Am I the only person who cannot but notice how distant the United Nations may seem to young activists and researchers in any field informed by the SDGs agenda?

Today I had a chance to take a peek into the UN system together with those who represent civil society in high-profile summits, transmitting the voices of the youth and developing world to the forefront of ministerial forums and foreign missions.

The Europe Regional Futures Forum is organized by the Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN) and provides an open forum for civil society to organize itself and interact with the United Nations and its member states. The event was meant to promote the renewal and strengthening of the United Nations system. It is a cross-cutting regional panel that leads up to the Global Futures Forum in New York City. The forum is by and large a civil society-driven stepping stone to the UN Summit of the Future in 2024, deemed to update governance arrangements in response to international concerns outlined in the Our Common Agenda of the UN General Secretary Guterres. 

Here are my takeaways from the discussions as a facilitator and participant. 

Civil society is gung-ho about disarmament

E-consultations that were held between January and March centered around seven thematic discussions, for which each group collectively drafted policy recommendations:

One of the key disarmament proposals brought forward in the Peace and Security consultation sessions was a call for implementing UN Charter Article 26 stipulating the least divergence of armament funds from human and economic resources. 

Another proposal reaffirms that nuclear abolition must be incorporated into the SDGs in order to achieve its complete elimination by the 100th anniversary of its creation.

Policy proposals give credit to the Declaration on Limiting the Humanitarian Consequences from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas that came to light in November 2022. It is not an international treaty, but a vocal demand for the protection of civilians in the conflict in compliance with the International Humanitarian Law. 

Finally, the recommendations place an emphasis on negotiating a treaty on the development, production, and use of autonomous weapons systems. In October 2022 the UN GA heard the largest cross-cultural group statement on ‘killer robots’. The momentum is rising.

Young Voices 

Even though the consultations per se aimed to provide a holistic response to the current crisis of the UN system, youth voices were still wanting. After the adoption of the UNSC Resolution 2250 on “Youth, Peace, and Security”, there has been an uptick in initiatives that seek to invite young people to the negotiation table. Some received great support, some were given short shrift.

Among many contributors to the e-consultations, the Malaysian Youth Diplomacy Group aired the most salient concerns of youth movements for peace, diplomacy, or security. In its policy proposal paper, it rightfully calls for the UN to ensure equitable access to mentorship and training opportunities in diplomacy and peacebuilding both in terms of geography, gender, and status. As young people increasingly are launching their peace initiatives, lack of funding and technical assistance hem them in their movements. Hence, many prominent youth initiatives are oftentimes caught in a loop struggling to deliver their message to a wider audience. It saps our motivation but does not shatter our undaunted passion. 

I am applauding a handful of young activists who showed up and addressed our concerns over the enforcement of the youth agenda through questions and comments. The mere existence of resolutions or reports won’t magically boost young people’s role in disarmament or security, it is perseverance, engagement, and support of the community that will make a difference in the end.

Follow the Progress. Because It Is About Us.

Regional civil society deliberations have indeed led to some substantive and sought-for reform proposals that cut across all UN key domains. Focusing on youth and disarmament, as we do it in Youth Fusion, is the way we choose to push for a more inclusive, safe, and less divided world. You can do it in your fashion, helping shape the future that belongs to you. Participate in the upcoming Global Futures Forum (taking place on March 22!) virtually and see for yourself that the UN and your voice are just one click away. 

Read more about the 7 thematic tracks here!

Written by: Ivan Siluianov

Leave a Reply