ThinkPeace; Our Common Agenda Policy Brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes

By Wevyn Muganda

It was only about a few days ago that the UN Secretary-General released Our Common Agenda’s policy brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes. I was excited to read it and see the recommendations because these will be crucial in developing the agenda at The Summit of the Future scheduled for 2024.

First, the policy brief primarily aimed at the Member States makes the following key recommendations;

  • Expand and strengthen youth participation in decision-making at all levels;
  • Make meaningful youth engagement a requirement in all United Nations decision-making processes;
  • Support the establishment of a standing United Nations Youth Townhall and an integrated program from the United Nations system to facilitate greater diversity, representativeness, and preparedness in youth participation.

The document further defines meaningful youth engagement and shares examples of initiatives undertaken to promote youth engagement at the global and national levels. There is progress in youth engagement particularly in the language as seen in this document. There are lots of recommendations and examples to build from. 

My key appreciation points from this policy were;

  • Language on youth engagement has evolved from mere participation to influence and impact their inputs to the outcomes of decision-making processes
  • Recommendation to Member States to make youth participation a Requirement in UN Decision making spaces
  • Resourcing of youth participation especially funding the participation of youth from the Geopolitical South.

In the framework of the YPS agenda, peace is more than just the absence of war, if anything achieving the sustainable development goals is what will lead us to a peaceful society. Even as I applaud these recommendations, I would like for all of us to think critically about how these recommendations look in practice. 

When We Think of Peace;

We must ask which young people make it to these peace processes and decision-making spaces. Who has the access, tools, and resources to participate especially globally…and how do we ensure that those left out have their agency and needs incorporated?

What does resourcing look like? Many young activists work precarious jobs or run their organizations on a voluntary basis. If we genuinely value youth expertise, why can’t we move beyond resourcing for participation i.e. travel to resourcing for meaningful engagement i.e. compensating young people for their time?

Are diversity and inclusion enough? What about the ways intersecting axes such as class, ability, race, and ethnicity affect youth participation in decision-making? It is one thing to say, ‘Every young person is welcome here,’ and a totally different thing to say, ‘We designed this space with you(minoritized youth groups) in mind. 

What does the institutionalization of youth engagement mean when institutions are failing? Institutionalizing youth engagement at the national level through established national youth bodies threatens the civic space for certain youth groups as these national youth councils, because are funded by gov’t may be an extension of the state and institutionalized violence. How can we go beyond institutionalization to expanding the space for youth groups in their diversity from the grassroots, to movements and having avenues for their inputs to feed into national and global processes? 

Finally, what  I would have loved to see highlighted more strongly is the value of technology in enhancing youth engagement. We will never get every young person, even activists to travel to New York or Geneva, for example, even with more resourcing. Therefore, how do we decentralize decision-making, and leverage digital technologies to have more young people engaging, but even so how do we think of access, security, and cost of technologies when we think of increasing youth participation? and ultimately making this meaningful to decision-making.

Overall, I believe that there are great recommendations we can work with, and hoping that Member States take their mandate seriously, and walk the talk.

Have you read the Secretary General’s Our Common Agenda Policy Brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement in PolicyMaking and Decision-making Processes?  Share with us your thoughts in the comment section


#ThinkPeace is an initiative by ISIRIKA aimed at providing thought leadership on peace and security and provoking peace practitioners, particularly young peacebuilders to delve deeply into different social issues through simple think-pieces published every week.



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