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1.8 Billion young people

© UNFPA/Elianne Beeson

Are the

Changemakers, peacebuilders, leaders

© UNV/Momoko Sato & UNDP/Tim Jenkins


Trust, support, recognition

© UNICEF/Adriana Zehbrauskas


Depends on us

© UNFPA/Olivier Girard

The missing peace

Independent progress study on
youth, peace and security

© United Nations/Amanda Voisard

Click below for the full version of the Progress Study

Across the globe, there are extraordinary young people creatively seeking ways to prevent violence and consolidate peace. However, many are frustrated by the tendency of their Governments and international actors to treat youth as a problem to be solved, rather than as partners for peace.

Throughout the world, young people consulted for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security expressed that they have lost faith and trust in their Governments, the international community and systems of governance that they feel excluded from, contributing to a strong and ongoing sense of injustice.

This must be addressed in order to support and benefit from young people’s contributions to peace, and to realize the potential of 1.8 billion young people.

We, the youths, are dreamers, entrepreneurs. We are victims, of course, too, and we cannot change that. But we are also everything else.

Carolina, Colombia

The main strength is that we are youth-led. Young members decide how, in what way, where and when to organize certain projects. They brainstorm ideas and they are in charge of everything. These young members meet with sponsors and they negotiate with them.

Tamaz, Georgia

We've got to do it, otherwise no one will do it. If we don’t engage with youth, we’re losing more of them to the battlefields.

Omaira, Yemen

Young peacebuilders who are working in the conflict-affected areas are risking their lives and working for peace. There should be a mechanism for the safety of young peacebuilders.

Dawud, Cameroon

Setting the stage for the progress study

© United Nations/Amanda Voisard

In 2015, the Security Council adopted UNSCR 2250, the first resolution entirely dedicated to recognizing the importance of engaging young women and men in shaping and sustaining peace. UNSCR 2250 calls on Member States to include young people in their institutions and mechanisms to prevent violent conflict and to support the work already being performed by youth in peace and security. In addition, the Resolution requests the Secretary-General to “carry out a Progress Study on the youth’s positive contribution to peace processes and conflict resolution, in order to recommend effective responses at local, national, regional and international levels.”

UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security

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    Take youth's participation and views into account in decision-making processes, from negotiation and prevention of violence to peace agreements.

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    Ensure the protection of young civilians' lives and human rights, and investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes perpetrated against them.

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    Support young people in preventing violence and in promoting a culture of tolerance and intercultural dialogue.

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    Engage young people during and after conflict when developing peacebuilding strategies along with community actors and UN bodies.

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    Disengagement and reintegration

    Invest in youth affected by armed conflict through employment opportunities, inclusive labor policies and education promoting a culture of peace.

© UNFPA/Aral Kalk

The Progress Study was conducted as an independent research process, led by Graeme Simpson and an Advisory Group of Experts, all appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. They were supported by the United Nations and numerous partners from civil society, foundations and intergovernmental organizations. A UNFPA and Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) Secretariat was put in place to support the Study. The Study was developed through a participatory approach that involved face-to-face consultations with a total of 4,230 young people, including 281 focus group discussions in 44 countries, as well as 7 regional and 6 national consultations. In addition, there were 25 country-focused studies, 20 thematic submissions from partners, 5 online thematic consultations, a global survey of youth-led civil society peacebuilding organizations, and mapping exercises of Member States’ and UN entities’ work focused on young people in relation to peace and security.

The Progress Study was developed through a participatory approach that included face-to-face consultations including:

young people
total countries
young men
young women

The designations employed and the presentation of material on the map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNFPA concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The dotted line represents approximately the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir agreed upon by India and Pakistan. The final status of Jammu and Kashmir has not yet been agreed upon by the parties.

A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

* References to Kosovo should be understood in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

© UNICEF/Ashley Gilberston


Stereotypes and policy myths

In 2016, an estimated 408 million youth(aged 15-29) resided in settings affected by armed conflict or organized violence.

This means that at least 1 in 4 young people are affected by violence or armed conflict in some way.


We young people have three opportunities: to die assassinated, to migrate or to join a gang.

Hector, Northern Triangle
© UNICEF/Alaoui

For young people consulted throughout the Progress Study, peace and security are more than just the absence of violence, and concern all societies. Young people stress the importance of addressing the symptoms of violence, as well as the underlying causes of corruption, inequality and social injustice. Young people are clear that conflict itself might be unavoidable, but that violent conflict can be prevented by ensuring social and political channels are in place to navigate a diversity of opinions and perspectives.

