Young People Represent ‘Promise Not Peril’, Secretary-General Says, Noting Development of Action Plan
While terrorist groups were increasingly recruiting young, disenfranchised people into their ranks, there was broad agreement among the more than 60 speakers in the Security Council today that youth must instead be at the heart of efforts to counter violent extremism and promote peace.
“Young people drive change, but they are not in the driver’s seat,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he opened the first ever formal debate on the topic. The meeting was presided by Crown Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II of Jordan — the youngest person ever to lead a Council session.
Young people around the world bore the brunt of violent extremism, the Secretary-General said, but they lacked a seat at the negotiating table when issues of international peace and security were discussed.
Stressing that youth represented “promise, not peril”, he went on to call for their greater role in combating the violent extremism that was devastating communities around the world. Education was critical, he said, as was engagement at the global level. He noted the launch by the United Nations of “Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding” and said a comprehensive plan of action to prevent violent extremism was being developed.
“Swift measures should be taken to stop feeding the fires of terrorism with the blood of our youth, who are the primary target of recruitment, both voluntary and forced, by armies and extremist terrorist groups,” said Prince Abdullah. Poverty, ignorance and weak family ties created fertile ground for the “dismal ideas”. Youth, he added, could have the strongest positive impact on the present and future, but when they faced a dead end, their ambition turned into frustration used by violent groups to fuel their own agendas.
Briefing the Council, Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Professor at King’s College London, agreed that young people who travelled abroad to fight with terrorist groups shared a sense of exclusion. Extremist ideologies preyed upon those feelings, he said, urging more inclusive societies to prevent that precondition for radicalization.
Scott Atran, Director of Research in Anthropology at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, also in opening remarks, said that the international community must work to transform the global “youth bulge” into a “youth boom” by unleashing young people’s energy and idealism. Instead of merely offering negative messages countering extremism, youth should be given a positive vision that appealed to their dreams, as well as assistance to create their own local initiatives to realize them.
During the day-long debate, attention was drawn to the “pull” factors enticing young people into violent extremism — including the search for fellowship and identity and desires for financial gain, protection and solidarity — and the “push” factors, which included poverty, marginalization and unemployment. Violent terrorist groups benefiting from those elements included the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, among others, speakers noted.
In that light, several delegates stressed that development approaches must be aimed at reducing the factors that created environments conducive to radicalization and recruitment by extremists. The representative of Nigeria said that to combat Boko Haram, her country had adopted a “soft approach” involving peace, security and development; it engaged multiple stakeholders including parents and community leaders.
“There is indeed no security possible without the necessary development conditions,” agreed the representative of the European Union delegation, calling for initiatives aimed at identifying drivers for youth extremism, empowering women, promoting community policing, strengthening local actors and improving media and education capacities to counter radicalizing ideologies.
Speakers echoed the view of the Secretary-General that youth themselves should be at the heart of such efforts, including as messengers and role models for their peers. Several stressed the need to empower youth and youth-oriented organizations in order to respond to violence and delegitimize extremist messages.
Still others issued a warning that incitement to violent extremism must not be linked to a particular religion or culture as it occurred all over the world. In that context, the representative of Chad reminded the Council that no religion anywhere encouraged its believers to commit violent acts on its behalf.
A discussion also emerged on the use of the Internet and, in particular, social media by radical groups seeking to recruit young people. In that respect, some States, including the Russian Federation, stressed that incitement to terrorist action should be banned, with the Internet controlled for that purpose.
On the other hand, several speakers emphasized the importance of the Internet to create a “counter-narrative”. Indeed, said the representative of the Republic of Korea, simply shutting down websites and suspending Facebook accounts would not bring about the desired results. Effective, persuasive messages must be developed and disseminated to convince young people that the ideologies promoted by extremist propagandists were false and empty promises.
Also speaking today were representatives of France, United States, Spain, Angola, Malaysia, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Chile, New Zealand, China, Lithuania, Egypt, Sweden, Italy, Brazil, India, Japan, Colombia, Syria, Hungary, Belgium, Australia, Thailand, Germany, Luxembourg, Maldives, Switzerland, Qatar, Costa Rica, Morocco, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, Iran, Austria, Montenegro, Turkey, Georgia, Netherlands, Croatia, Malta, Kazakhstan, Canada, Albania, Indonesia, Poland, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Benin.
In addition, a representative of the African Union and the Permanent Observer from the Holy See participated. The High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations also spoke.
Representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine took the floor for a second time.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 6:10 p.m.
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that “the role of youth lies at the heart of international peace and security”. In most countries affected by conflict, young people represented more than half the population. Those young people might be seeking a calling; extremists preyed on their search for purpose and belonging. It was critical to encourage young people to take up the causes of peace, diversity and mutual respect. “Youth represent promise, not peril,” he said, adding that the overwhelming number of youth yearned for peace. “Over and over, we see young people bearing the brunt of violent extremism,” he said, recalling the girls from Chibok, Nigeria, who were abducted by Boko Haram, the recent attack on a college in Kenya and other similar incidents.
“I am distressed by the tragedy of young people who are kidnapped, conscripted or killed,” he said, but he was also inspired by the promise of youth. “Young people drive change, but they are not in the driver’s seat,” he said. Young people had idealism and creativity. There were countless youth groups that wanted to wage peace, not war. Young people should have a “seat at the negotiating table”, as they were often most affected by war and fighting. Education was critical. In that connection, he called for “weapons of mass instruction” to foster a culture of peace. “Young people are inheriting the world. With more resources, they can be a force for peace, reconciliation and democratic governance,” he said.
The United Nations was working to listen to youth and respond to their concerns, he said. It had launched the “Guiding Principles on Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding” and was developing a comprehensive Plan of Action to prevent violent extremism that would seek to engage and empower youth. “Too often, the speeches in this Council focus on problems in the search for solutions,” he said, adding: “Today, let us see young people as the solution to our most vexing problems.”
PETER NEUMANN, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Professor at King’s College London, recalled his childhood in Germany — a country which had a history of wars and atrocities — and said that he had often wondered how some Germans could still be attracted to a neo-Nazi ideology. “There isn’t a single reason why young people radicalize; there isn’t a single root cause,” he said. Radicalization was a process that could occur in any society. “If you make a list of every grievance expressed in every conflict in which youth radicalization has occurred, you end up with a very long list indeed,” he said. Focusing his comments on foreign fighters from Europe who went to join the Da’esh extremist group in Syria and Iraq, he said that some of them were pious, but others were not. Many had troubled histories, but others did not. Some had been driven by the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people, while others sought thrill and adventure. “We are dealing with an incredibly diverse group,” he said.
Asking what those foreign fighters had in common, he said that there was an “uncomfortable truth” in Europe: the young people he had studied didn’t feel they had a stake in their societies. They often felt that, because of who they were, how they looked and where their parents or grandparents had come from, they weren’t European and they didn’t belong. Feeling excluded on its own didn’t explain why people became foreign terrorist fighters, and it certainly did not justify it, he said. There were many other factors involved in youth radicalization. An ideology needed to come in, make sense of the grievance and channel it into a particular ideology. A sense of exclusion was the precondition for everything that followed.
