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Generation NOW: Youth advocacy for climate action and peace

Generation NOW: Youth advocacy for climate action and peace
Protester holding a placard at a Stop Killing Afghans protest in London, UK. Photo: Jessica Girvan

Ahead of the 2022 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development, SIPRI is pleased to share guest blog posts from partner organizations.

The link between climate change and peace and security

Climate change and peace and security are intrinsically linked. There is a long-standing and well-established connection between natural resource exploitation and governance on one hand and armed conflict on the other, and recognition of the security challenges presented by environmental degradation and the impacts of climate change is growing.

Environmental peacebuilding is a more recent but rapidly evolving field which aims to integrate natural resource management into conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution and recovery in order to build resilience in communities affected by conflict. It also seeks to build positive peace through emphasizing shared environmental interests and taking more inclusive approaches to environmental management, including promoting the role of Indigenous People in environmental protection and increasing the recognition of Indigenous rights.

Formal peace agreements in the 20th century dealt only sporadically with environmental issues, but in the past two decades all major peace agreements have included provisions on natural resources and environmental protection and management. Recent formal peace processes have also highlighted their own direct and critical interdependence with environmental issues. In Colombia, for example, protection of the environment is viewed by youth activists as inseparable from the effective implementation of the 2016 peace agreement, particularly in terms of mechanisms to stop deforestation. In addition, issues relating to the governance of natural resources are a prominent feature of the peace process in Mindanao in the Philippines.

The recent vetoing of the first-of-its-kind UN Security Council resolution casting the climate crisis as a threat to international peace and security underlines the need for actors in these two fields to join forces to ensure that climate-related security risks are at the heart of global conflict-prevention efforts.

The rise and impact of youth climate advocacy

In the face of the existential threat posed by climate change, the voice of youth has become ever more prominent in addressing intergenerational climate injustice and holding political leaders accountable for insufficient progress in tackling climate change. Youth activists are increasingly viewed as uniquely competent to work on this issue. They are establishing networks in schools, universities and communities; taking action at local, national and international levels; and using social media and a range of innovative communication strategies to better coordinate action and shape climate responses. These efforts seek to influence policymakers and encourage everyone to make more conscious choices in their everyday lives. They have captured global media attention and encouraged millions to act.

Youth climate activists have successfully formed a global coalition to inspire, empower and mobilize a generational movement. Their advocacy has had a tangible impact on global policy debates and policymaking, encouraging major shifts in the climate policy discussion towards a more diverse, intersectional and holistic approach to fighting climate change. As a result, youth voices have become more prominent in formal climate negotiations and in the formulation and implementation of national and global climate strategies. As is often the case with many youth movements, the youth climate advocacy movement is also more inclusive, gender-balanced and diverse than other social movements.

Fredagar för fred/Fridays for Peace?

Despite increasing armed conflict around the world and the limited progress in resolving it, no equivalent movement to the Fridays for Future (originally Fredagar för framtida, in Swedish) or Sunrise movements exists for peace. International youth peace coalitions like the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security and the United Network of Young Peacebuilders are pushing to strengthen youth participation in peacebuilding policy and practice. Individual youth peacebuilders around the world are doing amazing work to prevent, resolve and transform conflict and build peace. But their collective voice has yet to reach the same critical mass as the youth climate advocacy movement.

This may be because peace, and especially positive peace—which goes beyond simply the absence of conflict—is a nebulous phenomenon. Whose peace and what kind of peace are we talking about? The notion of positive peace encompasses more than a sole focus on the causes of war to explore the attitudes, institutions and structures that build a more peaceful world. At Inclusive Peace, we see peace as a perpetual undertaking that all societiesnot only those experiencing armed conflictneed to actively engage in to thrive. A society and the arc of its development cannot be separated from the pursuit of peace.

All around the world people are reclaiming and exercising their power to challenge the deeply entrenched systems that engender insecurity, poverty, inequality and distrust. In some domains, such as climate change, young people are in the vanguard. Can the experience of the youth climate advocacy movement and other global social justice movements that prominently feature the voices of young people, such as Black Lives Matter, help galvanize a global youth peace movement, a Fridays for Peace?

Our 2022 Stockholm Forum session, ‘Fridays for Peace? What youth peacebuilders can learn from global youth climate advocacy’, will delve into all of these topics. It will explore lessons from youth climate activists’ advocacy regarding what has and has not worked to influence global policymaking and why. It will also look at how collective youth advocacy can help to ensure climate-related security risks are at the heart of global conflict prevention efforts as well as how the theory and practice of non-violent resistance helps to inform youth action for climate justice and peace.

The Inclusive Peace and Humanity United virtual session ‘Fridays for Peace? What youth peacebuilders can learn from global youth climate advocacy’ takes place on Monday 23 May at 17:30 CEST.

You can register for the Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development here


Alex Bramble

Alex Bramble is a Researcher and Analyst at Inclusive Peace. He holds master’s degrees from the University of Oxford and Sciences Po Paris and was formerly a researcher at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Foundation for Strategic Research (Paris).