Peace for young people is also deeply personal, associated with well-being and happiness. Young people involved in the research for the Study describe that peace manifests itself in physical, psychological and institutional forms, and is tied to issues of belonging, dignity, hope and the absence of fear. Peace is also seen as fundamentally gendered, particularly in relation to personal safety, with sexual and gender-based violence as a core concern.

Peace to me is a state where my affirmative actions are able to contribute to self and society’s development... where diversity proliferates not division, but unity.

Arush, India

Being at peace is having a feeling of tranquillity, of feeling like one with my environment.

Murielle, Côte d’Ivoire

We have not had peace for over 26 years. I just want to experience it once in my lifetime.

Aar, Somalia
© WVI/Stefanie Glinski

For young people, peace and security are not only related to the absence of violence. Peace is about development and human rights, and is essential for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Youth, peace and security is also directly linked to women, peace and security (UNSCR 1325), especially its emphasis on including civil society, opening avenues of participation for traditionally excluded stakeholders, and underscoring the pivotal role of young women for peace. In their work, young people address different phases of peace and conflict – from preventing the outbreak of violence to post-conflict peacebuilding – demonstrating their commitment to peacebuilding and sustaining peace.

We young people have the power to place ourselves at the nexus between good governance, peacebuilding and development.

Nadima, South Sudan
© UNICEF/Daniele Volpe

Widespread stereotypes associate young people, and particularly young men, with violence. In reality, the vast majority of young people are not involved, or at risk of participating, in violence.

There are three main misconceptions regarding young people:

  1. That bulging youth populations present an increased risk of violence.
  2. That young migrants, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) are potential threats to host societies and a drain on social services.
  3. That young men and women are drawn to join violent extremist groups, particularly if they are unemployed or uneducated.

These myths have triggered a “policy panic,” producing un-nuanced policy responses that involve hard-fisted law enforcement and security approaches, which are counterproductive and not cost-effective. These approaches further alienate young people and diminish their trust in their Governments and the multilateral system.

You are seen as something negative by the media and by society, and then it is easy to start seeing yourself that way... Maybe they are talking about me?

Elias, Sweden

Even if you make the effort to change, society gives you an eternal tattoo – a label of an offender, a failure or a source of problem.

Youssef, Tunisia
© UNFPA/Daniel Bravo


How young people are contributing to peace and security

Engages in all phases of peace and conflict: prevention, humanitarian,
on-going and post-conflict
Operates at every level: peer-to-peer, family, community, national, regional and international
Collaborates with diverse partners: local and national governments, community leaders, media, cultural organizations, justice, police and other peacebuilding organizations
Responds to different types of violence: violent extremism, political conflict, organized criminal violence and sexual and gender-based violence, etc
Bridges development, human rights, humanitarian, and peace & security

Youth Peace Work

in all phases of peace and conflict:
prevention, humanitarian,
on-going and post-conflict
Ar graphic
Photo © UNDP/Shahem Abu Ghazaleh
Photo © UNICEF/Sokhin
“We have never carried out any humanitarian or relief work before. However, we had to respond to the growing local needs, we couldn’t just sit and wait…” Ayman, Yemen
at every level:
peer-to-peer, family, community, national,
regional and international
Ar graphic
Photo © UN Photo / Mark Garten
“Collective action is important but so is individual change because in the long term it also impacts people around me. How can I start to have those conversations at home? How can I look at change and active citizenship at home too, rather than when I just set out of my house.” Ronny, India
with diverse partners:
local and national governments,
community leaders, media, cultural organizations,
justice, police and other peacebuilding organizations
Ar graphic
Photo © Momoko Sato, UNV / Tim Jenkins, UNDP
“Through partnerships we can contribute our part and reap the benefits of others’ efforts. We can accelerate learning and distribute skills and knowledge. Also, we can add depth and breadth to our community impact” Axado, Somalia
to different types of violence:
violent extremism, political conflict,
organized criminal violence!newline and sexual and gender-based violence, etc
Ar graphic
Photo © Andrew Esiebo, UNICEF
“We work on violence prevention by redefining masculinities. (…) We meet every week and discuss norms of masculinity and how they affect us.  (…) You get a whole new perspective when you hear it from the men’s side.” Liya, Ethiopia
development, human rights, humanitarian,
and peace & security
Ar graphic
Photo © Gilbertson, UNICEF"
“There is no development and progress with no peace” Wangari, East Africa

Our actions, although simple, contribute significantly to the construction and manufacture of peace.

Simran, Yemen
© UNICEF/Ashley Gilberston

Youth-led organizations working on peace vary greatly in size, as do the scope and impact of their work. A survey undertaken by United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY) and Search for Common Ground offers a picture of their work, often at the local level, in contexts of instability or violence. These organizations have a deep understanding of local conditions and meaningful community relationships, and, as a result, can work with populations that other actors cannot easily access.