There was much “firefighting” that could be done to stop people from traveling, arrest them, or share information. But parents also needed to be empowered. “They are our strongest allies, and they are often the last ones who still have a degree of influence over their kids,” he said. “We need to create de-radicalization programmes that deliver tailored interventions, either when people are on the brink of joining extremist groups, before they are travelling to Syria, or when they come back,” he said, adding that extremism should also be challenged on the internet. But firefighting was not enough. More inclusive societies were needed to prevent radicalization from happening in the first place.
SCOTT ATRAN, Director of Research in Anthropology at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, citing his latest research, said none of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) fighters interviewed in Iraq had more than primary-school education. They knew nothing of the Quran or Hadith but had learned of Islam from Al-Qaida and ISIS/ISIL propaganda, which taught that Muslims were targeted for elimination unless they first eliminated the “impure”. In Europe and elsewhere in the Muslim diaspora, three out of every four people who joined Al-Qaida or ISIS/ISIL did so through friends and most of the rest through family or fellow travellers in search of a meaningful path in life.
He urged the international community to continue its important work on problems of development and on immigration and integration, with the goal of transforming the “youth bulge” into a “youth boom” by unleashing their inherent energy and idealism. He proposed three broad conditions, with each country creating and mobilizing them suited to its own circumstances. First, youth should be offered something that made them dream of a life of significance through struggle and sacrifice in comradeship. Second, they should be offered a positive personal dream with a concreate chance of realization. And third, they should be offered the chance to create their own local initiatives.
What was most important, he said, was quality time and sustained follow-up of young people with young people who understood that motivational factors could vary greatly with context despite commonalities. It took a dynamic movement that was at once intimately personal and global — involving not just entrepreneurial ideas, but also physical activity, music and entertainment — to defeat the growing global counter-culture of violence extremism.
CROWN PRINCE AL HUSSEIN BIN ABDULLAH II of Jordan, whose delegation held the Council’s April presidency, said that terrorism and extremism might be the greatest challenge now to world peace and security, with youth being its prime victims. “Swift measures should be taken to stop feeding the fires of terrorism with the blood of our youth, who are the primary target of recruitment, both voluntary and forced, by armies and extremist terrorist groups,” he said. Poverty, ignorance and weak familial ties created fertile ground for the groups’ “dismal ideas”. Youth could also have the strongest positive impact on the present and future, but when they faced a dead end, their ambition transformed into frustration that groups used to fuel their own agendas.
“We have to fill this vacuum that is being exploited by enemies of humanity by building on the potential of the youth and empowering them to achieve their ambitions,” he said. That could be achieved by equipping them with quality education, proper job opportunities and a decent living. Young people also had to be provided tools to address their generation through the communications technologies that were now being used to lure them to extremism. They had to form intellectual networks and alliances that could reach out to members of their generation and lead the youth’s public opinion to adopt values of coexistence, respect for diversity and rejection of violence.
He announced the readiness of Jordan to host the first international conference on the role of youth in making sustainable peace, in partnership with the United Nations in August this year. Pointing out that the current young generation, with half of the world’s population under 30, was the largest in human history, he said they presented a great potential to build communities “where reason was the law and ethics were the constitution”. For that purpose, they needed all policymakers to partner with them and to draw up the necessary, education and economic policies.
PATRICK KANNER, Minister for Cities, Youth and Sport of France, noting that his country had just escaped yet another possible terrorist attack, this time on churches, said that his country, though old, also had the highest fertility rate in Europe, which gave the country strength but also presented it with a responsibility to endow this large contingent of youth with a meaningful sense of life in the face of the “morbid ideology” that currently threatened the world. With some hundreds having been recruited by extremists from France, it was crucial to convince young people that their country was the best environment for their fulfilment and happiness.
A broad moral and political battle had to be waged for that purpose, he said. In France, after this year’s attacks, a complete mobilization for democratic freedoms was being conducted, including a focus on secularism, which was not an opinion but the freedom to have any opinion. School was essential in such education for democratic citizenship; other organizations were participating and the internet was being fully utilized. A plan for national civic service was also being formulated, which could also become a model for international service through organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In general, greater regional and international cooperation in countering the extremist ideology was needed. The upcoming seventieth anniversary of the United Nations was an excellent occasion for focusing on positive world citizenship for that purpose.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States), relaying stories of recruitment of Somali-American youth and others by extremists and describing the magnitude of ISIL’s online presence, said that countering violent extremism must be central to counter-terrorism efforts. For that, it was necessary to catch up to the extremists’ capabilities to influence young people.
She described United States diplomatic efforts to mobilize coordinated international action toward that end, and recounted the experiences of a woman speaking to authorities of madrassas in Mali in order to counter extremist views as an example of grass-roots action that should be encouraged. Communities needed to be provided with the tools to do their part, she stated, and youth must be enlisted to be at the vanguard through appropriate media. Rehabilitated former extremists had been given platforms to participate, which was another powerful strategy, she stressed, noting that a single changed mind could disrupt dangerous activity.
IGNACIO YBÁÑEZ (Spain) said that the Security Council was integral to countering not only terrorism but also the extremist ideologies that recruited young people to commit terrorist acts. Noting that one fifth of the recruits to ISIL had come from Europe, he pointed to marginalization and unemployment as factors, but also hatreds that had been bred in conflicts. More attention had to be focused on medium- to long-range factors that engendered extremism. Social integration and education were necessary in that regard but not sufficient in themselves.
Interreligious education, awareness campaigns that utilized sports, training projects in peacebuilding contexts, media strategies and engagement of religious authorities could all be significant forces against extremism if properly harnessed, he said. The empowerment of women and engagement of victims of terrorism through civil society organizations was also important. Describing some of Spain’s programmes for youth, he supported the proposal for the appointment of a United Nations special representative for countering extremism, whom he stressed should have a major focus on youth and cooperate with all other actors.
MANUEL AUGUSTO, Secretary of State for External Relations of Angola, said a central objective of his Government’s economic policies was to generate qualified, competitive and adequately remunerated employment for young people. The National Development Plan 2013-2017 aimed to improve the living conditions of Angolan youth and strengthen their capacity. Their participation in the democratic process was encouraged through promoting youth and student associations and strengthening social, community-based projects for them. It was time to engage with youth movements and grass roots organizations to foster dialogue and mutual understanding, promote democratic principles and defeat radicalism and extremist violence.
Towards that end, he recommended strengthening the role of local governments and civil society in addressing community problems; developing projects to reduce inequality and promote youth participation in peacebuilding; creating opportunities for young people’s sustained and institutionalized participation, ownership and leadership in local, national, regional and international decision-making processes; supporting young people’s innovative ideas to improve security in their communities; and ensuring access to quality education, health care and justice and support for youth-oriented organizations. He also urged increased information sharing and transparency with national and international networks seeking to combat violent extremism.
