In Latin America, violence-related dynamics do not tend to follow traditional theoretical approaches to armed conflicts (Ramos 2021). Despite this, young people across the region experience constant violence caused by fragile institutional systems, gender asymmetries, and economic inequalities. Acts of gender-based violence, intersectional exclusion, environmental deterioration, civic oppression, and insufficient preventive public policies are just some of the main challenges facing young people today (ECLAC 2021). Youth contributions to peacebuilding still appear scarce both in research and practice, mainly due to unique regional manifestations of conflict and violence and other structural barriers such as language.
Mexico’s youth population (18-29 years old) (31 million) comprises one-quarter of the nation’s total population (INEGI, 2021). Young people in Mexico perceive structural violence, social inequalities, drug trafficking, gender violence, and insecurity as the most pressing forms of violence that need to be addressed (Rodríguez 2017, UNOY 2021:40). Despite these challenges, Mexico is home to youth-led networks such as Jovenes Construyendo Paz and the Rotary Building Peace that aim to foster peacebuilding. Youth-focused and youth-led organizations have shed light upon the importance of peace education and efforts to build cultures of peace as forms of countering violence and conflict.
With this considered, there is an urgent need to accelerate the Youth Peace and Security (YPS) Agenda - where the contributions of young people to peacebuilding are recognized - based on Mexico’s national context, current international dynamics, and potential multi-sector synergies.
Mexico has a National Programme on Youth, which is a route and platform for the articulation of different functions, faculties, and attributions of the government related to young people. However, the country is lacking many legal instruments to implement the YPS agenda. Only recently, Congress modified the constitution to consider young people (14-25 years old) as subjects of human rights, instead of solely being considered as subjects to be protected, or even worse, as a problem to be solved. The Mexican Youth Institute (MYI) has implemented significant efforts such as prevention strategies related to mental health and human rights that mainstream a youth approach in every government action. Unfortunately, the MYI has been recently relocated under the Ministry of Labor, diminishing its influence as an independent institution influencing policies.
Despite such challenges, there is a growing momentum for YPS among different government sectors, particularly through projects led by the MYI and the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection. The Federal Government of Mexico implemented a National Strategy of Addiction Prevention, entitled “Together for Peace'', with a youth perspective at the core. This Strategy has been implemented by the Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the MYI and other ministries and agencies (GCYPS, 2022). This is a policy based on a public health and human rights approach aiming to bring information and services closer to young people in vulnerable situations, through social media, other communications channels, as well as in designated centers around the country named ‘Peace Clubs’, where young people can access workshops and other resources that benefit their personal and professional development. Moreover, the MYI recently announced the creation of a 24-hour phone line assisting young people in need. The strategy is clearly addressing mental health and factors that can prevent crime among young people.
A second initiative focusing on youth is the Youth for Peace Network that the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection convened in 2021. Around 100 young people from every state in the country were called to participate in an online education program about the YPS Agenda and to be supported in the implementation of local activities (Convocatoria Juventudes x la Pacificación, 2021). The project is being sponsored by the UNDP, UNFPA and the Friedrich Stiftung Foundation, and envisions a second stage connecting community projects with funds.
Civil society has led the guidelines on the many activities available to translate the YPS agenda to the national context. In Ágora, we have conducted projects to increase young people's participation in preventing conflicts and in peacebuilding. In partnership with local authorities, we established a youth council in Mexico City at the municipal level, where 10 young people advise on government actions on youth. Members of the council also implemented their own activities to address needs at the community level. Moreover, in 2021, during Mexico’s electoral journey, a website was created to showcase the profiles of every candidate under 35 years old that was running for a position at the local or federal level. We complemented this effort by carrying out a social media campaign that featured the proposals of these candidates linked to the YPS Agenda.
Although the importance of youth contributions in sustaining peace is increasingly evident in Mexico, the projects that are currently in place remain limited, partly because they do not have a formal link to the YPS Agenda. In many cases the ongoing projects are not fully meeting the Agenda because they are not focusing on the YPS key pillars of participation, protection, and partnerships. The understanding of youth-based approaches follow a dynamic where individuals who are not youth lead projects with their own understanding of youth and their needs, on the one hand, and moreover on the other hand, based on the narrative of young people as a “problem to be solved”. In addition to these challenges, youth activists continue to receive threats due to their work and are continuously tokenized in their political participation for decision-making (e.g. by receiving invitations to participate to check the box of a youth quota or by being used to share insights on projects in an extractivist manner). In short there is a perception of youth that the governments lack political will to genuinely include meaningful participation of youth in decision-making as equals.
Intergenerational work between youth and non-youth actors on promoting concepts central to the YPS Agenda will be crucial moving forward. Any collaboration with young people in this respect must be meaningful and authentic instead of tokenizing youth - a common practice in peacebuilding efforts. Additionally, funding opportunities for young people that are already working in the field should be expanded and promoted. Meanwhile, human rights protection for young peacebuilders and efforts to ensure transparency and accountability from the Mexican government should be amplified.
At the national and international levels, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should detect effective channels to promote the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda with the same impetus that the Women, Peace and Security Agenda inspired the current Mexican Feminist Foreign Policy.
The YPS Agenda in Mexico is a civil society-inspired movement that is gaining momentum with the government sector. We, therefore, need to develop concrete actions that consolidate the YPS Agenda and accelerate its implementation at the national and local levels.
ECLAC (2021), Las juventudes latinoamericanas y caribeñas y la Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible: Una mirada desde el sistema de las Naciones Unidas. Santiago: CEPAL.
Global Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security (2022) “Implementing the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda at Country-level: A Guide for Public Officials”. New York: Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. Available at: https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/doha2022/
Henao-Izquierdo, L. (2021) ‘Decolonial feminist peacebuilding from Latin America’, Journal of Youth, Peace and Security. 1(1): Pp. 8-15.
Ramos, E. (2021) ‘Paz y participación en la disciplina de los Estudios de la Paz y el Conflicto’, Revista Latinoamericana Estudios de la Paz y el Conflicto.
Rodríguez E. (2007) ‘Jóvenes y violencias en América Latina: priorizar la prevención con enfoques integrados’, Revista Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Niñez y Juventud. Vol. 5(1): 539-571
United Network of Young Peacebuilders (2021) Hacia una agenda Latinoamericana de Juventudes, Paz y Seguridad Santiago: UNOY.