Youth, Peace and Security Study by the Security Council 2250

IEP was invited to prepare an input brief for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, as commissioned by Security Council 2250.

Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) was invited to prepare an input brief for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, as commissioned by Security Council 2250. The research brief summarises data and research findings relevant to youth, peace and security in accordance with IEP’s Positive Peace framework as a lens for study.

The report on the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security will anchor United Nations strategies and discussion for the foreseeable future. IEP’s figures have been pivotal in the Security Council’s hearings of the report.

The key findings of the report were groundbreaking

  • IEP estimates that nearly 408 million youth live in a state or province where armed conflict took place in 2016. This estimate suggests that nearly 1 in 4 youth globally are affected, in some way, by armed conflict.
  • A large youth population should not necessarily be seen as a precursor to violence.
  • All of the world’s most peaceful countries have small or medium sized youth populations. But not all of the world’s least peaceful countries have large youth cohorts, and not all of the large youth populations are in the least peaceful places.
  • Creating a high positive peace environment for young people can prevent breakdowns in peacefulness.
  • Filling data gaps can yield even stronger evidence-based policy recommendations for youth, peace and security – and build institutional capacity along the way.

How many youth were affected by violence?

It is difficult to precisely establish how many youth in the world are affected by violent conflict. An exact head-count would be expensive in the best of circumstances, but risky and near impossible in of the midst of an active armed conflict.

Countries in fragile circumstances are less likely to have the capacity to conduct rigorous data collection, even though, tragically, it is they who need it most.

We estimate that at least 407 million young people, or 23% of the global population aged 15-29, live in a state or province where armed conflict or other organised violence took place in 2016.

IEP’s figure is a unique and powerful finding because it accounts for levels of violence at a subnational level – a level of analysis not typically accounted for. Previous estimates have placed the number at more than 600 million. However, a more precise estimate is necessary given the dynamics of modern armed conflict and its diversity at a subnational level.

What is a youth bulge?

A youth bulge is a significant portion of the population sitting in the younger age bracket.

Much has been made of the (moderate) statistical association between large youth populations and low levels of peacefulness. However, in the context of a Positive Peace system, so-called ‘youth bulges’ are better thought of as a challenge for society to rise to, rather than a determinant of violence.

Not all of the world’s least peaceful countries have large youth cohorts, and not all of the world’s large youth populations are in the least peaceful places. In fact, there is a stronger correlation between large youth cohorts and weak Positive Peace than there is with the presence of actual violence.

That’s because Positive Peace creates the enabling environment for a large cohort of young people to contribute meaningfully to a peaceful, prosperous society.

A youth bulge presents a challenge for a community in the same way a disproportionately elderly population would: there is a large cohort of people who need access to the same resources at the same time. However, high levels of positive peace describe scenarios where these challenges can be met.

A sound business environment has the capacity to absorb the large population into the economy; a well-functioning government can deliver public services in response to society’s growing needs; acceptance of the rights of others fosters inclusive and legitimate political processes.

The challenge lies herein: the social environment needs to meet the needs of a large youth cohort in order to channel their potential towards productive rather than destructive processes. Thus a youth bulge becomes a youth dividend.

Data gaps in analysing youth, peace and security

IEP’s analysis of the youth, peace and security landscape makes use of the best currently available data. However, limited data yields limited knowledge, and the existing data on youth, peace and security is indeed limited.  The full report includes guidance for creating ideal data for the Youth, Peace and Security agenda.

With complete data, we might measure how many youth are engaged in direct peacemaking, peacekeeping or peacebuilding activities, have lost a family member to armed conflict, or are unable to attend school or work because of violence, to name a few telling but unavailable indicators.

Empirical analysis for peace begins at the indicator design stage. Most peace indicators are counts of violence at a national level – which only allows us to answer a limited amount of questions. And worse, is far more common to come by violence indicators than peace indicators.

The below chart visualises the data creation process.

Indicator design and data collection is highly technical and resource-intensive. However, none of the inherent challenges to collecting high quality data are insurmountable. However, reaching the next level of knowledge for youth, peace and security will require new levels of investment and coordination.

As the world embarks on the Sustainable Development Agenda and seeks to operationalise Resolution 2250, building statistical capacity is nothing less than critical groundwork for peace and security.

Resources and Further Reading

The input brief in its full form of submission for reading here.

Read The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security.

The official study shared to the United Nations General Assembly Security Council can be found here, or read the excerpt these key findings are featured in below:

“In 2016, an estimated 408 million youth (aged 15–29) resided in settings affected by armed conflict or organised violence. This means that at least one in four young people is affected by violence or armed conflict in some way. Estimates of direct conflict deaths in 2015 suggest that more than 90 per cent of all casualties involved young males. However, conflict, crime and other forms of violence impact young people’s lives in more ways than mortality. While it often goes unrecorded, young people suffer from a wide range of short-, medium- and long-term effects ranging from repeat victimisation to psychological trauma, identity-based discrimination, and social and economic exclusion. Currently, poor data makes it challenging to accurately estimate how many young people are living in situations in which they are exposed to those diverse forms of violence and violation.”