HAMZAH ZAINUDIN, Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia, noted that large numbers of militants in the South-East Asian region who joined terrorist groups were professionals and middle class and seemed motivated by politics rather than socioeconomic issues. While not suffering themselves, they identified with those who did, especially those sharing the same religion, ethnicity or ideology. Terrorists and extremists used “soft power” to attract impressionable youth. Unless that was addressed, it would not be possible to effectively stem youth radicalization in the long run. The international community must develop a counter-narrative providing a substantive, convincing and feasible concept for youth confronted by the realities of injustice, discrimination and suffering to address extremist ideology and win the hearts and minds of people. It could focus on nonviolent means to affect change, such as peaceful protest, persuasion and diplomatic and political pressure, as well as boycotts and sanctions.
Five years ago, Malaysia had initiated a Global Movement of Moderates at the United Nations to provide a platform for the silent majority to counter extremism, he said. He also stressed the importance of rehabilitating youths who had fallen for extremist narratives and of research on the “drivers” and “triggers” that lead young people to extremism. Malaysia had conducted such research in the region and disseminated the results. A peer-to-peer module meant to encourage young people to critically analyse the rhetoric and propaganda of extremists was also being developed.
U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said that violent extremism was one of the greatest threats to the international community and countering it was one of the greatest challenges. In that respect, ISIS, Al-Qaida, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram were among the most dangerous groups operating across the world. In pursuit of their “hideous agenda”, they recruited young people who were in search of fellowship and identity. Other “pull” factors included desire for financial gain, protection and solidarity, while “push” factors included the continued impact of the financial crisis in some countries, resulting in poverty and unemployment. Ideologically motivated violence started at the local level and required concerted action by family, local leaders, community leaders and especially the mother. All had a crucial role to play to build safe, secure and resilient societies where young people were shielded from radical ideologies. Given its experience with the Boko Haram group, Nigeria understood that more than a military solution was needed to combat extremists. The country had adopted a “soft approach” involving peace, security and development, and multiple stakeholders.
SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela) said that his country paid special attention to the issue of fighting violence and terrorism, and categorically rejected and condemned terrorism in all its forms; it must not be funded or supported with the aim of destabilizing other countries. Youth were victims of a society which was diseased, and therefore, the international community should critically assess the system in which youths lived. Young people accounted for almost a quarter of the world’s population, and millions lived on less than $2 per day. Poverty and exclusion was a way of life for millions of them. Moreover, vast zones of conflict had been created on the global “chessboard” where the affairs of the great Powers were played out; war, violence, intolerance and extremism were often the result. Children, from the very first years of their lives, were exposed to such wars and brutality. Those were later the very same young people who joined violent extremist groups. The question arose of how terrorist groups had such great military capacity, communication capacity and mobility. “We cannot be two-faced about this situation,” he said, urging an immediate end to the flow of weapons and financing to terrorists.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said to harness young people in the fight against violent extremism, religious leaders must be engaged and the root causes of attraction to extremist groups must be addressed. A positive narrative must be conveyed, such as the messages spread by Malala Yousafzai in her campaign for education. Education was central in exposing the lies of the extremists and giving young people the tools to realize their potential. It was true that educated youth, however, could also be prey to the lure of extremism. For that reason, the United Kingdom had taken proactive measures to counter all forms of extremism, including non-violent extremism. The domination of social media by extremists must not go unchallenged and civil society must be engaged. In addition, a credible Council that effectively addressed injustices and society-destroying conflicts was crucial.
VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that “intolerance to violence and extremism” must be instilled in youth using all relevant means, along with the eradication of conditions that bred terrorism, as entire societies were being drawn into chaos because of ongoing conflicts. Incitement to committing terrorist action should be banned, with the Internet controlled for that purpose. In addition, inter-ethnic dialogue to encourage peaceful coexistence should be encouraged and religious leaders must be active in properly defining the spiritual realm. He described a range of goals of Russian programmes to counter extremism, including educational strategies that utilized sports and media. Best national and regional practices to counter violent extremism should be compiled and disseminated. His country was ready to share its experiences with the international community in that way.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said that peace, intercultural harmony and stability were interlinked and were key to achieving an environment conducive to universal values and respect for human dignity. Preserving the multicultural, multi-ethnic and diverse nature of the Middle East was critical. The phenomenon of young people joining radical groups was threatening the building of democratic societies based on tolerance and diversity. Young people’s recruitment was directly linked to social identity crises, and leaders worldwide were urged to address the deep-seated reasons for youth recruitment. The Council had a responsibility to take action. In Western Africa, young people barely 15 years of age had been recruited, including through persuasive social media videos, which should not be available for those purposes. The international community should pay attention to the motivations that led young people to seek fellowship with terrorist organizations, including isolation, exclusion and frustration. Closing income and social status gaps was just as important as promoting equality of opportunity. Chile had promoted the concept of inclusive development with a focus on young people, he said, adding that such strategies should be put in place around the world. Those also should address the issue of gender.
JIM MCLAY (New Zealand), noting the speed with which modern technology enabled the radicalization of youth, said “too often, the damage has been done; the evil has been spread before we even know it.” To tackle the problem, he said, Governments must understand that the real factors motivating young people to follow an extremist path were almost always local. Therefore, the domestic and local pressures that marginalized youth must be identified and how those factors were exploited for recruitment must be understood. Responses must be tailored to those factors. As the “first responders”, families must be supported in their efforts to challenge propaganda, provide leadership and offer credible alternative narratives. Young people must be empowered to create their own social force rejecting violence. While they were the targets of radicalization, they were also well-equipped to combat that messaging. The most effective programmes countering violent extremism harnessed the passion and creativity of youths already collaborating online. Finally, he urged States to contribute to and draw from the experience of others.
