Closing remarks by Foreign Minister Timo Soini at the First International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes, Helsinki 6 March 2019.
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At the opening session of this symposium, I was asked why Finland is focusing on promoting youth participation. As I said, one reason for this lies in global demographics, especially when it comes to the developing world. But the need to include young people goes deeper than that.
Too often we, the decision-makers, who used to be young ourselves,
fail to work together with the youth. This does not hurt only the young people, it hurts all of us. The youth are the ones most committed to building the future. They have more energy and optimism than prejudice and caution. And they often have the brightest and least conventional ideas.
Often, we need wisdom of the more experienced leaders, but even more often we would profit from listening to what the youth have to say.
Even in the case, it is something that we would not like to hear.
When talking about promoting youth participation, we must remember that we are talking about two billion individuals, not about one, single-minded group. Inclusion is what matters. It means including women. It means including minorities. And it means including those marginalized.
This Symposium is not meant to be a single event in order to raise awareness. It is part of a process. What we want to see are better solutions and best practices for bringing youth to the table and including them in the decision-making. We know the recommendations. What is required now is to take them further.
Likewise, we know that we need to create spaces for young people to participate in negotiating and drafting actual agreements. Some great ideas to these questions came up already when preparing for this Symposium, but these two days of discussions have shown the wealth of ideas you all have.
How to do this in practice? Young people have the right to be heard, guaranteed by law. We also need to have youth representatives in official delegations to different international high-level events. It is important that you, young people, are part of these decision-making processes as well.
Finally, I would like to conclude by thanking you warmly and sincerely for participating. Seeing your dedication gives me confidence that the process started here during these last two days will bring results.
I am sure that you will take this process beyond Helsinki, find new partners and fresh approaches as you move on. You can count on Finland’s firm support to continue as you go.
We are committed to this process, and we are going to be with you. But you are the ones who are really going to take care of the decisions.