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Youth And Preventing Violent Extremism

What is the role of youth in preventing violent extremism?

Although there is no universally agreed definition of violent extremism, according to UNESCO, this term refers to the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals.

This can include terrorism and other forms of politically motivated violence.

Suffering from marginalization, unemployment, and poverty, young people are particularly vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups, which explains why many activities aimed at the prevention of violent extremism (PVE) specifically target youth. For the same reasons, historically, youth have been perceived as perpetrators or victims of extremist violence and were neglected when it was time to organize high-level peace efforts.

However, with the rise of the Youth, Peace, and Security agenda, it was acknowledged that young people play a crucial role in the implementation of the PVE work. They are now widely recognized as those best positioned to promote a culture of tolerance among their peers by engaging, supporting and encouraging them so they are better equipped to interact positively with the world around them.

More in depth…

PVE programs can be implemented by a variety of actors using methods ranging from formal education to sports and art to promote justice, equality, respect, and recognition. However, such interventions are not meant to forcibly impose a narrative of peace, empathy, and kindness, but to provide as many opportunities as possible for those qualities to emerge organically.

Young people contribute to the PVE in many different ways, including, for example through:

● PVE online/offline advocacy and awareness-raising, including through media messaging campaigns, awareness-raising events, leadership training, or workshops and dialogues with young people designed to raise their awareness against the appeals of violent extremism groups and promote tolerance, diversity and peace;
● Art and cultural activities which can help young people to express their identity, experiences and emotions, and serve as a communication tool connecting different groups and individuals;
● Sport activities, which can help build bridges between different groups, cultures and religions by promoting intergroup cooperation and uniting diverse participants in achieving a common goal;
● Volunteering and service learning projects, which encourage skill development, empowerment, and civic engagement of young people, simultaneously responding to community needs;
● Employment and entrepreneurship initiatives, which can connect young people to jobs or support their small- and medium-sized enterprises, thus helping to expand young people’s opportunities and reduce material and social drivers of violent extremism;
● Development of online content, including videos, games and learning resources to facilitate intercultural dialogue, exchange between different groups and provide knowledge about diverse cultures, peoples and histories.

Good practice: Online gaming for PVE

Online games can be an effective way to bridge the gap between young people of different backgrounds, to counter stigma and stereotypes, and to promote cooperation between players of different cultures, religions and ethnic groups. Games for Peace is a platform dedicated to bridging divides among young people from Israel, Palestine, and several Middle Eastern countries through popular video games with added elements of communication and
cooperation. It helps to develop trust and friendship among children and young people from conflicting territories, thus promoting tolerance, acceptance and contributing to peace.

Where can I learn more?

For more information, check out:

Young People And Peacebuilding

What role do young people play in peacebuilding?