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First-ever Global Report On Protecting Youth In Civic Space Highlights Need For Stronger Global Protection Mechanisms

The launch of the report comes alongside a high-level
event organized by the Office of the UN
Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth focused on bringing
young people’s protection concerns to the international
agenda in a safe manner, with an emphasis on concrete
recommendations for action

18 June 2021
(UN Headquarters, NY) –
The issue of safety and
protection in civic space is not new, but until now, there
have been no attempts to collect global data specifically on
the threats and harassment young people are facing in civic
space. This has produced a notable gap for policy and
decision-makers looking to develop evidence-based
recommendations and solutions to enable safer civic spaces
for young people. The Global Report on Protecting Young
People in Civic Space
is an attempt to address these
gaps, while providing clear recommendations for how
stakeholders should create youth-sensitive protection

“Although the report presents a harsh
reality of what it means to be young and challenge the
status quo today, it also showcases the resilience,
creativity and hope displayed by young people around the
world,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN
Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. “It is our
collective responsibility to take these testimonies and
recommendations from young people not as a burden to bear,
but as a torch to guide our steps towards protecting the
dignity, worth and freedom for young people in all their

The launch of the report comes alongside
a high-level event organized by the Office of the
Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the Permanent Mission
of Norway to the UN, and the European Union Delegation to
the UN in New York, in partnership with the Office of the UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Permanent Mission of
the Dominican Republic to the UN, as well as civil society
partners including CIVICUS, the Major Group for Children and
Youth, Peace Direct, and Search for Common

The event features high-level
government representatives, representatives of international
and regional organizations, civil society, and youth to
raise awareness about the importance of upholding young
people’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of
peaceful assembly and of association; and explore
opportunities for continued efforts to create safer and more
enabling civic spaces for young people.

people are on the frontline. Yet, too often, their safety is
at risk. The EU stands firmly behind youth involvement in
civic and public life. Youth activists and movements need to
participate on issues affecting their lives and future.
Under the human rights and democracy programme of our new
financial instrument, the EU will protect activists and
human rights defenders, including through the mechanism”, said Jutta Urpilainen the EU
Commissionner for International Partnerships.

want to thank and celebrate those young people who speak up
and defend rights. Young people have brought a much-needed
sense of urgency for global climate action. Young people, in
the face of the global pandemic and despite facing some of
its most severe socioeconomic impacts, have been at the
forefront of response and recovery efforts within their
communities. Young people are mobilizing online and offline
in creative and resourceful ways despite lockdown
measures,” said Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for
Human Rights.

The importance of protection in civic
space has previously been emphasized by UN Secretary-General
António Guterres in his Call
to Action for Human Rights
and in his first-ever
report on Youth, Peace and Security
released last year,
as well as by Security
Council Resolution 2535
which calls for developing
dedicated guidance on the protection of young people,
including those who engage with the UN, as part of a new
“Common Protection Agenda” for the UN system.

address this gap and provide guidance to these questions, a
Protection Working Group was created in 2019, under the
Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security. In 2020,
research on protecting young people in civic space was
conducted in consultation with more than 500 young people
worldwide. This research was commissioned by the Office of
the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth with the support of
by the Government of Norway, and it ultimately formed the
foundation of the Global Report on Protecting Young
People in Civic Space
. The research was led by
Ambassador Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, the former UN Special
Rapporteur on Minority Issues and the current Personal
Representative on Children and Security at Organization for
Security and Co-operation in Europe. 

hundreds of candid testimonies we heard in the context of
this research made it clear that there is an urgent need for
important changes in protection approaches, processes,
policies and mechanisms. It is our collective responsibility
to provide youth with the necessary protection measures and
tools so they feel free and safe to influence and shape our
societies according to their own aspirations, so that we all
have a better chance for a brighter, more equal and more
sustainable world,“ said Rita

“I am very pleased that Norway
has funded the first global report on protecting young
people in the civic space,” said Norwegian Minister of
International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein. “Young people
are not just the leaders of tomorrow, as we often hear. In
my mind, they already represent a key voice. They are
contemporary agents of change. We need to join forces to
better protect young people and create a civic space where
youth leadership is not only respected, but also encouraged
and valued as an important part of a more equal and
inclusive society.”

“Young activists,
peacebuilders and human rights defenders face unique
challenges, risks and threats because of the work they carry
out. It is our duty to foster an enabling and safe
environment for youth, to protect them and their civic
space. Security Council Resolution 2535 contributed to
setting the grounds. However, let’s be cognizant that it is
now about moving from paper to reality, with the support of
all stakeholders. By protecting young people and their civic
space we are building democratic societies,” said José A.
Blanco Conde, Permanent Representative of the Dominican
Republic to the UN. 

As one young person who
participated in the regional consultations said, “I don’t
feel protected. I don’t feel like if I disappear today
something would be said . . . It’s good to say that as
young people we should continue to fight, but if we don’t
start creating solutions to protect us, then we are all
going to end up dying, or going to choose between our own
safety, stability and families, or fighting for our own

In the lead up to the high-level launch
event, the United Network of Young Peacebuilders in
collaboration with the Office of the Secretary General’s
Envoy on Youth has rolled out a campaign amplifying the
evidence base of threats and challenges youth face in civic
space, with a specific focus on deconstructing the usual
policy myths that intersect with protection issues youth
face as well as developing young people’s understanding and
awareness of protection mechanisms. The campaign features
“Nova” — a fictional avatar created by youth to be a
messenger for young people while representing their stories
to the world without putting anyone at

”The protection campaign seeks to raise
awareness about the narrowing civic space which young people
have to navigate on a daily basis. The threats young people
face are not only physical but also socio-cultural,
psychological, financial or political and they often
overlap. Marginalized young people are at an increased risk
of experiencing such threats. Living in constant fear is an
unacceptable state for anyone to live in, especially young
people who are using peaceful means and exercising their
human rights,” said Eliška Jelínková, Co-Director of
United Network of Young

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