To make youth empowerment a reality, we have started challenging assumptions and rethinking the way in which we recognize, promote and support the positive role young people play in preventing violent extremism. Credit: UNDP.


As prepared for delivery.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,    

I am delighted to participate in this event, co-hosted by GCERF and the State of Qatar, on the margins of the High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter-terrorism agencies of Member States.

Let me express my appreciation to the Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar and to the GCERF’s Chair. I also want to acknowledge the participation of Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, our esteemed partner with whom UNDP recently signed an Memorandum of Understanding at our Global Meeting in Norway, as well as other longstanding partners such as UN-Women and Search for Common Ground. 

Youth is a priority for the United Nations. To make youth empowerment a reality, we have started challenging assumptions and rethinking the way in which we recognize, promote and support the positive role young people play in preventing violent extremism.
-    Even though the young age of many recruits and perpetrators has placed them at the centre of policy discussions on the prevention of violent extremism, only a fraction of the world’s young people will ever engage in violence.
-    Some of the countries most affected by attacks often have high youth populations, who are then caught between the violence and encroachment of extremist groups and hard-fisted responses. Not only are young people commonly the victims of various forms of violence perpetrated by these groups, they are also victims of the collateral damages of the phenomenon, such as displacement and loss of livelihoods; psychological strain and trauma; and the spread of intolerance and intimidation in spaces of interaction and recreation. Many young people have indeed experienced harms from “hard edge” state responses to counter violent extremism, including surveillance, arrest, injury or death.
-    If the object of policy and programming interventions is ultimately to find and support effective methods to prevent violent extremism while upholding human rights standards, it is imperative to understand and nurture youth positive resilience and youth-led activism. Young people, typically working with little support and in sometimes extremely challenging environments, have already taken up action using a full spectrum of approaches in addressing the root causes of violent extremism ---from online/offline advocacy campaigns to promoting the disengagement and reintegration of former fighters, to supporting education initiatives, to generating new research and data analysis.

To respond to youth specific needs, identify promising practices and inform a new generation of policies and programmes, UNDP developed a new global report, titled Frontlines (forthcoming, July 2018), the findings of which demonstrate that understanding young people’s positive contributions to the prevention of violent extremism is a first step toward promoting approaches for their empowerment. Our fundamental message is that effective and long-term prevention approaches require active support of and investment in young people’s holistic development priorities, their initiatives and their meaningful participation in governance and decision-making. For this to happen, all actors must deepen the forms of engagement with young people themselves, building on their insights, capacities and achievements, in line with United Nations Security Council resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) on youth, peace and security.

Engaging young people as liabilities or through tokenistic gestures will never suffice as a genuine preventive approach. The threats of terrorism and violent extremism offer a real opportunity to unite, align our actions and goals, and pursue an inclusive approach. Through the Office of Counter-Terrorism, we are stepping up coordinated programming to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact and support youth engagement.

I wish you fruitful discussions and look forward to enhancing partnerships to promote the positive role of youth in preventing violent extremism.

I encourage you to participate in tomorrow’s session at the High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies which will focus on engaging youth and the use of technologies.

Thank you.

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