Introduction

The Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) agenda has evolved significantly since the inauguration of the African Union’s Youth for Peace (Y4P Africa) Program in September 2018. The program was set up with the primary mandate of mainstreaming youth into the peace and security agenda of the Union. Two things are significant to note in this regard. First, the priorities of the program were set by youth peacebuilders themselves to ensure that the aspirations of the youth demographic were not only heard but formed the bedrock of the new program. Second, the program seeks to enhance youth contributions toward promoting peace and security in Africa. Thus, its fundamental basis of operation is that young women and men have knowledge, skills, and experiences that add value to the initiatives and efforts of other stakeholders including Member States’ institutions and architectures, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners, amongst others.

Understanding the Priorities of Y4P

The priorities set for the program by youth and RECs/RMs present included: finalizing a continental framework to facilitate meaningful youth participation in peace and security; changing the predominantly negative and false narrative that “youth” is synonymous with trouble; building youth capacity and optimizing their contributions to peace and security; and publicizing the positive role and contributions of youth to peace and security on the continent.1Rhuks Ako, Mfrekeobong Ukpanah, Orit Ibrahim, and Hannah Mamo, “Mainstreaming Youth into AU’s Peace and Security Agenda,” ISS Policy Brief 144 (May 2020). To achieve these priorities, it was imperative to ensure proper and sustained engagement with policymakers, in this case, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) that is the highest decision-making organ on issues of peace and security. As such, the Y4P Program lobbied for an open session on YPS. Since the first session which was held in November 2018, there has been, on average, at least one such session annually which has ensured continuous interaction between the PSC and youth peacebuilders, the development of a normative framework on YPS (notably including the Continental Framework on YPS and its 10-Year Implementation Plan, the Study on the Roles and Contributions of Youth to Peace and Security in Africa, and several PSC decisions on the thematic), and keeping YPS as a topical issue on the agenda of the PSC.

One of the significant decisions made during the first YPS session was the creation of the African Youth Ambassador for Peace (AYAP) initiative.2Communique PSC/PR/COMM. (DCCCVII) of the 807th meeting of the AU PSC held on 8th November 2018.  The AYAPs, one representing each of Africa’s five regions, provides an avenue to broaden opportunities for youth perspectives to be brought to the fore in policymaking spaces. Having such dedicated persons in this role enables the Y4P Program to work with a cohort of youth ambassadors (elected after a rigorous period for a 2-year and non-renewable term) to enhance their knowledge and capacities toward optimizing their contributions in decision-making spaces. This year, as an example, the AYAPs have shared youth perspectives during several AU PSC Open Sessions on YPS, The US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, The Aswan Forum, and COP27, amongst others.

The AYAPs also co-facilitated (with the AU Youth Envoy) the Continental Dialogue on Youth Peace and Security held in Bujumbura in 2022; hosted regional inter-generational dialogues on YPS themes; and served as panelists on IGDs on the CFYPS. Anchoring and contributing to conversations on YPS with their peers as well as during IGDs is fundamental to bringing youth perspectives to the AU and vice-versa. Through these knowledge exchanges and experience sharing, the tenets of peace and security as a viable avenue to stability, development, and social cohesion are further established. In a nutshell, the AYAPs initiative has contributed immensely to the YPS agenda as there is now a more focused, recognized, and coordinated means toward promoting youth voices in policymaking.

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References
  • 1
    Rhuks Ako, Mfrekeobong Ukpanah, Orit Ibrahim, and Hannah Mamo, “Mainstreaming Youth into AU’s Peace and Security Agenda,” ISS Policy Brief 144 (May 2020).
  • 2
    Communique PSC/PR/COMM. (DCCCVII) of the 807th meeting of the AU PSC held on 8th November 2018.