LIU JIEYI (China) said that in recent years, terrorism and violent extremism were running rampant in some parts of the world. Young people had become both tools and victims of terrorists. However, they represented the future of the world, and protecting them was a responsibility that lay with the entire international community. Counter-terrorism activities must abide by the principles of the Charter, he stressed, including respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. States must cut off the channels through which terrorist forces propagated their ideologies, including certain Internet and social media channels. States should also remove the root causes that bred terrorist ideology, including poverty and unemployment. The international community must take an active role in development, and the United Nations should help to upgrade the capacities of developing countries in that respect. The dialogue of civilizations was an important tool to help youth reject violence and stay away from extremist ideologies; the international community should therefore support such dialogue and promote the positive interaction between all cultures and communities.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad), associating himself with the statement to be issued by the African Union, said that terrorism today was one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. Condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, he said that understanding the process of radicalization was one of the most important ways to react to the crisis of youth recruitment by terrorists. The conditions that foster their radicalization differed by country, but the main factors included poverty, injustice, inequality, exclusion and the gap between the expectations of an individual and the reality of his or her situation. No religion in the world encouraged its believers to commit violent acts on its behalf; therefore, violent extremism could not be associated with any particular religion or culture. It was critical to prevent terrorists from using propaganda and recruitment tools such as the Internet, social media and television; in that regard, it was appropriate to limit the rights of some individuals. Economic opportunities must be created for groups at risk. In addition, “de-indoctrination” programmes must be implemented, and youth groups must be included in such efforts.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said it defied reason why young people from regular families and safe environments and with little knowledge about the faith they claimed to defend should choose the obscurantist, murderous ideologies of radical extremists and terrorists. There was no one-size-fits-all response to the highly dangerous phenomenon, the speaker said, stressing the need to avoid profiling on religious, ethnic or any other groups. Last year, the United Nations reiterated its concern about the spread of violent extremist ideologies that underpinned the terrorist narrative during its Global Counter Terrorism Strategy review and in Council resolution 2178 (2014) on foreign terrorist fighters. The Organization needed to capitalize on the work already done by the Council’s subsidiary body, the Counter Terrorism Committee. Joint efforts of the United Nations machinery and regional, national and local actors were needed based on the comparative strengths and expertise of each partner. Underscoring the critical role of rule of law institutions, the speaker also pointed to the need for wider engagement with web professionals in the context of flourishing online recruitment. Fostering critical thinking, improving strategic communication and promoting a non-radical and moderate interpretation of religions were important parts of the response.
SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said extremism must be addressed everywhere as it paved the way to terrorism. Keeping youth from “falling into the clutches of terrorism” must be a priority. Egypt’s President had called for the renewal of religious discourse to assure appropriate interpretation of religion. Tolerant solutions were needed and obscurantist views that saw the world divided into two — those who agreed with extremist ideology and infidels — must be avoided. Youth who did not have the ability to interpret for themselves must be informed by those who could. The root causes of extremism must be addressed through cooperation. Noting that more youth from Muslim minorities in the West were joining extremists abroad, he said that those countries must look at their policies for integrating Muslims in their countries.
He said his country had understood the dangers of extremism and terrorism for many years. Nationally, it had adopted initiatives to counter mendacious ideas through events that explained the tolerant views of Islam. The Department of Fatwa had created an observatory to track and expose defective Fatwas. The Government also made efforts to rehabilitate youth and find decent employment for them so that they could benefit from sustainable development. He suggested that the Secretary-General prepare a report on the subject.
MORGAN JOHANSSON, Minister for Justice and Migration of Sweden, speaking also for the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway), said that violent extremism served as a reminder to all continents that exclusion could breed fanaticism among both majority and minority groups. Safeguarding democracy and making societies more resistant to radicalization required local efforts on a global scale, he said, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action for preventing violent extremism. Young people already played a role in that endeavour. More needed to be done to highlight their contribution to peace. The youth dimension needed to be the cornerstone of the Plan.
The strongest counter-narrative to radicalization and terrorism was a firm commitment to democracy, human rights and equality, he said, also emphasizing that economic growth and efforts to manage rapid population growth to alleviate extreme poverty were needed. Efforts must be intensified towards a political solution as well to end the conflict in Syria and actively support United Nations efforts towards a political solution to the crisis in Libya.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) stressed the importance of prevention, noting that it was both a moral obligation and a strategic investment to “turn the tide” of recruitment by violent extremist groups. “We should not be asking ourselves what role youth can have in countering violent extremism and promoting peace; we should be asking how young people themselves can be at the heart of the solution,” he said. Culture and education were the worst enemies of violent extremists, and were the best allies to promote tolerance, inclusiveness and open-mindedness. Human rights must be restored to the centre of the agenda to support the shared values under attack. In defining the post-2015 agenda, the role of socioeconomic development in combating violent extremism must be taken into account. In addition, Governments must engage in public-private partnerships, including with media and civil society, to counter the narrative proposed by violent extremist groups. Finally, the empowerment of youth and youth-oriented organizations was essential to promoting positive role models, responding to violence and delegitimizing extremist messages.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said the issue of countering terrorism and violent extremism had a “galvanizing potential” and the Council had often been able reach consensus on the subject. However, the tools used had often been divisive and counterproductive. Efforts must be consistent with the principles of the United Nations and the norms of international law. While addressing unemployment, marginalization, social inequities, and injustice, which had provided fertile ground for terrorist groups, the world must stand united in support of a dialogue of cultures and religions. Initiatives on youth education also assisted in establishing an environment less prone to radicalization. Expressing concern at the reduction of the United Nations development budget, he said such cuts would impact the campaign against terrorism. Sustained cooperation and dialogue within the United Nations would strengthen the fight.
BHAGWANT SINGH BISHNOI (India) said the absence of State authority was the primary factor that allowed terrorist groups to thrive. Religious fanaticism fuelled the flames of a scourge where youths were the cannon fodder. Countering terrorism and violent extremism was a State responsibility. There were no good or bad terrorists, he said, stressing the role of education in reflecting tolerance and citing the role of India’s textbooks in underscoring the country’s rich diversity. The State should also ensure that social media did not promote hate speech. Ultimately, an open, participatory and democratic system that included the hopes and aspirations of all sections of the population was the best antidote to terrorism.
TÉTE ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer for the African Union, said terrorist groups active in the continent displayed an increased capacity in enlisting youth. In that context, the search for effective counter-terrorism measures also needed to address the conditions that contributed to radicalization and violent extremism. Over the past two decades, relevant policy organs of the Union had adopted a number of instruments to facilitate and promote a coordinated and effective response. Steps had been taken to mobilize member States towards the full and effective implementation of the organization’s normative counter-terrorism framework. The Union had further demonstrated its commitment by holding a special summit of its Peace and Security Council dedicated to terrorism and violent extremism, in Nairobi in September 2014, he said, reiterating the organization’s determination to shoulder its responsibility in the fight.
YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said that the “transformative and potentially explosive power of youth” must be led with the utmost care towards peace, freedom and democracy, not towards war and conflict. There must be close attention, for that purpose, to the frustrations and anger that young people faced from economic difficulties and social repression. In that light, his country had been working towards the empowerment of youth in order to engage them in development, economic growth and the promotion of business. As an example, he described the so-called “TICAD” process supported by Japan, which built capacity of African youth through training and other projects. Following the murder of two citizens of his country by violent extremists in Syria, Japan had announced a policy of assistance to create societies resilient to radicalization by engendering employment opportunities, lessening inequality and supporting educational exchange. His country would continue to work closely with its partners in creating stable and energetic societies worldwide and giving hope to young people.
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), emphasizing that any action against terrorism and violent extremism must be undertaken in full compliance of international law, said the Council’s focus on prevention strategies aimed at young people was well-placed. Poverty and underdevelopment per se were not the root causes of terrorism, she said, adding that inclusion, openness and tolerance were solutions that worked across countries at all levels of development. The search for effective prevention measures could not succeed without finding ways to promote youth employment and gender equality. Censorship was not an answer to the propagation of extremist messages on social media, she said, pointing out that youths themselves should take the lead in promoting messages of amity and tolerance.
