SEATTLE, Washington — Youth under 20 years old constitute half of the 1.4 billion people who reside in conflict-ridden areas worldwide. Yet despite their disproportionate representation in such regions, young people are rarely involved in political decision-making. The youth demographic, as shown in the conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia, are highly apt to advocate for peacemaking strategies in resolving strife. Such strategies include mobilizing popular support for peace and distributing emergency relief for war-stricken communities. Although youth peacemaking approaches are both unified and effective, young people rarely have the opportunity to advocate for themselves. In 2015, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 250, asking its member states to foster youth participation in decision-making. As a result, the Youth, Peace and Security Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress.
The Youth, Peace and Security Act
To address Resolution 250, Rep. Grace Meng [D-NY-6] introduced the bipartisan Youth, Peace and Security Act on March 10, 2020. The bill seeks to introduce young voices in post-conflict resolution through the following measures:
Appointing a Youth Coordinator. A Youth Coordinator would be an employee of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Youth Coordinator would be responsible for supervising and guiding youth-led peacemaking initiatives.
Creating a Comprehensive U.S. Strategy for Integrating Youth Perspectives. The USAID Administrator and Secretary of State must forge a plan for effectively recruiting and supporting young advocates. They must also create a data system to ensure young men and women are being adequately represented.
Mobilizing Widespread Support. Relevant federal agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and partnered private sector entities, must all develop methods toward incorporating young people into their work.
Instituting the Youth, Peace and Security Fund. This reserve would provide monetary assistance to youth peacemakers in the form of grants and emergency and technical assistance.
Rep. Meng was joined by Rep. Susan Brooks [R-IN-5] and Rep. John Curtis [R-UT-3], who served as the initial co-sponsors of the Youth, Peace and Security Act. Each representative has a history of advocating for the poor and vulnerable.
Representative Grace Meng [D-NY-6]
Rep. Meng has served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee since 2013. The Youth, Peace and Security Act is just one of many global anti-violence and anti-poverty bills that she has sponsored. In 2019, she sponsored the International Violence Against Women Act and the Safe From the Start Act, both of which aim to prevent gender-based violence and inequality worldwide.
Other Meng-written legislation includes the Divided Families Reunification Act, which requires the Department of State to reunite Korean Americans with their families in North Korea, as well as the Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act of 2019. The Refugee Sanitation Safety Act requires the Department of State to ensure that the overseas refugees that receive assistance, particularly women and children, have safe and secure access to sanitation facilities.
Representative Susan Brooks [R-IN-5]
The Youth, Peace and Security Act is just one of many foreign affairs bills that Rep. Brooks has co-sponsored in the 116th Congress. Others include the Global Child Thrive Act of 2019, which directs governmental assistance to orphans and other vulnerable children in developing countries; the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act, which requires USAID to direct a majority of its merit and needs-based scholarships to Pakistani women; and the Afghan Women’s Inclusion in Negotiations Act, which requires the Department of State to include women and girls in the Afghan-U.S. peace process.
Representative John Curtis [R-UT-3]
Rep. Curtis currently serves on the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia. Curtis has used his influential position in the House to cosponsor numerous global anti-poverty bills, such as the aforementioned Safe from the Start Act of 2019 and the Keeping Girls in Schools Act, which authorizes USAID to promote quality education for adolescent girls worldwide.
The Youth, Peace and Security Act recently found a fourth co-sponsor in Rep. David J. Trone [D-MD-6] on July 29, 2020.
The Youth, Peace and Security Act is a fundamental piece of legislation for the youth. As said by Rep. Meng, “it will be the young people who bear the burden of sustaining the peace… leading their society from reconciliation to prosperity.” If passed, the Youth, Peace and Security Act would advance the voices of youth worldwide in global peacemaking efforts.
– Abby Tarwater