“More support for youth” open letter from peacebuilding organizations

“More support for youth” open letter from peacebuilding organizations

Members of a youth Peace Club in Kura. Northern Nigeria. Photo by Greg Funnell.

In an open letter, we call on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to announce both short and long-term measures to support the fundamental human rights of young people. We ask that the importance of young people’s contributions to peace and security be recognized and supported through meaningful policy change. 

It is estimated that 408 million young people live in areas affected by armed conflict or organized violence – that is roughly one in four. Many young people take on important roles such as community mobilizers, peacebuildersmediators, and human rights defenders, these should be recognized. Around the world, we witness endless examples of young people putting their work and their lives on the line to make their communities safer.  

In Pakistan, young peacebuilders have been accused of contributing to terrorism in the country. These accusations, have led to some being persecuted and forced to flee their homes. Even after fleeing persecution, the attacks by security forces have continued to affect their families. This has been experienced by Saba and Gulalai Ismail, co-founders of Aware Girls. Their organizationa partner of Peace Direct, was founded to empower young girls in Pakistan and prevent young people from joining terrorist organizations. Both Saba and Gulalai have sought asylum and are now safely in the US, but their parents have been accused of crimes they did not commit.

In Myanmar/Burma, millions of young women and men have mobilized in the streets. In an intergenerational civil disobedience movement that has spanned the countrythey peacefully protest against the military coup. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Myanmar has highlighted that young people have “had a taste of freedom” and do not want their country and their future to regress under oppression with military rule.  

According to the UN, 18 people were killed and dozens more injured on February 28thwhen security forces opened fire on crowds. Attacks are likely to escalate, threatening the safety of those young people and their communities who remain affected. 

Specifically, we ask that the State Department:  

  1. Call for a debate on youth protection at the UN Security Council: This is a critical moment to leverage the US Presidency of the UN Security Council this month by hosting a special debate focused on upholding young people’s fundamental rights. 
  2. Increase awareness on the support available for young people: Increasing the knowledge, capacity, and access to funding for young peacebuilders, especially young women, is vital. Building honest relationships with these groups will present an opportunity to raise awareness about financial support such as Lifeline: Embattled civil society organizations (CSOs) Assistance Fund through all US Embassies for youth.  
  3. Prioritize funding youth and women-led peacebuilding around the worldYouth and womens groups often lack access to the necessary funding to expand their work and largely work as volunteers.   
  4. Appoint a US Special Envoy on Youth: This is a critical step to ensuring the perspectives and concerns of young people are included in US foreign policy at the highest level.  

Read the full letter below. 

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