leaders joined the Council’s 15 members, along with the Secretary‑General’ Special Adviser on Africa and a delegate from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), in a debate on mobilizing youth towards “Silencing the Guns by 2020”, the African Union initiative supported by the United Nations. Recounting their own experiences, the young activists spotlighted peaceful youth uprisings in Tunisia, Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, among other countries, stressing that Africa’s young people refuse to remain silent in the face of challenges ranging from war and terrorism to unemployment and climate change.

“First and foremost, this is a question of narrative,” said Aya Chebbi, the African Union’s Special Envoy on Youth. Recalling that in 2013 her 22‑year‑old cousin was recruited by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Tunisia, she said the experience led her to pursue a dissertation on youth recruitment to violent extremism. She learned that when young people draw the world’s attention they are too often spoken of as perpetrators of violence. In reality, she said, African youth — the continent’s most informed, resilient and coolest generation — are hustlers who refuse to resign themselves to the hardships of their situations.

Hafsa Ahmed, Co‑Founder and Chairperson of the civil society group Naweza, speaking via video teleconference from Kenya, described how her peaceful Nairobi neighbourhood of Eastleigh was pulled into a cycle of violence following attacks by extremists and police roundups. She and her friends began publicizing abuses using smartphones. In her work, she noticed young people building confidence, shedding stereotypes, finding alternatives to crime and starting businesses. Underlining the need to pay more attention to the broad diversity of young people, she called on the United Nations to create more opportunities for them in international processes.

Victor Ochen, Founder and Executive Director of the African Youth Initiative Network, speaking via video teleconference from Uganda, recounted a childhood turned upside down by war, leaving him forced to struggle just to survive. However, after his brother was abducted in 2003 and never seen again, he decided to become a peacebuilding activist, rather than fight the warmongers. Urging Council members to consider the perspectives of youth who hold onto guns as their only means of livelihood and security, he said many also feel a deep sense of frustration and powerlessness. Guns can only be silenced by intensified efforts to improve livelihoods and prevent conflict, he stressed.

Also briefing the Council, Bience Philomena Gawanas, Special Adviser to the Secretary‑General on Africa, pointed out that Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with 20 per cent of its population — some 220 million people — between the ages of 15 and 24. To harness that demographic dividend, urgent efforts are needed to combat threats to peace and security, including radicalization, violent extremism, sexual violence, xenophobia and forced migration. Warning against hard‑fisted policies driven by false stereotypes, she drew attention to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and its Master Road Map to silence the guns by 2020, calling for enhanced support from the United Nations, regional groups and the private sector.

As Council members took the floor, many voiced optimism that Africa’s rapidly expanding youth bulge can bring positive changes to the continent. However, some speakers also cautioned that the same demographic upheaval, if not supported, could pose grave threats. Several delegates outlined their countries’ tangible support to youth‑centred initiatives in Africa, including entrepreneurship training programmes and the provision of scholarships. Meanwhile, others drew attention to the recent waves of youth protests around the globe to combat such challenges as inequality, political repression and climate change.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire called for more investments in the energy and creativity of Africa’s young people as well as their engagement in political processes around the continent. Noting that his country created a Youth Parliament for that purpose, he called for special efforts control arms flows and boost employment, which is critical to stem youth radicalization and their participation in transnational crime.

Striking a similar tone, Peru’s delegate said the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will help address many of the main driving factors of conflicts and youth radicalization. Warning that conflicts represent the main form of employment and a potential source of upward mobility for far too many young people around the globe, he called for strengthened efforts to more actively engage youth and women, as well as refugees, internally displaced persons and other marginalized groups.

China’s representative joined other speakers in welcoming the major development contributions being made by young people across Africa — even as they are often marginalized and confronted by such challenges as conflict and poverty. Calling for African solutions to African problems, he urged countries to build mutual trust and pursue “win‑win” development outcomes. “Empty rhetoric is no solution to any problem,” he stressed, calling instead for tangible action and citing China’s support for youth entrepreneurship and innovation projects in Africa.

The representative of South Africa, which holds the Council Presidency for October, spotlighted the crucial role to be played by the Security Council itself. Drawing attention to resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) in support of youth engagement in international peace and security, he also called for stronger cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations and redoubled efforts to train youth as peacebuilders.

Also speaking today were representatives of Poland, United States, Germany, Belgium, France, Kuwait, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic, Russian Federation and Indonesia.

The Permanent Observer of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) also spoke.

The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:57 p.m.
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