Most youth-led organizations surveyed depend heavily on volunteers and are modestly funded or underfunded. Half of the 399 organizations that answered the survey operated with less than $5,000 per year, and only 11 per cent did so with more than $100,000.

Young people predominate among those who deal with conflict resolution. They are very active and this manifests itself in everything: in politics, in the economy, in the social sphere.

Anna, Georgia

Youth-led organizations are an important source of leadership and agency for young people. But young people also participate and exert their leadership elsewhere in diverse institutions and arenas of civic life, civil society organizations and remote communities.

Without young people working on peace and security, the decision makers will not understand our needs. Young people need to be taken seriously and held responsible on their [youth-led] projects.

Guillaume, France
© UNFPA/Ben Manser

Young people have long been at the forefront of political and social change, challenging the status quo through peaceful protest, artistic expression and online mobilization. While such movements have sometimes faced violent reactions from the State, peaceful expressions of dissent remain some of the most important tools for youth-based movements struggling for political change and justice.

If we had opportunities to exercise our power and agency, then our potential could be transformed. What's making us vulnerable is that lack of opportunity.

Rehema, East and Southern Africa
© UNFPA/Rada Akba


Countering the violence of exclusion

© UNFPA/Omar Kasrawi

Political participation

During the consultations and focus groups undertaken for the Study, young people expressed that they feel excluded from meaningful civic and political participation, and that they mistrust systems of patronage and corrupt governance that lack the will and capacity to address their grievances. This has driven young people’s demand for greater participation in electoral processes and policymaking through youth councils, assemblies and parliaments, as well as decision-making forums at the local, national, regional and global levels. This situation has also led many young people to withdraw from formal politics, and instead create alternative avenues for participation. For political participation to be meaningful, young women and men need to be broadly represented and consulted in all arenas, without being subjected to co-optation, manipulation or control by political parties. Young people’s participation in formal peace processes remains limited, reduced only to informal although diverse venues.

At the moment, youth do not have political spaces. They are not represented in forums. Their voices are unheard. It appears youth are not a priority of the government.

Yasna, Kashmir

We are being used politically, but not listened to.

Dejen, East and Southern Africa
© UNFPA/Guadalupe Valdes

Beyond just jobs

Irrespective of country context and levels of violence, concerns over economic well-being and livelihoods are key issues in relation to peace and security for youth. Contrary to widely accepted assumptions, youth unemployment has not been proven to lead to violence. Instead, violent conflict is more likely fueled by experiences of inequality and exclusion based on identity, ethnicity or gender. Young people often feel that current employment opportunities fail to offer a sense of meaning or identity, leading to frustration. Interventions targeted at improving young people’s economic stake in society must go beyond just jobs to address deeper grievances and perceived injustices, and allow young people to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Every day, it's the same scenario: A long empty day to pass, I have nothing to do, I have no goal to achieve.

Hamsa, Tunisia

We young people are only called up when it’s time to wave flags or put up posters… when we voice criticism we are sidelined.

Carlos Alberto, Northern Triangle
© WVI/Mark Nonkes


Education features universally as a core peace and security concern for young people. Educational institutions are critical sites where young people as “beneficiaries” interact with the State or non-state actors as “providers”. Young people have high hopes for the transformative role of education via both formal and non-formal mechanisms in building peace. They think education based on the transmission of values of peace is vital and that teaching critical-thinking skills, non-violent methods to address conflicts and celebration of diversity should be prioritized.

We need to engage young people at a younger age – the curricula for children should also include peacebuilding, so they grow up with this mindset.

Nazil, Fiji


Programming in peace and security has tended to prioritize young men, regarding them as perpetrators of violence or “spoilers” of peace processes, while young women tend to be seen as victims in need of protection. It is important to address young women’s disproportionate experiences of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as the violence faced by sexual and gender minorities. A critical component of this involves supporting youth peacebuilding work that is focused on promoting positive, gender-equitable and non-violent masculine roles and identities.

We are never safe. In the street, you hear all forms of sexual harassment. In the house, men are very creative to make us suffer.

Myriam, Tunisia
© UNICEF/Adriana Zehbrauskas

Protection and human rights

Young people themselves are also victims of numerous forms of violence: state repression; terrorism; gangs and organized crime; gender-based violence and violence against young migrants, refugees and internally displaces persons (IDPs). Beyond physical violence, young people pointed to violations of their fundamental rights as a source of grievance and insecurity. Without the appropriate protection mechanisms and equitable delivery of social services, including sexual and reproductive health or psychosocial support, feelings of uncertainty and instability among young people might lead to self-destructive coping mechanisms and a deepening of the mistrust between young people and the State.

