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UNOY Youth Advocacy Team at the UN, October 2013
an article by Gracia Romeral Ortiz Quintilla

It has been some time since I wanted to get experience in advocacy work in issues related to youth and peacebuilding when I saw that the United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY) was preparing an advocacy project in these topics. Concretely, UNOY was seeking for members of their network to apply for the next mission of their Youth Advocacy Team (YAT) at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters (HQ) in New York (NY). I immediately applied, I got an interview and was selected on behalf of my organization, Fundació Catalunya Voluntŕria, to become a YAT member. In total 5 members were selected: Ariadne from the Netherlands, Iram from India, Jude from Cameroon, Paula from Colombia and myself from Spain. This is how I started my journey in advocacy for youth and peacebuilding where I hope to stay engaged for a long while.

The YAT team with the Deputy Permanent Representative of Argentinia, Mr. Mateo Estreme (center). Team members from left to right: Laura McManus, Matilda Flemming, Iram Parveen, Ariadne Asimakopoulos, David Langle and Paula Ramirez. Photo by team member Gracia Romeral Ortiz Quintilla.

click on photo to enlarge

The main goal of the UNOY YAT is to advocate to recognize and to strengthen the role of youth in peacebuilding processes. What does it mean? Two important clarifications: (i) from UNOY we understand peacebuilding from an holistic approach which includes the promotion of the culture of peace, education for peace, conflict transformation, non-violence, intercultural dialogue, human rights and mindfulness among others and (ii) not only in a context of (post-) armed conflict but also in societies that are confronted to cultural and structural violence as can be huge rates of unemployment among youth or gender based violence.

Currently, the UNOY advocacy strategy is mainly happening at the UN level and this goal is supported by two main advocacy pillars: (1) to lobby for a UN Security Council resolution on youth, peace and security and (2) to lobby the UN Members States to ensure that peacebuilding and young peacebuilders are included in the post-2015 development agenda. But in the past, UNOY YAT has also worked on raising awareness on the role of youth in the framework of the 2001-2010 Decade for the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.

In that sense, while the YAT that traveled to NY in July mainly focused on the first pillar, with the YAT I am part of, we prepared a mission to the UNHQ under the second pillar: to lobby for a recognition of “the unique needs, roles and perspectives of young peacebuilders in framing of a new development agenda, concretely in the post- 2015 agenda” (UNOY YAT –presentation document).

During the two months prior to our trip to New York, we conducted interviews with UNOY members to grasp their ideas, experiences, recommendations but also challenges and concerns as young peacebuilders regarding the post-2015 agenda. Based on these interviews, on an online survey and on an extensive research, UNOY YAT developed the report: “A Space for Peace: Inclusion of Youth and Peacebuilding in the Post-2015 Development Agenda” that was launched in New York in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Argentina during our advocacy week.

After a thorough and intense preparation, beginning of October, the UNOY YAT traveled from the 4 corners of the world to meet in NY and implement our advocacy strategy.

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We only had 5 days to accomplish our mission: to convince UN Members States and UN bodies to include youth and peacebuilding in their agenda, or at least, to encourage them to recognize the positive role that youth is playing in peacebuilding.

What did we do to fulfil this?

To a certain extend, I would say we went crazy trying to attend as many events as possible to increase our visibility, to schedule as many meetings as possible with Members States and UN staff to make them aware of our advocacy plan and have them on board in our mission, but also to launch two reports: the one on youth and peace in the post-2015 and another on the UN agreed language on youth and peacebuilding.

But we did achieve great and concrete results:

We attended UN side events, trainings; we launched the two reports at the UN premises; we met with more than 40 representatives from Permanent Missions, UN staff, Youth Delegates and Civil Society Organizations, but most important we managed to have on the draft version of the UN General Assembly Youth Resolution a paragraph on youth and peacebuilding: the seeds to see, with time, an entire resolution dedicated to youth and peacebuilding at the General Assembly and hopefully at the Security Council as well.

An important lasting result worth mentioning too is the friendship we built from the UNOY YAT: Paula, Laura, Matilda, Iram, Jude, David, Ariadne, from whom I learned as great and committed young peacebuilders and persons they are.

We are aware that this is only the beginning of a work that will be long and hard and that in the path to see the recognition of youth and peacebuilding we may encounter many obstacles, but we will not stop here because we believe in youth and in peace and because as Nelson Mandela would say “it always seems impossible until it is done”.

This report was posted on October 23, 2013.