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Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
Germany aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union.
I thank Peru for this timely open debate a day prior to the High-Level Event on Sustaining Peace and the briefers for their valuable input and food for thought.
I would also like to join others in extending our appreciation for the independent progress study on youth, peace and security. We look forward to reviewing its recommendations in detail.
Listening to the other speakers today, I am more convinced than ever that we cannot be simplistic in our approaches to youth. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Let us keep this in the back of our mind when we talk about youth. We must make a collective effort to recognize youth in all their diversity.
Allow me to make three brief points.
First: participation of youth in peace and security
Peace agreements fail when they are not inclusive, when leaders – mostly male – conclude power-sharing agreements without taking into account the interests of the entire population.
This top-down approach not only denies society a say in peace, but it also prevents broad ownership of the peacebuilding process. This must change. The young generation today is already shaping our future on this planet.
One example where Germany works with partners to effect such change is South Sudan. In the framework of the IGAD-led peace negotiations, we emphasize a complementary bottom-up approach that includes youth.
Specifically, the Berghof Foundation, a mediation partner for Germany, has repeatedly involved representatives and organizations of youth and women in Kampala to channel their concerns and visions for a peaceful South Sudan into the IGAD-led High-Level Revitalization Forum peace talks in Addis Ababa.
Elsewhere too, Germany has had good experiences with involving youth in matters of peace and security. We particularly welcome that the Peacebuilding Commission, of which Germany is currently a Vice-Chair, has had the opportunity to hear directly from young people in places such as Burundi, Liberia, Kyrgyzstan and the Solomon Islands.
Germany also supports the African Women Leaders Initiative led by the African Union, which has a specific mentoring component for young women.
Second: Preventing violent extremism
We must gain a better understanding of why youth drift towards extremist groups and what the triggers are.
One good study on this topic was published by UNDP late last year entitled The Journey to Extremism in Africa.
While the report identifies several triggers for youth involvement in extremism, I would like to highlight one data point in particular:
- 71 per cent of the study’s respondents indicated that they were driven to join extremism by government action, including the killing of a family member or friend or arrest of a family member or friend
So while structural factors play a role in radicalization, it is also clear that the actions of governments and their security forces are another major, sometimes preventable, cause.
For Germany, this means that when we counter violent extremism and engage in counterterrorism activities as Member States, we must ensure that all our actions comply with our international human rights obligations. Only this can ensure their effectiveness in the long term.
Third and final point: Seeing the positive potential of youth
And indeed, we are convinced that the influence of youth on our societies is overwhelmingly positive. Youth are the key to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. They contribute fresh ideas, innovative solutions and are a key factor in a country’s resilience.
We can promote this positive influence by focusing on youth training and employment. Employment is a fundamental driver of economic development, and it is the best method of poverty reduction. Decent work is the basis for socio-economic participation and enables young people to begin independent lives.
But more private sector dynamism is needed to create new jobs.
Germany has launched a number of initiatives in cooperation with the private sector worldwide. There, we work on “employment-effective” business and cooperation models, demand-oriented training and further education, up-scaling and learning initiatives. In the same vein, during Germany’s 2017 G20 Presidency, G20 members developed the ‘G20 Initiative for Rural Youth Employment.’
Allow me to use this opportunity to call upon the business community to do their part to harness the positive potential of youth.
Mr. President, it is clear that youth play a paramount role in sustaining peace. The answer must also include the United Nations which could benefit from more youth involvement. Germany, for example, sends two youth delegates to the General Assembly every year who in turn become powerful voices for multilateralism. We encourage others to do the same.
In closing, allow me to assure you that if elected as a non-permanent member to this Council for the 2019-2020 term, Germany would do its utmost to implement the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda and continue to work with young peacebuilders to secure sustainable peace.