Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Youth, Peace and Security

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 17, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President, for convening this important session this afternoon. And thank you, Ms. Wickramanayake, Ms. Muganda, and Ms. Ramyarfor for your important updates and moving testimony, along with the concrete recommendations. You’ve brought a really useful perspective into the Security Council, and one that others have said that we don’t usually hear, so it’s welcomed. We should be hearing directly from people like you more often– young people who are organizing in their communities, making their voices heard, and helping make the world a safer and more inclusive place. The United States is pleased that you have a seat at the table today, and it is something that we hope will happen even more often in the future.

Mr. President, there are a lot of ways that we could talk about youth, peace, and security. It’s tragic that for so many of the conflicts on the Council’s agenda, children and young adults are often caught in the crosshairs. They are the most vulnerable victims when schools shut down, hospitals become targets, and aid gets blocked. When a generation of young people cannot get an education or start a family because of war, it will take decades to recover. One key lesson we must take away from these discussions about youth, peace, and security is that we must work even harder to stop conflicts before they begin. We need to listen directly to young people like we have today, who –more often than not – want nothing more than for fighting to stop, so that they can have a chance at a more secure and prosperous future.

I want to focus the rest of my remarks today on how we can harness the power of young people to make positive change.

As diplomats, we spend a lot of time meeting and talking to each other behind closed doors. And like my British colleague noted, these discussions rarely involve people without at least a gray hair or two.

However, let’s consider the reality. All around us, we see examples of young people setting and driving the political agenda. Young people aren’t waiting for change to happen, they are the change that is happening. In so many parts of the world, they are the ones demanding an end to tyranny and speaking up for human rights and accountability.

Take just one example. Earlier this week, the Council had the second briefing on UNITAD, an investigative team created to hold ISIS accountable for its atrocities. The advocacy of 2018 Noble Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad – who was in her early 20s when she first briefed this Council – was instrumental to bring attention to the plight of Yezidis and helped spur Council action. Nadia’s courage to come to the Council and give us a firsthand account of the brutality she encountered pushed the international community to act.

We need to encourage this kind of leadership, and give young people the tools they need to succeed. That is one reason the United States proudly invests in leadership exchanges and programs aimed at partnering with youth around the world. Our Young Leader initiatives engage youth in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and across the Atlantic to provide business, civic, and leadership development training. These efforts are aimed to build partnerships with promising leaders around the world.

The United States also supports programs that engage youth as partners to foster social cohesion and tolerance. Young people have played a critical role in countering terrorist narratives at home and abroad. Terrorist groups like ISIS have tried to find vulnerable people to recruit.

However, young people around the world have countered these hateful narratives with innovative tools, apps and approaches. For example, we have partnered with the Peer to Peer program, where students develop and implement online campaigns and content to prevent and counter violent extremism. Such engagement has been an important part of our whole-of-society effort, in line with the UN’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, in countering ISIS over the last few years.

This year, we continue to raise awareness, build partnerships, and generate new ideas on youth engagement and leadership. As part of the ECOSOC Youth Forum held this past April, the United States hosted an event for global youth delegates to hear directly from them about ways to further implement Resolution 2250. A number of youth delegates highlighted the systematic underrepresentation of youth in politics and policy-making. They shared their feelings of being excluded from decisions that affect them and future generations. We have made progress in establishing young people as partners for peace. But this is just the beginning, and we all need to do more.

We need to continue building upon resolutions 2250 and 2419 that established youth, peace, and security on the Council’s agenda. For our part, the United States will continue to support pathways for young people to get the skills they need to become active citizens in shaping the government and politics of their countries. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, we should continue setting an example by inviting briefers like these young people to brief us in the Council going forward.

We encourage each Council member to consider the best ways that they can open doors for the next generation. We cannot afford to ignore or marginalize 4.5 billion people under the age of 30 around the world. We all must redouble these efforts to amplify the voices and contributions of young peacebuilders and youth leaders for a peaceful and prosperous future.

Thank you, Mr. President.