Finnish and Eritrean youth leaders demand the inclusion of young people in decision making

The role of young people in peace processes was discussed at an event organised by FCA, the UN Permanent Missions of Eritrea and Finland and UNDP.

Two hundred UN diplomats, youth peacebuilders and civil society representatives were brought together in a unique way at the event Youth Leadership in Peace and Security in New York earlier this week.

The participants reflected on challenges in the cooperation between young people and governments, and presented ideas on how to overcome them.

“Now young people themselves got to express what they’re already doing for sustainable development and lasting peace”, said Joel Linnainmäki, representative of the National Youth Council of Finland, right after the event.

Almost half of the world’s population consists of under 25-year-olds. They make almost 60 per cent of the population in Africa and the Middle East. The participants of the event agreed that young people shouldn’t be treated as a threat or as trouble-makers, but instead recognised for the positive role they can play in peace processes, and for instance in preventing violent radicalisation.

There’s more young people in the world than ever before in history, and it’s increasingly clear that sustainable development and a lasting peace can’t be achieved without including the youth.

“Young people deserve and need a seat at the table in peacebuilding”, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson stated in his opening speech at the event.

Youth participation models should be exported from Finland

Ensuring the political participation of youth also requires economic inclusion and opportunities. Employment and quality education for young people as well as vocational skills must be taken into account.

Young people were recognized as active agents of change less than a year ago in the UN resolution 2250 Youth, Peace and Security in December 2015.

“In that regard, the composition of this event was extremely important. Young people themselves talked about the work they’ve done”, said this year’s UN Youth Delegate from Finland Sonja Huttunen.

According to Linnainmäki the event was a welcome step forward in the cooperation with Eritrean youth.

“At this point, the most important task is to broaden our cooperation and bring along other youth organisations in Europe and the Horn of Africa. We’re now planning a wider conference in Eritrea about youth leadership in peacebuilding”, he says.

The main objectives of Finland’s development policies aim to increase stability in developing countries, find employment and education opportunities for youth, and prevent radicalisation.

”Finland has a lot of experience in including youth in decision making, and should be proud of it. We have for instance ensured the participation of youth councils by law, and this could be applicable in other countries as well to bring youth voices to decision making tables”, said FCA’s adviser Laura Vanhanen, one of the organisers of the event.

You can also watch the event at the UN WEB TV.

Suomalaisten ja eritrealaisten nuorten vuoropuhelu jatkui New Yorkin tilaisuudessa. Kuva: Kirkon Ulkomaanapu.

The dialogue between Finnish and Eritrean youth continued in the Youth Leadership  in Peace and Security event in New York. Photo: Laura Vanhanen /Finn Church Aid.

Youth delegates representing the Finnish youth:
Silja Markkula, Guides and Scouts of Finland & Allianssi – National Youth Council of Finland
Sonja Huttunen, The UN Youth Delegate of Finland 2016
Joel Linnainmäki, Allianssi – National Youth Council of Finland
Otto Ahoniemi, The Finnish Conscripts Union