Equality and youth – the game changer for sustainable peace?

Twenty years after the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), not one country has achieved equal and full representation of either women or youth at all decision-making levels. Most parliaments remain dominated by older men, with only 25.1% of global MPs being women and just 2,2% being under the age of 30. Despite different resolutions and initiatives, we are still witnessing a world with under-representation of female and youth leadership and prevailing marginalization of both groups from political participation in most countries.

In the 21st century, armed conflicts have become more diffuse and less predictable, especially as they currently tend to affect a large number of civilians as stated since 2000 by many UNSC Resolutions. A groundbreaking contribution of the UNSCR 1325 has been to introduce the disproportionate and specific impacts of armed conflicts on women and girls for the first time. It paved the way to promote gender perspective and increase the protection, prevention and participation of women and girls in the resolution of conflicts. Recently, this resolution has been further developed and complemented by ten further UNSC resolutions. Furthermore, five years ago, a new agenda was established with the UNSCR 2250 (2015) on Youth, Peace and Security. This resolution emphasized the importance of including young people at all stages of decision-making processes and exhorted the international community to commit to meaningful participation of youths in regional, national, and international institutions.

Where are we coming from and where are we going?

Since the last decade of the 20th century, several United Nations resolutions have been urging states to increase the proportion of women in positions of leadership and decision-making (Economic and Social Council Resolution 1990/15, General Assembly Resolution 66/130). This lay the ground for the establishment of gender issues on the international agenda and building consensus for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. The commitments made at the Beijing Platform for Action 25 years ago are clear in this regard: empower women and accelerate the achievement of equality between women and men in politics. Following this, the purpose of the UNSCR 1325 was to incorporate gender mainstreaming into the policies of the Member States (MS) and ensure the full and equitable participation of women in all matters of peace and security – and this includes policy making.

In 2011, the 66/130 GA Resolution reaffirmed the provisions of the UNSCR 1325 (2000), requiring states to guarantee, promote and entrust specific measures for the participation of women in politics and peacebuilding under the same conditions as men. Since the victim of conflicts most frequently is the civilian population, and specifically women and children from the Global South, they should be at the center of policies. More recently, the UNSCR 2250 was a paramount in the recognition of youth efforts in peacebuilding and urged states to increase their representation in decision-making.

Measures to include women and youth in decision-making processes

Around the globe, women and youth are actively working to support peace processes. At the same time, they are trying to win their space at negotiating tables, as their demands are still underrepresented. In the same way as two decades ago, we need a significant shift towards the recognition of the vital role women and youth can and should play in the consolidation of a lasting peace and sustainable societies. The MS’ commitments should be represented by the national implementation of their National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security, but only 86 of the states have developed such plans. In this regard, gender mainstreaming in the post-conflict sphere has become a mandate of the United Nations. However, there is a remarkable difference in the levels of commitment towards the incorporation of the gender perspective between international organizations, such as UN entities and international civil society organizations, and the MS.

In 2020, the political participation of youth and women is still jeopardized, limited, or not promoted by institutions, political parties, and international organizations all over the world. Nowadays, again, a set of extreme nationalist discourses still reproduce a dominating and combative masculinity and a domesticated and vulnerable concept of femininity. In contrast, feminist proposals establish that to build more inclusive and cohesive societies, it is essential that the culture of sexist violence is transformed through gender policies and feminism by limiting stigmatization and marginalization in political processes. In such contexts, it is necessary to create means not only to achieve equal representation, but also to address the hardships that are gender and age specific.


Despite women’s advancement in political participation, their full participation is still overdue. Young women leadership and young people in general are having troubles to find a seat at the table. By including youth in these roles, we are ensuring sustainable policies are developed. Since it is essential that women and youth participate in the resolution of conflicts to guarantee the consolidation of a lasting peace, a more radical perspective containing gender and youth inclusion should be implemented worldwide. To do so, all stakeholders must increase and promote women and young people’s equal participation. Despite being held in writing, the political will to include these groups in leadership and decision-making processes is lacking.

The question remains, what position our states take in this regard and if they want to promote a comprehensive shift toward preventing violence and marginalization in political spaces. More than ever, it is reaffirmed that the non-implementation of transformations in decision-making and the gender roles associated could endanger the sustainability of societies. Gender and youth perspective must be incorporated as a transversal policy that breaks roles and creates a space for youth and women on the negotiating tables. Their inclusion is a key issue to ensure the social and democratic development that will lead us to sustainable development. Only through more participation and partnership between all actors, inclusion in decision-making and diversity, we will be able to build more free, equal, and sustainable societies.

Policy Recommendations

  • A global partnership and open platforms are necessary to encourage and support women’s and youth participation in politics. Legislation must be updated to improve their political participation, by providing trainings and networking for political engagement. All stakeholders must work together to ensure that decision-making upholds women’s rights and youth representation, as it compromises the legitimacy and effectiveness of our institutions.
  • All actors must increase and promote women and young people’s participation in leadership and decision-making positions, both in political life as well as peace negotiations. Higher women and youth’s participation in these roles leads to higher levels of peace and development outcomes for society.
  • Provide data and more trustful information on the impact of women and young people in politics to be able to measure their meaningful contribution. Policies must be evidence-based, the use of quantifiable data for evaluation, tracking, and monitoring provides ground for better recommendations and policy change.
  • Promote a change on socio-cultural discourses and stereotypes to replace the current model of dominant masculinity, and vulnerable femininity. The role played by media and public opinion is important to change the discourses about the place women and youth hold in society. Non-violent male social roles that break with traditional gender stereotypes must be strongly rooted in our cultures.
  • Appoint experts and focal points on gender equality and youth inclusion in mediation bodies, institutions, and leadership positions.
  • Promote the use of legislative quotas for all elected officials. All levels of governments and public entities should intentionally include women and young people. This can be achieved by means of implementing quotas and promoting them as decision makers and influential mediators. States must ensure gender-balanced participation and youth inclusion in international delegations and in high-level negotiations.
  • Guarantee sustainable and accessible financial, human, and technical support for women-led and youth-focused organizations. Multi-funding mechanisms must be improved, and more resources need to be available for an extended focus on peace education and political participation in grass-roots organizations or by giving financial incentives to those promoting youth and gender-balanced representation.



About the author

Joaquin Caudeli is a 2019 Fellow from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations with a focus on the role of women in peacemaking and conflict prevention. Co-founder of Equipo Europa, he is specialized in youth and civic engagement at the non-profit sector, the 2030 Agenda and Latin American development cooperation. LinkedIn