We need to feel cared for by the State. We need to feel that the State appreciates us. Currently no one does anything for us.

Darejan, Georgia

We can’t talk about peace and security with groups who don’t have basic rights. We first need to secure people’s basic rights.

Eshe, Arab States
Seismic shifts
© UNV/Momoko Sato & UNDP/Tim Jenkins

Seismic shifts

From a demographic dividend to a peace dividend

Youth is the “Connective Tissue”

Young people, even when they act locally, have critical contributions to make at national, regional and global levels. Their work on peace and security is the “connective tissue” that bridges the silos of development, human rights, humanitarian and peace and security. If the right investments in youth are in place, and their peacebuilding work is recognized and nurtured, societies may reap a peace dividend.

  • Seismic shifts

    Building and sustaining peace through the potential of young people and their peace work demands a seismic shift and bold reorientation from Governments and the multilateral system, for which UNSCR 2250 planted the seeds. This shift entails  ▶

    © UNFPA/Diego Diaz
  • Violence prevention

    Moving from reactive security measures to a comprehensive violence prevention approach.

    © UNICEF/Tomislav Georgiev
  • Positive resilience

    Supporting the positive resilience demonstrated by most youth, rather than reacting to the risk represented by just a few.

    © UNICEF/Ashley Gilberston
  • Partnership

    Committing to sincere partnerships based on trust with organizations led by and focused on youth.

    © UNDP/Shahem Abu Ghazaleh
  • Attitudes

    Building new societal norms and behaviours towards young people’s role for building peace.

    © Danielle Rudnisky

The youth, peace and security agenda must be structured around 3 mutually reinforcing strategies


Transform the systems that reinforce exclusion to address the structural barriers limiting youth participation in peace and security by:

  • Supporting young people’s political participation, in the form of quotas, inclusion in peace processes and a lower age of eligibility;
  • Protecting young people and upholding their rights, and involving young people in security sector reforms and human rights mechanisms and procedures;
  • Prioritizing young people’s meaningful, broader economic inclusion, beyond just jobs, and ensuring employment programmes reach the most marginalized youth groups;
  • Capitalizing on the role of education as a tool for peace, and protecting educational institutions from violence;
  • Addressing the specific grievances and needs of young women, sexual minorities, young refugees and IDPs, and former combatants by tackling harmful stereotypes, and including them in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes that address their specific needs.

Invest in young people’s capacities, agency and leadership by:

  • Providing greater and flexible funding for young people, their initiatives and their organizations;
  • Prioritizing building organizational capacities and networks of young people, building on the diversity of youth and their creative approaches towards sustaining peace;
  • Including young people in the design, implementation, and evaluation of programmes related to youth, peace and security.

Establish partnerships and collaborative action, where youth are viewed as equal and essential partners for peace at the national, regional and global levels by:

  • Forming YPS coalitions that consult and actively include young people to define indicators and national objectives for the implementation of SCR2250.
  • Supporting qualitative and quantitative research and data collection on youth, peace and security.
  • Reforming UN mechanisms to include channels of youth participation, dialogue and accountability, including youth advisory boards at the country, regional, and headquarter levels, as well as periodic and standard briefings from youth to the Security Council, and an annual reporting of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on UN-wide efforts to implement UNSCR 2250.
  • Icon Participation
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  • Icon Disengagement and reintegration

What motivates me is the idea of changing how we are perceived by society. Show them that we can also do very important things for our communities, that we have a voice and are willing to build a better future.

Nicolás, Colombia

There’s this notion that we are the future. That’s what encourages us to wait. We are the leaders now, we should be doing things now. We are the present.

Aziza, East and Southern Africa
Take action
© UNFPA/Olivier Girard

Take action

Spread the message

  • © UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

    Invest in youth peace work

  • © Anna Lindh Foundation

    Transform systems of exclusion

  • Some title © UNDP/Shahem Abu Ghazaleh

    Partner with youth for peace and security


  • Join local or national YPS coalitions, or form your own © UNFPA/David Puig

    Join local or national YPS coalitions, or form your own

  • Bes part of the global YPS movement © insightshare_ingridguyon

    Be part of the global YPS movement

  • Some title © Anna Lindh Foundation

    Advocate with decision-makers to make change and build peace

    Speak up


Click below for the Security Council Report

Click below for the full version of the Progress Study

Extensive information on the research undertaken for the Progress Study is available at http://youth4peace.info/ProgressStudy.

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