IOANNIS VRAILAS European Union delegation, said that the fight against violent extremism would be a long one. “As we focus on immediate threats, we should also think strategically, to our future,” he said. Younger generations were the key to success. The European Union and its member States were actively countering violent extremism and had identified anti-radicalization efforts as one of the main areas in which to concentrate their efforts. Public education was a powerful tool to promote open-mindedness and tolerance in youth. States were also engaging with local communities, civil society groups and the private sector in order to foster resilience and prevent the formation of parallel education networks where extremist ideas might thrive.
He said that European Union member States also supported initiatives aimed at identifying drivers for youth extremism, empowering women, promoting community policing, strengthening local actors and improving media and education capacities to counter radicalizing ideologies. “There is indeed no security possible without the necessary development conditions,” he added. At the United Nations level, better coordination and focus was needed from the relevant entities in the area of preventing terrorism, including the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that while the Council was debating the important agenda in New York, thousands of young people were crossing borders to join terrorist groups, often in connivance with States’ intelligence agencies. Tackling the phenomenon required addressing root causes, which included the flagrant intervention of certain foreign countries in the name of promoting democracy and human rights. Certain regimes that spread distorted messages of religion in their curriculums and espoused barbaric practices were also culpable. The alacrity with which self-proclaimed agents of modernization proceeded to target a particular religious group fuelled the radical agenda. The world must hold accountable all such Governments, including those represented in the Council, if it was truly serious about fighting terrorism and violent extremism.
KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), aligning with the European Union, said children should be taught to celebrate cultural diversity and not to take it as a burden. Many of today’s problems were rooted in the crises of identity, which had been made broader, delocalized and multi-layered by the mobility of people and ideas across international borders, economic globalization and revolutions in information and communications technologies. Fears of the unknown often provided fertile ground for racism, xenophobia, intolerance, human rights violations, and sometimes outright conflicts. To effectively counter the threat of radicalization, the socioeconomic root causes of youth marginalization and susceptibility to violent extremists must be addressed. Governments should facilitate the participation of young people in public life and discourse. Stressing the role of the media in creating dreams and setting examples, she said young people could use that platform to promote tolerance, diversity and respect for one another.
PASCAL BUFFIN (Belgium), associating with the European Union, said there was an alarming increase in radicalization and violent extremism. While the Middle East was the primary victim, other regions, including Europe, were affected. While seeking remedies, care must be taken to ensure full compliance with international law. Actions must be integrated along different levels in full cognizance of complementarities. Schools, civil society, religious groups and other local stakeholders must be trained and strengthened to provide a counter-narrative. The lack of employment and income among young people made them easy prey for extremists, which the post-2015 development agenda must address. As social media itself did not fuel terrorism, greater attention must focus on subsequent interactions and processes.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said her country was facing unprecedented numbers of youth travelling to fight for Da’esh, Al-Qaida, Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups. Although Australia had strengthened laws and boosted resources to prevent terrorist recruitment, those measures alone were not the solution. Youth must be at the centre of countering terrorism and supporting peace. Young people were best placed to deliver positive messages contesting extremist views. Australia was empowering youth to engage in constructive debates through an online magazine called The Point, written by and for young Australians. As most youths were recruited at the local level rather than online, it was also important to focus on the community. Assistance in that area could include empowering youth and other non-governmental organizations to run leadership and mentoring programmes and support youth participation in the arts and sport to enhance equity and inclusion. The Council and all States must remain proactive in using United Nations sanctions to target individuals recruiting youth for terrorism. All of its relevant programmes must take account of the role of youth in countering violent extremism.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand) said the international community must adopt a comprehensive approach addressing the root causes of the problem to protect youth from violence and enhance their role in countering violent extremism. An environment of tolerance for cultural diversity and respect for freedom of belief, thought and expression must be cultivated. Government, academia, civil society and the media could play a role complemented by international efforts such as those of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization and Culture of Peace. Quality education should be universally accessible, particularly for vulnerable groups, and youth must be ensured of decent employment. Governments must also focus on monitoring and countering terrorist and extremist propaganda and recruitment. He also stressed the need to rehabilitate and reintegrate youths returning home after joining terrorist and extremist groups. Finally, he said, regional and international organizations should harness the role of youth in countering terrorism and promoting peace. Towards that end, he urged greater coordination among relevant United Nations bodies.
HEIKO THOMS (Germany), aligning with the European Union, said that while the United Nations system had an important role in countering violent extremism and addressing its root causes, the range of actors needed to be broadened. Military engagement, sanctions and criminal prosecution were part of the solution, but to stop recruitment and lead young people back to society, prevention measures and de-radicalization were even more important. Both aspects were crucial to Germany’s counter-terrorism response. As an example of the country’s comprehensive approach he cited the “Live Democracy” programme, which set up regional prevention networks, advised former members of radical communities and funded civil society institutions active in the fight against extremism. Those institutions encouraged young people to stand up against extremist ideas and to assist affected peers. Noting that cooperation was crucial at the international level, he said that Germany worked with partners to counter enabling conditions for extremism worldwide through initiatives in Africa and the Middle East.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), associating with the European Union, stressed the need to ramp up efforts to prevent the radicalization of youths. Luxembourg was working at the continental and national levels on ways to achieve that objective. To effectively address the rise of violent extremism, greater investment must be made in the young. The link between violent extremism and socioeconomic woes was rooted in that between peace, security and rights. Luxembourg’s development cooperation had a special focus on youth education and employment, and her Government had been working to ensure that the post-2015 development agenda fully addressed the concerns of that important group.
AHMED SAREER (Maldives) denounced ISIS’s acts, which were fuelling narratives of violence and promoting radicalism among youth. “We will not let Islam, a religion of peace and compassion, be hijacked by radical extremist elements to perpetuate hatred and violence,” he said. Youth, especially those searching for a sense of belonging, purpose and identity, were vulnerable to manipulation by those with violent agendas or ideologies. As party to the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, his country opposed the recruitment of children and urged States to prevent it. The Government was committed to paving the way for youth involvement in building the nation and creating socioeconomic opportunities for them. To bring young people back from the frontlines to classrooms, a long-term game plan was needed, which included investing in education and creating opportunities for young people to find meaning and purpose in other pursuits and to build strong, supportive communities.
