Remarks of the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Opening of the UNAOC-Turkic Council event on
The role of Youth in
Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism:
Holistic approaches, from education to de-radicalization
(Istanbul, 20-21 October 2016)
Your Excellency, Mr.Turgul Turkes, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey,
Your Excellency, Minister of Akif Cagatay Kihc, Minister of Youth & Sports Republic of Turkey
Your Excellency, Ambassador Ramil Hasanov, Secretary-General of the Turkic Council,
Dear Youth participants,
It is an honor for me to be here today. First, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations is very pleased to be co-organizing with the Turkic Council this event which places youth at the center of the discussions and provides them with a platform to make their voice heard.
I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to the Government of the Republic of Turkey, co-Sponsor of the Alliance since its inception more than ten years ago, for their strong and continuous political and financial support.
We are gathered today to address one of the major challenges that our societies are facing under the theme: “The role of Youth in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: Holistic approaches, from education to de-radicalization”.
The threat of violent extremism is growing around the world and is increasingly targeting youth, that is to say more than two third of the World’s population. In most countries affected by conflict, namely Africa and the Middle East, young people represent more than half the population. According to the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, the majority of foreign terrorist fighters recruited by ISIS and Al-Nusrah Front are young people.
Despite the inter¬connected world we live in, disengagement, exclusion and marginalization leave young people vulnerable to recruitment wherever they are. Some young people are turning to violent extremist groups as a way to pursue new ideologies, to respond to what they perceive as injustice, or to feel part of something larger than themselves. Some others are just victims of manipulation. But as the UN Secretary General uses to say: “ Youth represent promise, not peril”.
Too many responses to violent extremism frame youth as either perpetrators or as possible victims of recruitment into violent groups. These approaches fail to capture the fact that most young people are part of the solution.
In many countries, security responses contributed to further aggravate tensions and trigger more support for violent ideologies, adding to the feeling of exclusion and failing to engage youth as key allies in building resilience against violent extremism. More than ever before, the response to violent extremism needs meaningful youth participation at all levels. To effectively address the drivers of violent extremism and promote peace, youth must be engaged as partners in the conception and implementation of PVE programs and policies.
The United Nations and the Alliance of Civilizations recognize the key role of Youth as a key actor in achieving peace, as well as the crucial role of education as the most powerful weapon that we can use towards preventing violent extremism.
Young people are the primary agents of change – not just in the future – but in our present as well. And this is reflected in every of our positions and working documents at the UN, whether it is in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development or the Secretary General’s Plan of Action to prevent violent extremism, which includes a section on youth empowerment.
Moreover, the unanimous adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security on December 2015 marked a turning point in history. This is the first resolution that specifically addresses the role of young people in issues of peace and security. It is groundbreaking because not only it acknowledges the crucial role that youth can play in managing conflict and establishing peace processes, but it also identifies that progress on these issues can only be made through partnership with young people.
Later today, through Panel III “ Preventing Violent Extremism Through Education: UNAOC’S approach through Youth projects”, the Alliance of Civilizations will take stock of the progress that has been realized through the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2250 (2015), and what still remains to be done. But I can already tell you that more needs to be done. We must work together towards implementing resolution 2250 through mechanisms that would enable young people to participate meaningfully in peace processes and dispute resolution.
At the Alliance, we know from our experience of supporting youth-led initiatives and organizations, as well as grassroots programs that peaceful and inclusive societies cannot be sustainably built without the participation and commitment of young people. UNAOC activities are focused specifically on four pillars, of which Youth and Education. Since, the UN Secretary General has mandated the Alliance with addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism through Pillar I of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, UNAOC programming has been extended to support global efforts towards preventing violent extremism.
This year, our Fellowship program is dedicated to “Education as a tool for preventing radicalization and xenophobia”. Every year, through this program, young people from the Middle East, Europe and North America are enabled to experience immersive visits in each other’s regions in order to understand other cultures and mindsets, seize the importance of living with the others, and encourage rejection of any form of discrimination and violence. Moreover, our video festival “Plural Plus” enable young filmmakers to creatively address critical issues affecting our world, including violent extremism. Our initiative “the Entrepreneurs for Social Change” aims at addressing youth exclusions and unemployment in Europe and the Middle East through the creation of social enterprises, job opportunities to provide young people with a better future.
Another important UNAOC program is the Youth Solidarity Fund, which provides youth-led organizations with direct funding to implement outstanding projects promoting intercultural and interfaith dialogue, as well as peace and social inclusion. This year, the Fund served to implement projects in response to tensions, conflicts and violent extremism issues in Africa and the Middle East. Today, the Fund is more relevant than ever as it is supporting youth’s participation and contribution to peace, development and security through funding and partnership opportunities. Later today, through Panel III, some of our Alumni who benefited from this Fund will share their experiences with you and provide you with a clear picture of our work on PVE issues.
And I am also proud to announce the launch of our new project “ Young peace-builders in Western Africa” that is currently implemented in the sub-region and should be replicated to North Africa and the Middle East very soon. Youth must be actively engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to mediation and reconciliation. And we must not forget to engage local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to prevent and counter violent extremism.
As a community, we have to make sure that we empower young people and that they are part of the ongoing process of changing the world. Yet, the international community still lacks a comprehensive positioning and holistic policy, commitments, priorities or responsibilities to fulfill the aspirations of young people around the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me tell you that the longer we wait in placing youth at the forefront of the prevention of violent extremism, the longer it will take to put an end to it. The longer we wait in making sure quality education, decent jobs and access to decision making for all young people is ensured, the longer it will take to live in peace and unity.
Through the Amman Youth Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security, young people have committed to address violent extremism and build peace through learning, partnership, and innovation. Let’s help them keep this commitment.
I urge Member States to work together and to work with youth in keeping this promise. Let us not just talk about youth. Let us work WITH youth in true solidarity.
I thank you.