First of all, I would like to thank President Lykketoft for convening today in the GA this High Level Thematic Conversation on Children and Youth affected by Violent Extremism.
I would also like to command the Government of Qatar, represented today by H.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, for taking this initiative in support of children and youth.
Today’s event is a great opportunity to continue the discussion, started under the Jordanian Presidency of the Security Council, on the Role of Youth in Countering Violent Extremism and Promoting Peace. This led to the historic adoption of Security Council resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security. This landmark resolution is in my view the “youth equivalent” of the landmark resolution 1325 on women and security. I think it will play the same historic role.
Children and youth have been tragically and massively affected by violent extremism in recent years.
This is one of the main reasons why the Secretary-General has made the prevention of violent extremism one of his highest priorities. And that is why he presented his Plan of Action to the General Assembly in January.
Let me remind you of some background facts.
Today, 46 per cent of the world’s population is under the age of 25. Africa and the Middle East have the highest proportions of young people, often around 60 percent of the population.
Young people are disproportionately affected by inequality, marginalization and not least by unemployment. In Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, for instance, which I visited some time ago, the youth unemployment rate is estimated at 70 percent.
With these figures and facts in mind, we should understand that young people may be vulnerable to the lure of violent extremists, who offer them a salary, a sense of belonging, and a promise of glory.
But we need to put this into a more positive perspective.
The vast majority of young people abide by the law and have aspirations for better and peaceful lives for themselves, their families and their communities.
Children and youth represent promises – not perils. They should be seen as a potential – not a problem.
We need to engage and empower our young people. We should not only work for young people – we should work with them. They are subjects, not objects. We have a duty to unleash the great potential of young people to promote peace, development, justice and understanding.
That is why the Secretary-General has taken the initiative to appoint the UN’s first Envoy for Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi.
And many other young people are already at the forefront of efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism.
Young leaders from across the world prepared the Youth Action Agenda to Prevent Violent Extremism and Promote Peace at the Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism. They also made invaluable contributions to the Amman Youth Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security last year.
There are countless youth groups that want to wage peace and fight injustice. We must support them in these pursuits.
In taking up these causes, which rendre meaning to their lives, young people require our protection against the siren songs and heinous acts of violent extremists.
They risk ending up being victims – being preyed on and exploited, or being attacked by violent extremists for insisting on exercising their human rights.
These extremist groups are systematically recruiting children and young people through social media and peer-to-peer networking. They use financial incentives, fear-mongering and coercion.
These groups often massively violate the rights of women and girls through sexual enslavement, forced marriage and denial of their rights to education and participation in public life.
We must do much more to counter these forces of evil and division.
In many parts of the world, children and young people urgently need not only our protection. They also need tangible opportunities for meaningful engagement, meaningful lives and not least jobs. We need to give them hope and faith in the future. We need to find ways to channel their talents, dreams and aspirations.
Preventing violent extremists will not be possible just through traditional institutional arrangements. We must recognize the communications revolution taking place in today’s world.
Today’s young people are inherently better communicators. Just look at your children and grandchildren.
They have unprecedented skills of networking.
They have an almost unlimited access to information.
We need a comprehensive approach to address their needs and aspirations.
We must foster trust between decision makers and youth. We need to integrate young women and men into decision-making at the local and national levels. Through dialogue, inclusion and good governance, our children and young people can become the empowered citizens they strive to be and deserve to be.
We must also fight discrimination and exclusion, which often underlie the grievances that lead to radicalization and violence. Guaranteeing human rights and the rule of law is not only an objective in itself, it is also essential for the prevention of violent extremism.
We can -- and must -- deliver the indivisible fundamental civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights embraces and that global citizenship builds on.
We must better and more effectively communicate our common values of peace and justice. We must stand together against the intolerance and hatred which is spread by extremist groups.
This month, the UN Peacebuilding Fund launched the Youth Promotion Initiative. It offers youth organizations financial support to implement their own peacebuilding projects. The Fund is currently operating in 15 countries to advance Security Council Resolution 2250.
The UN is also working with our Country Teams around the world as well as with our political and peacekeeping missions to make sure that young people are engaged as partners in their work.
In the spirit of the United Nations Charter, we must act now to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to live lives in larger freedom.
I hope that we can come together and forge a consensus outcome in the UN General Assembly on the review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Prevention of Violent Extremism Plan of Action.
This would demonstrate collective action and send a clear message to violent extremists and terrorists around the world. No matter what religion, faith, or ethnicity we represent, we must all be united in our common humanity. Much is at stake in today’s world and the most important word in today’s world is together.
My message today is that we must harness the idealism, energy and innovative power of youth.
We must empower the young to reject the messengers of hate and fear.
Let us be inspired by our youth. And let us inspire them by giving them opportunity and hope for the future.
Let us do our utmost to make their dreams and aspirations realities.