H.E. Dr Michael I Kanu at the UN Security Council

Sierra Leone at the UN Security Council – Ministerial Meeting on Role of Young People IN Addressing Security Challenges in the Mediterranean

Mr. President,

I thank you for convening this meeting. 

I thank Ms. Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs for her briefing. I also thank Mr. Nasser Kamel, Secretary-General, of the Union for the Mediterranean and Ms. Sarra Messaoudi, Regional Lead of the MENA Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security for the valuable information they have provided.

The briefings reveal how profoundly young people are being impacted by conflict, insecurity, fragility, and Climate Change. They also point to the boundless possibilities for harnessing the creativity and drive of the youth population to address the cross-border challenges they face across the Mediterranean region. 

Through Security Council resolution 2250 (2015), this Council almost 10 years ago in 2015, recognized the critical role of young people in promoting peace, resolving conflict, and preventing violence.  In that resolution member States were urged to ensure young people participate meaningfully in peace processes and dispute resolution. We welcome this almost decade old imperative to put in place mechanisms and young people at the centre of processes and policies for peace, security, stability, and sustainable development. 

Mr. President,

Sierra Leone experienced a tragic civil conflict which ended over two decades ago. In our transitional justice process, the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, identified as a key reason youth not being considered as relevant actors for governance as one of the root causes of the conflict. 

Young people were also disproportionality affected by low levels of employment and limited access to finance and business opportunities.  In our post-conflict rebuilding efforts, young people were engaged as catalysts for peace, and key actors in conflict and violence prevention. This we have recognized, given the persistent challenges, as a continuous process. In developing strategies for peace and sustainable development, therefore, we continue to consider the unique needs of young people. 

Looking outwards, we note that across the world, in particular developing States, in Africa, the Mediterranean, and in Latin America and the Caribbean, insecurity pervades all dimensions of young people’s lives – economic, political, social, and physical.  International and localized conflicts continue to adversely impact socio-economic options for young people, in most cases leaving them vulnerable for indoctrinated and/or recruitment by armed groups, extremist or terrorist organizations. Young women and those from marginalized groups find themselves especially vulnerable to sexual based violence.  

Ensuring therefore meaningful participation by young people in decision-making at all levels is fundamental. This is more so the case in conflict situations. However, despite being deeply affected by conflict, there are still many factors inhibiting the participation of youth in peace and security efforts, such as displacement, political exclusion, and lack of educational and employment opportunities. We should thus support youth involvement in peacebuilding efforts, including through capacity-building and ensuring the provision of adequate resources for such initiatives.

Mr. President,

In turning to the Mediterranean, which is strategically located at the intersection of different continents and cultures, we note that it faces a unique set of issues with regards to its bulging youth population, which is approximately over 30% of the total population of the region. The region is experiencing several complex and overlapping challenges, including the movement of refugees and migrants especially from the West Africa and Sahel region. The refugees and migrants continue to remain vulnerable to human traffickers, systematic violations of human rights and violence against women and girls. 

There are, as well, reports of illegal trade in weapons, petroleum products, and narcotic drugs. Terrorism, violent extremism, the adverse effects of Climate Change, including droughts and flooding add to the layer of the complex challenges.  The risks posed by these myriads of factors extend well beyond the Mediterranean itself, with a direct impact on Europe, Africa, Central Asia, and the broader international community.

 The challenges facing young people are not insurmountable, particularly if they are addressed in collaboration with young people themselves.  The root causes of the cited complex and overlapping challenges must be addressed in a contentious, empathetic, equitable and fair way. Conflicts particularly in the West African and Sahel region must be address without geopolitical hegemonic and other external adverse interferences that do not support peaceful resolution of disputes, and peace processes. 

The socio-economic factors must be addressed, and good must be made of the commitment to address the global inequity, to end poverty, leaving no one behind. Climate Change, recognized as an existential threat must be addressed not by rhetoric, but by action. In the West Africa and the Sahel, where we have concrete evidence of the link between Climate Change and insecurity, the Security Council must be in a position to recognize the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters, including through floods, drought, desertification, and land degradation, as well as their impacts on food security, among other humanitarian, social and economic factors, on the security and stability of region. 

This recognition must be backed by support for efforts to develop region-specific approaches and initiatives towards conflict-sensitive climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience in West Africa and the Sahel. The international community must also be committed to the scaling up of action and support, through the development, voluntary transfer and deployment of technology on mutually agreed terms and capacity-building, in line with existing commitments to enhance the adaptive capacity of countries from the region and to reduce their vulnerability to Climate Change. 

Young people are to play meaningful role in all of these. Sierra Leone believes that young people are positive contributors to conflict prevention, peace, security, and national development. We continue to bear witness to the need to promote their meaningful engagement and active participation, at all levels, in the formulation of policies to address drivers of conflict, and to maintain peace and security. 

We reiterate our support for an inclusive development framework that empowers youth, including across the Mediterranean and other impacted regions, providing them with a structured platform to share their perspectives and engage in discussions and actions on conflict, security, and socio-economic development. We emphasize an approach which embraces the varied insights of youth on developing sustainable and innovative solutions and connections across generations, sectors, and geographies. 

The ability of young people to put dominant societal norms to the test and fuel new social, political, and cultural processes can hardly be overestimated. Youth are the most active demographic group in challenging authoritarianism both before and after 2010, as well as dynamic advocates for raising awareness and alarm on Climate Change and food insecurity. 

Strategies being developed and to be implemented particularly by UN agencies should therefore make use of the knowledge and expertise of young people. Peacebuilding, socio-economic and humanitarian interventions should have a youth component. Mainstreaming youth policies across the various sectors would improve target rates and allow for useful lessons from implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation.

Funding, other non-monetary and logistical support should be increased for capacity development programmes, targeting young people in the impacted regions including the Mediterranean, West Africa, and the Sahel. Regrettably, even as education remains one of the hardest hit sectors during instability and conflict, it is without a doubt the most significant factor in improving the lives and livelihoods of young people. 

Let me conclude, Mr. President, by reasserting the imperative that the Security Council must urge for the implementation of strategies which address the five pillars of the youth peace and security agenda including: participation, prevention, protection, partnerships, disengagement, and reintegration for broader inclusive and sustainable peace. 

I thank you. 

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