ADRIAN MICHAEL SOLLBERGER (Switzerland) stressed that violent extremism was a security imperative that called for a preventive approach and a broad societal response. The grievances of those vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment by terrorist groups must be addressed, he said, adding that young people must be provided with a choice, a sense of belonging and a purpose in life. Switzerland’s efforts to prevent radicalization at home were shaped by a bottom-up solution designed to empower people and local communities, in which communal and regional authorities and civil society actors, including religious organizations, played an active role. That approach also informed Switzerland’s foreign policy approach, which included a wide range of relevant development and peacebuilding measures contributing to countering violent extremism. Expressing concern about counter-terrorism measures criminalizing humanitarian action or any contact with armed groups considered to be extremist, he said legislation should sufficiently recognize that some of the alleged “terrorists” could be under the age of 18.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said the international community had expressed its collective determination to combat international terrorism by addressing the root cases. This entrusted the world with the joint responsibility of finding effective solutions. Terrorism had not emerged from “nowhere”, she said, stressing the need to promote opportunities for youth in the areas of education and employment. A comprehensive framework for the eradication of extremism and terrorism needed to be pursued with greater commitment considering the multiple crises gripping the Middle East. The youth had always been the prime movers of change and needed to be mobilized in this agenda.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the world continued to view with alarm the multidimensional threats terrorism posed to international peace and security. Education was the most important cross-cutting investment that could be made in youth. Ensuring that youth enjoyed genuine free and fair access to information and communications technology would help them become key drivers of and influential participants in a rapidly evolving platform. In that regard, fostering youth-created content would go a long way in articulating their hopes and aspirations into a vital counter-narrative. Costa Rica’s decision to abolish its standing army allowed it to deploy resources in a knowledge-based economy that would encourage ways of peaceful coexistence.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that healthy young people would create a healthy society so it was critical to stand against the “deadly virus” of extremism that threatened them. To counter it, he called for universal education for both boys and girls and programmes to prevent dropping out of school, which left young people particularly vulnerable. The most serious challenge in the Arab world, he stressed, was providing 80 million jobs by 2020. To counter distorted ideologies, his country had created a training centre for religious leaders. Media must also be well utilized to combat radicalization. He expressed his country’s support for initiatives that targeted young people as well as for the proposed appointment of a representative of the Secretary-General focused on combatting violent extremism.
KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya), associating with the African Group, welcomed the Council’s efforts to counter violent extremism, noting that her country had experienced attacks targeting youth, mainly by Al-Shabaab, such as the recent massacre at a University in Garissa. Reducing hopelessness and marginalization, with the engagement of youth, could help curb radicalization. Youths must be seen as agents for countering extremism, and for that purpose must be assisted with tools and resilience. In Kenya, adequate education was most important for that purpose, nurturing talents and encouraging tolerance. Economic priorities included employment, attention to communications technologies and services delivery at the grassroots level. Youth services aimed to strengthen values of citizenship and targeted at-risk youth, and partnerships had been formed with religious and community leaders.
CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon) said youth were to be found on both sides of terrorist activities. They were targeted in their schools, universities and homes in Palestine, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Central Africa and Kenya, and were targeting journalists and tourists in France, Tunisia, Sweden and Belgium. That alarming phenomenon emphasized that terrorist attacks transcended borders and were not limited to one country, religion or ethnicity. Prevention started on school benches and continued throughout the social mobility chain. Education was pivotal in strengthening the resilience of future generations and should promote critical thinking that would help fight bigotry and stereotyping. In addition, efforts were needed to challenge the attraction of extremists and intolerant religious figures. The United Nations should continue to work relentlessly to address the root causes of terrorism and to fully implement strategies highlighting the links between peace and development.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said the rise of violent extremism had a direct correlation with conflicts and disputes, foreign intervention and occupation, religious, racial and ethnic discrimination or persecution, and social and economic inclusion. As it considered the social and economic dimensions of the phenomenon, the Council must intensify its own efforts to address those longstanding conflicts and disputes. When economic opportunity failed to keep pace with demographics, young people became particularly vulnerable to extremist narratives. Therefore, the economic empowerment of youth must be a major component of any strategy. Pakistan was pursuing a comprehensive approach that comprised law enforcement, education and social and economic development. The United Nations, with its expertise, on-ground experience and unique convening power, could play a leading role in developing a comprehensive strategy.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said there was a paradoxical situation in relation to Islam and the West. On the one hand, there was the expansion of extremism and terrorism, which many western capitals saw as being waged in villages in some Islamic countries. On the other, Islamophobia was spreading across the West and implanting hatred and fear in its fabric. The Supreme Leader of Iran had called upon youth to free themselves from this imposed and destructive quandary. Neither terrorists nor the fear-mongering media that propagated their ideology represented Islam. Iranians, especially youths, had been most immune when it came to the propaganda and recruitment of violent extremists. President Hassan Rouhani’s comprehensive agenda for a world against violent extremism, adopted by the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session, provided a path to combat extremism and empower the young.
MARTIN SAJDIK (Austria) said that at a time when the population of young people worldwide had reached an all-time record, extremist groups were globally recruiting ever-younger foreign fighters. Therefore, Governments needed to continue to support efforts aimed at addressing the underlying factors that led to the radicalization of youth. Furthermore, young people needed to know that they had the right to participate in decision-making processes within society and must be encouraged to do so. Innovative mechanisms should be used to reach young people to counter messages of hate with those of hope. Civil society organizations must be supported to create the space for learning opportunities for youth and partnerships must be strengthened with the private sector. The ultimate goal must be to prevent the emergence of a new generation of terrorists.
OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said that preventing young people from falling into the grip of violent extremism was one of the most pressing security challenges facing the world today. “Yet, the difficulty is that there can be no single, one-size-fits-all solution to this multifaceted problem,” he said. The motivation behind youth radicalization varied by society, and diverse factors were involved; preventing radicalization would therefore require an equally diverse and multidimensional approach. A clear understanding was needed about why Internet and social media messages had such an appeal to young people. Simply shutting down websites and suspending Facebook accounts would not bring about the desired results. Effective, persuasive messages must be developed and disseminated that would convince young people that the ideologies promoted by extremist propagandists were false and empty promises. Also important was community engagement and “delving deeper” to address the social gaps and maladies that allowed violent extremism to take root.
IVANA PAJEVIĆ (Montenegro), associating with the European Union, said that as many States had predominantly young populations, it was a demographic and democratic imperative for young people to be active participants in decision-making and treated as a vital asset for society. Providing youth with the right educational tools for crisis prevention and peacebuilding had a positive impact on their development and helped to bring about more sustainable peace. Moreover, realizing young people’s human rights could influence the social and economic conditions, well-being and livelihood of future generations. Only by approaching the issue of violent extremism and promoting peace in that way could there be lasting global peace.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER, United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, said placing the world’s young people at the forefront of United Nations counter-terrorism efforts was crucial at a preventive level and in post-conflict situations. Peaceful and inclusive societies could not be sustainably built without the participation and engagement of the young people. The Council had spearheaded the world’s thinking on a number of critical matters, from the role of women and peace and security to the plight of children affected by armed conflicts to the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence. For youth, however, the international community still lacked a comprehensive position, holistic policy, commitments, priorities or responsibilities.
