Statement by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Youth, Peace and Security (23 April 2018)

Mr. President,

My delegation welcomes this open debate on youth, peace and security.

We wish to thank all the briefers for their comprehensive briefings. The independent progress study on youth and peace and security was particularly illuminating.

Mr. President,

The world today has more young people than ever before- 46% of the global population is under 25. Many parts of the world including my own country has a youth bulge, with young people comprising a majority of our populations.

Inspired by hope and optimism and an unbridled sense of idealism, the young are agents of change in their communities and societies.

Yet, despite being repositories of the world’s greatest hopes, the young also find themselves at the forefront of some of its biggest challenges. In an ever-changing and increasingly complex world, they face the pressures from socio-economic inequalities, political and social exclusion, discrimination and lack of fair opportunity.

The young are also some of the worst victims in situations of armed conflict, humanitarian crisis, foreign occupation and longstanding and unresolved disputes. Their sense of justice is aroused and their patience tested by the inconsistent and often selective global response to their pain and suffering.

Yet, we see that many of the fundamental causes enraging our youth are often conspicuous by their absence in our discourse on these issues.

As the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres reminded us recently, “No one is born a terrorist, and nothing justifies terrorism, but factors such as prolonged unresolved conflicts, lack of the rule of law and socioeconomic marginalization can all play a role in transforming grievances into destructive action”.

The lore of violent extremism preys on the vulnerability of youth, recruiting them to its violent ways by playing on their sensitivity to injustice and oppression, and propagating hate, intolerance and violence as the sole response to numerous inequities.

If one has nothing to live for, one finds something to die for.

We must break this nexus between desperation and hopelessness.

Mr. President,

The role of youth lies at the heart of international peace and security.

For far too long, young men have been considered as perpetrators of violence and young women as its victims.

While a small minority of youth takes to violence, sweeping characterizations of young populations have for long exacerbated their sense of marginalization.

It is time to debunk these false stereotypes. It is time to recognize that youth are not merely instruments of war making but essential partners in peacebuilding. They are architects for economic and social development and the establishment of effective, inclusive institutions.

We need to fight the ‘violence of exclusion’ by talking to young people, listening to them and giving them the voice that they deserve.

Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015) on Youth, Peace and Security redresses this critical gap in global thinking by recognizing the key role of youth in conflict prevention and promoting lasting peace.

We must build on this momentum. There cannot be any half-measures in seeking to translate our commitment to our youth.

Mr. President,

My country is proud to have led the charge in successfully implementing holistic and comprehensive strategies to counter the narrative of extremism, and at the same time, engage our youth so that they can become productive members of the society.

We have adopted a whole of society approach, based on engagement with civil society including faith leaders, local communities and the media to promote the concept of a plural society based on building peaceful and harmonious communities.

A major focus of this approach has been the empowerment of youth at the grassroots level by engaging them in decision-making processes.

We are also investing in youth to provide them the opportunity to live their dreams and enable them to become Pakistan’s future leaders.

The government has launched a comprehensive “Prime Minister's Youth Programme”, which aims at providing the young and under privileged with skills training, access to higher education as well as to employment.

This has already benefited over a million young people.

We were proud to showcase many of our achievements during the event entitled “Investing in Youth to Counter Terrorism” that Pakistan co-hosted with Norway and the United Nations Office on Counter-Terrorism, here at the UN, on 12 April.

Mr. President,

Speaking at our event, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “I do not agree that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. More and more, they are the leaders of today”.

Let us recommit ourselves to build on the positive energy and innovative spirit of our young, to strive for a world where the illusion of cynicism gives way to the ideal of hope, and equal and inclusive opportunities available to the young match their boundless ambitions.

This is the least we owe to them.

Thank you.