Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 27, 2020
Thank you, José, and thank you for hosting this very important issue today. Thank you, Secretary-General Guterres, for your presentation and for your report on such an important issue. I know I’m not alone in saying that our future truly does rest in the hands of our young people, and that we must do everything in our power to remove the obstacles that limit their meaningful participation in public life.
One way we can include young people is by listening to their voices. So, I’m delighted that we were able to welcome, and please excuse if I mispronounce your names, but it is important that I say your names, Jayathma, Olla, and Gatwal, three amazing, young leaders today and I want to acknowledge your courageous work to improve communities around the world.
Five years ago, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2250, the first resolution fully dedicated to the vital role that young people play in maintaining international peace and security. Two years ago, we adopted Resolution 2419, which urged the Secretary-General and his special envoys to incorporate the views of young people and involve them at decision-making levels. And today, we are here to take stock of the progress made and steps required to youth participation and ensure full implementation of these resolutions. There should be no doubt that the Security Council takes young people, and their concerns, seriously.
In so many conflicts, youth continue to be caught in the crosshairs. Ninety percent of the 1.85 billion young women and men in the world today come from developing countries. Twenty five percent of them – more than 400 million people – are directly affected by violence or armed conflict. Surely this cannot continue to be the norm. When schools are shut down, hospitals are targeted, or aid gets blocked, it is the youth who are most vulnerable. Now, the imperative to protect them is even greater: on top of social, education, and health systems that already weakened by conflict or disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic is triggering multiple, interlinked crises impacting hundreds of millions of young people.
The United States has already emphasized that effective mitigation of COVID-19 requires government transparency and accountability, the full participation of civil society, and access to information. But as we’ve heard from Ms. Sakkaf today, the situation also demands young people’s engagement. Unfortunately, barriers to that engagement remain. These include intimidation and attacks violating young people’s human rights, and insufficient investments in systems that facilitate their inclusion, most especially education.
As Member States, it is our responsibility to guarantee a safe environment for all human rights defenders, including young human rights defenders and peacebuilders. We remain concerned about attacks and limitations on young people’s freedom of speech, movement, assembly, and association. Neither they nor their family members should face retaliation or detention for speaking out. All young women and men have the fundamental right to participate in public life – a right they possess regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, caste, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.
As we strive to include young people, the Council must recognize that leaders face a deficit of trust. Many youths do not have high levels of faith in government institutions. Furthermore, when young people are marginalized or discriminated against, it becomes easier for terrorist groups to recruit and target them. And I’m going to say that again because I think that this is important that we understand that young people, when marginalized or discriminated against, they do become targets and it becomes much easier for terrorist groups to recruit them.
As leaders, we have real work to do in this space, we have a responsibility. Thankfully, many young people are already showing us how to be a part of the solution, just as these three have done today. They have played an essential role in preventing violent extremism by reaching out to their peers in positive ways through friends and social media. For our part, the Trump Administration will continue to help young people acquire the skills they need to shape government and politics of their countries. Our efforts are aimed at building partnerships with promising young leaders around the world, and across the UN system the voices and perspectives of young people are being amplified.
In addition to the work undertaken by UNICEF, UNDP, and UNHCR to protect and strengthen youth participation, UN field missions in Central African Republic, Liberia, and elsewhere are enabling young people to develop national security strategies. We encourage this kind of engagement in policymaking decisions, especially in post-conflict environments.
Fellow Council members, just and peaceful societies are ones that listen to and incorporate the opinions and aspirations of all their people. I know these are the societies we wish to build. And so, the voices of young women and men must be heard. Their views must be valued. And their participation must be ensured.