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UN Youth Outreach Aims to Prevent Radicalization

  • Margaret Besheer

There are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 on the planet, more than ever before. Most live in developing countries. Many are poor, uneducated and unemployed, putting them at risk of recruitment into militias and terrorist groups like the Islamic State.

“We all recognize today that young people are more vulnerable to the recruitment of these radical groups, and we have to change our approach by engaging young people as partners in fighting violent extremism," said Ahmad Alhendawi, U.N. special envoy on youth. "We need to fix the narrative as well, because the negative labeling of young people as part of the problem should stop.”

In a Security Council resolution adopted unanimously on Wednesday to a rare round of applause, countries were called upon to better protect youth in conflict zones and encourage their participation in postconflict peace processes. The resolution also stressed the importance of addressing factors that lead to the rise of violent radicalism.

Jordan’s delegation drafted the text. Dina Kawar, the country's U.N. ambassador, said, "There’s a need to step up the level of work to ensure sustainable development so youth are not just a tool for destruction, but something that helps construction.”

That means giving young people — especially those in war zones — alternatives, including access to education, vocational training and job opportunities.

It also involves social media outreach. "We know that there are almost 50,000 Twitter accounts with ISIS affiliates — almost 90,000 tweets every day being sent by ISIS supporters," Alhendawi said. "We have to win the battle online and offline by engaging young people.”

With its resolution, the council is recognizing that today’s youth will be shaping tomorrow’s world, and that if it is to be a peaceful and prosperous one, they must have a hand in creating it.