The Alliance of Civilizations complemented the efforts of other United Nations bodies and Member States through practical projects and activities, he said. Research suggested that a higher risk of violent conflict existed in countries where youth bulge coincided with periods of long-term economic decline, limited educational and employment opportunities, exclusion and deprivation. Most young people did not engage in violence unless they were taught to do so by older ones, even in conflict settings. The world must look beyond stereotypes and general assumptions and examine the underlying factors through human-centred approaches. He stressed the need to partner with young people to assert positive group identities and sweep the rug from underneath extremists who tried to provide them with one.
Y. HALIT ÇEVIK (Turkey) said that it was necessary to take robust measures to stop young people from travelling to conflict zones as required by a recent Council resolution. Turkey had enhanced border controls, established a no-entry list and taken other steps for that purpose, but the struggle could not be carried on by that country alone. International cooperation and information sharing was crucial. The multiple trips to Syria of a United States citizen before he participated in a suicide bombing presented a grim reminder of the need for close cooperation. The first step in addressing youth radicalization was understanding and eradicating conditions conducive to its spread, from under-development to feelings of discrimination. Marginalization, protracted conflicts, violations of human rights and lack of good governance were other possible factors that must be addressed in a holistic approach. Empowerment of youth and their protection against abuse of modern communication were essential, as was curbing intolerance through such initiatives as the Alliance of Civilizations, which Turkey co-sponsored.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), aligning with the statement made by the European Union, fully supported the vision presented by the meeting’s concept paper. Utter disrespect for international law and human rights in domestic affairs had significantly contributed to the erosion of trust between peoples and had played a pivotal role in the rise of violent extremism and the radicalization of youth. He cited Russian aggression against its neighbours, Georgia and Ukraine, as an example of that phenomenon, stating that State-run media had been encouraging extreme forms of nationalism in both cases. On the Middle East, he condemned all acts of terrorism and stressed the danger posed by ISIL and similar groups. Reporting amendments to domestic legal policy to counter extremism in his country, he added that more was needed at the national and international level to address root causes conducive to the spread of extremism.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), aligning with the statement made by the European Union, said that his country’s policy to strengthen the role of youth in countering extremism aimed to enhance the effectiveness of parents, schools and the social environment for that purpose at all levels. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism got special attention. Cooperation between schools, municipalities, police, civil society and political and religious groups was encouraged. At the international level, the country supported European, United Nations and civil society efforts to counter violent extremism. As an important part of the effort, he called for better inclusion of youth in formulating and implementing the post-2015 development agenda, urging united work for “a future where the youth of today shall wield the tools of peace, justice and development instead of the arms of hatred and terror.”
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that a fundamental step in addressing the radicalization of young people was to support the family in its efforts to educate children and young people in the values of dialogue and respect for others. That would better equip them to resist what appeared at first to be attractive calls to a “higher cause” and to “adventure” with extremist groups. Fostering public debate encouraged young people to air their frustrations before they succumbed to extremist ideologies and could assist States to articulate policies accordingly. Balanced public policy also played a key role in integrating immigrants into society, he said, noting the need for policies discouraging xenophobia and racism. They also contributed to the observance of healthy religious and sociocultural values. Indeed, religion was a potent part of those value systems. Policies and education that minimized or eliminated the faith component of individual and collective identities could leave the young disoriented, alienated, marginalized or excluded and prone to the message of extremist groups. Extremist recruiters could be countered through young people themselves as trusted voices, respected among their peers, on the very platforms used to recruit new members.
VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia), associating with the European Union, cited a performance by Croatian students who protested the deaths of Kenyans massacred earlier this month as an example of how youth could be at the core of the solution for violent extremism by raising awareness with their peers of the need for a tolerant, peaceful world. In order for them to play that role, however, they must be able to develop their full potential, for which purposeful education was paramount. They must also feel safe and be allowed to be heard and acquire intercultural competencies. In addition, they must have jobs. Only with a holistic, multidisciplinary approach that includes adequate development policies and legislative frameworks and the engagement of all stakeholders could terrorism be fought and peace built in a sustainable manner.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMA (Malta), associating with the European Union, said a better understanding of the needs, aspirations and circumstances of young people was an essential tool to counter violent extremism and promote peace. The best way to achieve that was through education, including in tolerance and non-discrimination. The Government’s national youth policy framework for 2015-2020 aimed to support young people in fulfilling their potential and aspirations while addressing their concerns, and to assist them as responsible citizens, fully participating in and contributing to the social, economic and cultural life of the nation and Europe. Among an array of programmes aimed to empower youth and support the social inclusion of minorities were those promoting integration and awareness and tolerance between different sectors of Maltese society, including refugees and migrants. Malta also hosted the International Institute on Justice and the Rule of Law, established last June, which aimed to counter violent extremism through rule of law and criminal justice. It offered training to a wide range of justice sector stakeholders.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said that youth discontent and radicalism today arose, in particular, from a sense of hopelessness and poverty. The stark statistics of unemployment called for a coordinated regional and global effort to generate job-creating economies by the United Nations system and its country teams together with regional groups. Those measures must be translated at the national level. In that regard, his country had adopted a national “Roadmap to Employment”, which enabled youth across the country to have free education, vocational training through intensive job creation, entrepreneurship and microcredit. There were also provisions for health care, including mental health, social facilities and housing for young people to ensure social stability. His country had launched a national programme entitled, “Countering Religious Extremism and Terrorism for 2013-2017”, allocating some $600 million for preventive measures. The Government had also developed a counter-narrative approach in its numerous activities to dissuade youth from using violence to serve extremist causes.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS GRANT (Canada) welcomed the opportunity to share measures that his country was taking to stem the radicalization of its youth, as well as to learn of the best practices and other information shared by other countries. Addressing violent extremism demanded comprehensive action on many fronts and across Government departments. On the legislative front, Canada had introduced an anti-terrorism act that criminalized promotion of terrorism and provided for the ability to remove terrorist propaganda from domestic web servers. At all levels, in addition, there were concerted and sustained efforts to build resilient communities and engage young people in meaningful ways, through outreach, research and the use of Government-wide intervention capabilities. Canada’s development assistance supported projects to ensure safe environments for youth and create opportunities for them.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), associating with the European Union, said that “this reality check is bleak and painful.” The year 2014 had been a devastating one for millions of children and 2015 was no better. Intra-State conflicts fuelled by ethnic, religious or other differences or grievances had increased, with often violent and disastrous consequences. Terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida, ISIL, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram had taken full advantage of the overall security situation in different parts of the world and were successfully managing to indoctrinate children with extremist ideology. Economic hardship, delusion, exclusion, discrimination and marginalization, especially among the vulnerable and disadvantaged, would inevitably lead individuals, in particular youths, to become easy targets for violent extremists. Countering that problem must bring together good governance, rule of law, respect for human rights across the board, sustainable economic growth with opportunities for all, accountable institutions and the involvement of youth and women, as well as education.
