On 16 June, 2015, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, spoke at the International Conference on “Youth and the Internet: Fighting Radicalization and Extremism,” held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.

In his remarks, the UN Youth Envoy stressed that “today’s young people live with the growing threat of violence and armed conflict,” noting that 40 percent of those living in fragile and conflict-affected states globally are youth.

“Over the past decade, the world’s attention has increasingly shifted onto terrorism and violent extremism. This has resulted sometimes in a misguided and false perception of youth as a “threat” to global and national security,” stressed Alhendawi.

Attended by more than 250 officials, experts, academics, youth activists, civil society leaders and media representatives from all parts of the world, the conference served as a launch of UNESCO’s new integrated Framework of Action – Empowering Youth to Build Peace.

“While ICTs have opened incredible opportunities, the same technology that facilitates such communication can be easily utilized and exploited for the purposes of violent extremism,” noted Alhendawi stressing that “the vast reach of ICTs provides extremist recruiters with a global pool of potential recruits. These recruiters are able to adapt their messages to certain sectors of the targeted audience, including minors and young adults nursing sentiments of injustice, exclusion, or humiliation.”

UNESCO’s Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova said that we must “build the defences of peace in the minds of young women and men, and this must start also online, by mobilizing the full power of the Internet for peace.”

The conference focused on the central role that internet plays in the lives of young people, opening vast new opportunities for connecting and learning. At the same time recognizing that the Internet provides violent extremists with powerful tools to propagate hatred and violence and to identify and groom potential recruits, creating global online communities that promote radicalization, that promote hatred, intolerance as well as new forms of racism.

“Manipulative messages of violent extremists are effectively spread over Twitter, YouTube and other social media, attracting young people in search of purpose and adventure. Between September and December of last year, nearly 50,000 Twitter handles supported ISIS with an average of 1,000 followers each,” said Alhendawi.

“Indeed The United Nations is very concerned by the spread of violent extremist groups and the hateful ideologies that promote violence and terrorism around the world. While working with and for youth remains a priority of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, we are now expanding that focus to include young people’s role in countering violent extremism and the promotion of peace.”

In August, the Office of the UN Youth Envoy will co-organize, together with UNDP, PBSO, UNFPA, SFC and UNOY, the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security, hosted by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Forum will offer a unique platform to build a holistic look at the broader agenda related to youth, peace and security, and mark a new global shift towards this agenda by harnessing political will and provide a framework for action.

“Today’s youth generation has proven over and overthat with proper investments and empowerment they have all the necessary credentials and tools to build lasting peace. We must rise to their expectations and work together not to fail them.”

Read full remarks by the UN Youth Envoy Here: UNESCO Remarks 16 June 2015