Youth and the Responsibility to Protect:

Strengthening the Role of Youth in Implementing RtoP in the MENA Region

The people of the world continue to witness persistent and tectonic geopolitical developments around the world, including the invasion of Ukraine, the 2021 coup in Myanmar and the recent coups in West Africa and Sudan, the recent violence in Sri Lanka, the persistence of armed violence, and fragility in many Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen, Syria, Libya, Palestine. The role of the international community has become more important than ever to protect civilians from the exposure to atrocious crimes and to move from violence and conflict to prevention and sustainable peace. Sustaining peace requires enabling an environment for young peacebuilders and youth-led organisations to do their work, which requires the effective operationalization of the Nexus between the Responsibility to Protect (RToP)1 and the youth, peace, and security (YPS) agenda.

This policy paper serves to unpack the Nexus between RToP and the YPS agenda on the basis of a series of consultations and thematic working group discussions with members of youth-led civil society organisations active and the UN System representatives working on YPS and RToP.  It focuses on the challenges faced by both frameworks and potential avenues to effectively operationalise the Nexus between RToP and the YPS agenda. Developed in a participatory manner, the policy paper is rooted in the perspectives of civil society actors in the MENA region regarding RToP and YPS.

The biggest challenge in the implementation of both frameworks is the perception among governments that RToP is an ineffective and politicized concept and that civil society, especially youth-led civil society, poses a threat to the stability of their political regimes. The lack of tcapacity development programs and tools tailored to youth in the MENA region aggravates this situation. Such a context leads to a reduction of the civic space and limited opportunity for young people to participate in the operationalizing of the Nexus between RToP and YPS and subsequently in efforts to sustain peace.

There are ways in which the international community can support the role of youth in RToP, including in the MENA region. For one, there is the need for the UN and other international stakeholders to promote the significance of RToP and YPS in maintaining societal peace and ensure that RToP and YPS stay away from politization. In addition, the international community is well positioned to advance partnerships within the context of RToP and YPS in order to enhance the crucial role civil society plays in their implementation. Finally, the UN and other relevant actors should pursue capacity-building and education programs on RToP and YPS fine-tuned for youth in the MENA region.

The policy brief first introduces the interlinkages between the two frameworks and then moves to challenges identified by civil society actors concerning their implementation. Lastly, it offers recommendations for the UN, international stakeholders, and national governments on more effective application of both RToP and YPS at the national and regional levels and avenues to rectify existing shortcomings.

Download publication