MUHAMMAD ANSHOR (Indonesia) said that addressing social or economic conditions of youth must be followed by a comprehensive programme to fight the philosophies of hatred and intolerance, which led people to extremism. Indonesia followed a two-track approach in that regard: a hard approach entailing law enforcement measures, and a soft approach seeking to influence the hearts and minds of people. Sharing a number of lessons learned, he said that it was necessary to prioritize the building of a resilient community, one which was outward-looking, receptive to new ideas, and sought the good of all. It was also critical to foster dialogue which contributed to reducing suspicion and intolerance and enhancing understanding. Next, it was important to strengthen the network of dialogue to spread the culture of peace and tolerance at all levels — regionally as well as globally. In that context, existing frameworks within the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations should be strengthened, in particular by intensifying the activities under the youth pillar. Prolonged and unresolved conflicts could create situations that were conducive to the spread of extreme and radical views. History showed that terrorist groups had exploited such situations to recruit and groom new converts; such was the situation today in the Middle East and Africa.
BOGUSŁAW WINID (Poland), associating with the European Union, said that a holistic approach was needed to adequately address the challenge of radicalism. The focus must be on education and promoting interreligious dialogue to counter the so-called “clash of civilizations” being spread by extremists. He commended counter-radicalization strategies such as the one implemented by Morocco, which included an innovative programme for training imams and which addressed the root causes of extremism. A long-term effort was needed to limit youth involvement in violent extremism. Noting the direct link between security, development and education, he called for better coordination among all United Nations bodies active in the field and said the Council and the international community must do more to end the conflicts destabilizing the Middle East and fuelling radicalism.
CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal) said that young people absorbed and reflected socioeconomic and political realities. The response to the nexus between youth and violent extremism required an understanding of the specific framework of their insertion, especially when living in societies under stress, along with the complexities of the transition to adulthood. Absence of kinship and belonging, alienation and disenfranchisement of youth left them more susceptible to violent extremism. The present debate and the fight against the scourge of violent extremism must go beyond the paradigm of the war on terrorism and involve a preventive policy model with a human rights-based approach. It required a comprehensive and multidimensional approach to the underlying factors of the threat, such as poor living conditions, limited or unequal access to education, lack of employment or sustainable livelihood, social exclusion and inequality, weak political participation, previous exposure to violence and lack of public safety and security. His country had been a firm supporter of the United Nations Youth Agenda and strongly believed that the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted 20 years ago, continued to offer the response to the serious challenges faced today by the young population, as it provided Member States with practical guidelines for action at the national level and a blueprint for global support.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said that in the Middle East the unresolved and brutal conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, as well as the longstanding Israeli occupation, had led to further violence and fractured the global security order. “These crises have left political vacuums, which have exacerbated extremism, leading to spill-over effects that have destabilized the entire region,” she said. Da’esh exploited all of the factors described during today’s debate to draw young people to them in order to wage war against civilians. Inflicting human suffering in the name of religion was a clear violation of Islamic teaching and doctrine, she stressed, adding that deeper research was required to identify and address the full range of drivers of extremism. Her country had implemented a comprehensive strategy which rested on the following pillars: supporting the equal right to education, including for girls, and encouraging critical thinking; building a knowledge economy that promoted innovation and prepared young people for the modern labour market; and encouraging youth to take leadership and greater responsibilities in all areas. The strategy also focused on denying the use of social media as a propaganda and recruitment tactic.
HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) said that to effectively prevent, protect and reintegrate youth across societies, a better understanding of triggers and catalysts for extremism was needed. Some common factors included: protracted conflicts and foreign military occupation; a broader lack of opportunities, in particular socioeconomic deprivation; racism and intolerance; and ignorance. With the global youth population growing quickly, it was more critical than ever to design response measures that enabled them to become productive, rather than destructive, members of their communities. In that context, Azerbaijan had hosted the first-ever Global Forum on Youth Policies in October 2014. The event was organized on the initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General in partnership with his Special Envoy on Youth, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Council of Europe. The Forum had adopted the “Baku Commitment to Youth Policies”, which called, among other things, for further promotion and support for the implementation of the World Programme for Action on Youth, establishing a global initiative on youth policies, and fostering partnerships that enabled inclusive and multi-stakeholder involvement in youth policies.
IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), agreeing on the need to place youth at the centre of the global agenda to counter violent extremism, said it was particularly important to combat the propaganda in media to which they were vulnerable. In that context, he expressed alarm over what he called Soviet-style propaganda that was one of the key elements of ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine. Such propaganda worked effectively on young people. He relayed reports of the participation of teenagers in what he called pro-Russian terrorist gangs in certain areas of eastern Ukraine. He added that there was testimony of Russian-supported groups promising to annul criminal records or repay loans to recruit young people. His country was ready to actively contribute to international efforts to combat propaganda of intolerance and hate, including a mechanism to expose it and keep it from spreading in real time.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said it was necessary to address economic inequality, poverty, marginalization, unemployment and other factors that contributed to an environment conducive to radicalization of youth. For that purpose, it was important to invest in young people in order to allow them to enjoy all their rights and to participate in decisions that concerned them. Also important was investing in human security to enhance the resilience of populations in general, and fostering public-private partnerships toward an economy that created jobs. He expressed hope that the post-2015 development programme would promote progress in those areas and in related sectors such as education. States must end practices of exclusion and corruption and help young people realize their potential and have faith in the political systems of their countries. The international community must help provide means for such endeavours to help preserve peace and democratic society. In that effort, Benin was organizing the African initiative for peace education and development through interreligious dialogue, and he called for the support of the full international community to ensure that initiative bore fruit.
Taking the floor a second time, the representative of the Russian Federation, responding to the delegate from Ukraine, said that last year, a number of fighters had intentionally used Ukraine for a violent coup d’état. There was a rise of nationalism and intolerance in that country, he said, adding that the Ukrainian authorities were intentionally creating a climate of xenophobia and intolerance. Those who had fought on the side of the fascists in World War II were declared heroes; in 1949, those so-called heroes had adopted a document committing Ukraine to work closely with the Nazi party. Those were the views that were in Ukraine today, and those people that did not agree were called enemies. There had been a wave of killings of journalists and dissidents. Extremism was spreading in Ukraine under a climate of impunity. Ukrainian youth could hardly avoid xenophobic or nationalistic views, and it had become a regular practice to spread hate speech. The list of examples went on and on; however, given the late hour, he appealed to the delegate of the Ukraine and other Council members to deal seriously with the situation in that country.
Mr. YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said that the full extent of what the Russian representative was calling extremism in the Ukraine consisted of 2 parties out of 29 in the country, both of which garnered miniscule percentages of parliamentary vote. He recalled the pact that the Soviet Union had signed with Nazi Germany and a recent meeting of ultra-nationalist European parties in Saint Petersburg, about which Jewish organizations had strenuously complained, as neo-Nazis and Holocaust “deniers” had been included. “Compared to this, what kind of fascism are we talking about?” he asked.