Youth engagement and empowerment

“Terrorism robs young people of their lives and opportunities, of their present and their future. Youth, therefore, has as much a stake as anyone in counter-terrorism. We need practical and innovative ways to help them raise and address their concerns and safeguard their peers and communities.”

-- Sevil Alirzayeva, Chief of the Office of the United Nations Under-SecretaryGeneral for Counter-Terrorism, at the 5th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku, Azerbaijan

Recruitment and radicalization

Young people are targeted both by recruitment and radicalization to violent extremist organizations and in terrorist attacks. They recognize prevention of violent extremism as a priority and many have already acted to reduce the impact of violent extremism, promote tolerance and value pluralism, and build resilience in their local communities and societies.  

Youth are generally much better positioned to promote a culture of tolerance and peace amongst their peers. They possess a talent for communication and mobilization. Engaging and working together with youth as an effective and positive partner continues to be a key priority in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) policies, programming and capacity-building efforts. 

For the few young people who turn to extremist violence and commit acts of terrorism, there must be a comprehensive legal, political, and socio-economic approach in place, with a strong emphasis on the disengagement, rehabilitation and reintegration process, wherever the conditions are right.

Mandate of the Programme

The Youth Engagement and Empowerment Programme builds upon various texts submitted to the UN’s principle organs including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.

UN Security Council

The Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security stresses the importance of addressing conditions and factors leading to the rise of radicalization to violence and violent extremism amongst youth, which can be conducive to terrorism.  It urges Member States to consider ways to increase inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels to counter violent extremism. 

United Nations Youth Strategy

Moreover, the UN Youth Strategy, is a clear message that young people are one of our strongest partners to address global challenges, without which the SDGs of Agenda 2030 cannot be achieved. The Strategy highlights the appetite of young people to participate and contribute constructively to address global challenges. 

UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism

The UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism identifies youth empowerment as a priority area. In the Plan, the UN Secretary General recommends Member States to empower youth by harnessing the idealism, creativity and energy of young people and others who feel disenfranchised. He recommends supporting and enhancing young people’s participation in PVE activities, and integrating them into decision-making processes at local and national levels.

UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and its review resolutions note the important and positive contribution of youth in efforts to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism conducive to terrorism.  The Strategy encourages Member States and UN entities to consider instituting mechanisms to involve youth in the promotion of a culture of peace, tolerance and intercultural and interreligious dialogue and develop, as appropriate, an understanding of respect for human dignity, pluralism and diversity, including, as appropriate, through education programmes. It also calls upon Member States to empower youth by including them in decision-making processes and considering practical ways to include youth in the development of relevant programmes and initiatives aimed at preventing violent extremism conducive to terrorism. 

Programme's activities

The Youth Engagement and Empowerment Programme aims to operationalize the provisions outlined under Mandate to empower and enable youth that actively prevent and counter violent extremism on all levels in partnership with the UN. 

The Programme takes a participatory approach to youth engagement and has two phases. Throughout the first phase participants focus on developing a data-driven, evidence-based, human rights compliant and youth-informed programme. It establishes formal mechanisms and an engagement platform for meaningful participation. The second phase emphasizes implementation of the Programme to prevent violent extremism in partnership with youth, including youth-led civil society organizations and private sector stakeholders. 

The main activities of the Programme include:

  • Deliver 10 national and 5 regional consultative workshops
  • Develop youth engagement tools and approaches for PCVE purposes 
  • Establish a youth engagement platform for PCVE-efforts 
  • Establish a youth advisory and consultation mechanism for PCVE-efforts
  • Build an infrastructure for intra-agency cooperation and coordination on youth-focused PCVE-efforts
  • Develop communication content and visibility material to promote the positive role of youth

Programme's coordination role

The Youth Engagement and Empowerment Programme coordinates closely with UN entities at HQ level (e.g. UNDP, UNESCO, UNAOC, and ILO), UN Country Teams and the Resident Coordinator’s Office, international youth-focused NGOs, the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, and national/regional civil society actors in beneficiary countries.

Programme's Impact

This Programme aims at building and engaging with resilient, empowered and enabled young people to make meaningful contribution to the United Nation’s efforts across global and regional activities to prevent and counter violent extremism and terrorism.