UNDP: “Young people are key to preventing violent extremism”

Young people are key to preventing violent extremism, says new the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

NEW YORK – Young people are key to the prevention of violent extremism and must be involved as partners in developing and implementing policies which effectively counter the growth of extremism, according to a new report by UNDP.

The report, Frontlines: Young people at the forefront of preventing and responding to violent extremism, calls for more investment in ensuring systematic participation of young people in decision-making and governance, and for them to play proactive roles in communities and society at large.

The report was based on a global survey of youth, focus group discussions with young people on their aspirations and perceptions, a series of in-depth interviews with practitioners, and case studies from the field. The report was supported by the Government of Norway.

The global survey indicated an increased and substantive youth participation in initiatives contributing to the prevention of violent extremism. While encouraging, this momentum has yet to be translated into significant policy influence and systematic support for youth participation on the ground, the report found.

The report identifies the lack of meaningful consultation with youth in PVE initiatives and the lack of funding for youth initiatives as the top challenges for young people. Also, the potential sensitivities and risks both in the context of violent extremism and in the response, and the need for better coordination with youth organisations, movements and networks were commonly cited challenges, by both youth and non-youth actors in the report.

“If the object of policy and programming is ultimately to design and support effective approaches to prevent violent extremism while upholding human rights standards, then it is vital that we better understand and nurture youth-led action on the ground,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. “The report aims to support a paradigm shift in thinking about youth’s role in PVE in order to find more effective approaches. The standout message from Frontlines is that youth must take a front and centre role to prevent and respond to violent extremism.”

The key findings also reflect that initiatives focusing on young women have been less common, and there are significant gaps between groups who are engaged and those who respondents believed should be engaged.

“Even though young people are joining violent extremist groups more than any other age demographic, evidence shows that the vast majority of youth neither fall prey to the tactics of terrorists, nor are participating in violence. On the contrary, young people are our biggest hope and, rather than downplaying their overwhelmingly positive role, we should build on their aspirations and prodigious efforts to build resilience and social cohesion,” states Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.

UNDP calls for a stronger partnership and a more coherent approach, through this comprehensive and global research, to pursue a powerful youth-inclusive approach to prevent and respond to violent extremism, including through enhanced inter-agency collaboration and youth organizations.

The report also makes an important contribution to the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2250 and 2419 on Youth, Peace and Security, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and the United Nations Youth Strategy (“Youth 2030”).

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