Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Debate on Peace and Security in Africa: Mobilising the Youth towards Silencing the Guns by 2020, 2 October 2019

I would like to thank the briefers for your insightful briefing. It is always beneficial and valuable for the Council to be briefed by young people who are passionate and determined about the future of their countries.

It is an honour for South Africa to preside over the Security Council under the theme “Continuing the Legacy: Working for a Just and Peaceful World”. This is the embodiment of the legacy of Nelson Mandela. The principles he stood and fought for remain relevant to prevailing conflict situations and furthers the objective of Silencing the Guns on the African Continent by 2020.

Conflict affects young people negatively in many ways, it violates their basic human rights, namely the rights to life, liberty, and security. There are increased risk of being killed, injured, internally displaced, abducted or raped in conflict. They are sometimes forced into roles that make them more vulnerable such as: providers of sexual services, child soldiers, violent extremisms, arms smuggling and illicit trade in mineral resources to name a few.

Our remarks will focus on the following key points:

i) Youth have an important role to play as agents of peace. The African continent has the fastest growing population in the world, and it is important that the Continent takes advantage of the demographic dividend from its youth bulge. South Africa believes that we all need to double our efforts at the global, regional and national levels to harness the potential of youth. As recognised previously by the Security Council, Member States have the responsibility to create enabling environments for the youth to participate fully and substantively in the development of their respective countries and peace processes.

At this juncture, allow me to emphasise that issues of inclusion remain critical. As important stakeholders in peace processes, we cannot continue to talk about peace without the full involvement of the youth and women. The youth should be represented in political negotiations, peace processes and transitional justice and reconstruction efforts because they have knowledge, ideas and can harness intergenerational interaction in the entire peace continuum. Including youth in peace-building processes, as stakeholders and decision-makers allows them to gain ownership of the policies that affects them as much as all of us. Therefore, political will and leadership is needed to allow meaningful engagement of youth in conflict prevention, peace-making and peace-building.

ii) The African Union implementation of the Youth Peace and Security Agenda

The African Youth Charter serves as the strategic framework for youth empowerment and development at the continental, regional and national levels that addresses issues affecting youth. The Commission of the AU is in the process of appointing African Ambassadors for Peace, one from each of the five regions in Africa. They will promote the actualisation of the five priorities of the Continental Framework on Youth Peace and Security.

A stronger AU/UN partnership for peace, security and development remains critical to Silencing the Guns in the African continent. South Africa is encouraged by the UN and AU’s resolve to mainstream youth participation in peace and security which places young people at the core of initiatives for preventing or stopping activities that lead to war.

iii) Recommendation on how we should advance the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.

It is important to provide the youth with training opportunities to take an active part in peacebuilding. With their youthful energy and capabilities, and the ability to adapt to new technological trends such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, youths should be considered as equal partners in mediation, conflict prevention and resolution.

As we have heard from the briefers earlier, the youth are mediators, community mobilisers, humanitarian workers and peace brokers. Activating African youth peacebuilders cannot be the responsibility of any one organisation. African governments, non-government organisations and corporates have a role to play.

In order to achieve sustainable conflict prevention and resolution, the Security Council, regional and sub-regional organisations and relevant actors need to institute mechanisms to involve youth in the promotion of a culture of peace, tolerance and intercultural and interreligious dialogue and develop, as appropriate, an understanding of respect for human dignity, pluralism and diversity.

In conclusion, I would like to underscore the importance of bringing about a pragmatic shift in the concept of the role of youth in conflict, which transforms them from being victims or agents of violence to being agents of change and peace-building. They need to be seen as the valuable human capital that they are as this will help the continent to collectively achieve sustainable peace and Silence the Guns.

Thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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