UN Secretary-General António Guterres has declared that “young people are leaders of today” contrary to the age-long reference to them as “leaders of tomorrow”.
The Secretary-General said at a UN forum tagged: “Investing in Youth to Counter Terrorism,” said youth globally must be empowered to combat terrorism.
Speakers at the event said young people were prime targets of extremist recruiters but they could also play leadership roles in fighting terrorism and creating greater opportunities for all.
He said: “I do not agree that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. More and more, they are the leaders of today.
“I thank all the young women and men who are stepping up and assuming those responsibilities.
“Nearly half the world’s population – 46 per cent – is 24 years-old or younger. Africa and the Middle East have the highest proportions of young people.”
Guterres emphasised that youth have a voice and a place at the table, adding: “More than that, we must be prepared to go to their table, sit down and listen.”
He said the radicalisation of young people was a source of deep concern in rich and poor countries alike, as poisonous ideas flowed across borders at the touch of a button or the tap of a tweet.
He warned that terrorist groups exploit social, economic and political injustices to entice young people through false propaganda that glorifies distorted ideologies.
The UN chief added that unscrupulous recruiters used social media to lure unsuspecting teenagers down dangerous roads.
Guterres observed that “violent extremist groups target and invest in young people because they are aware of their potential and their strong desire for change.
“If we are serious about prevention, and particularly about preventing conflict, we need to be serious about engaging with and investing in young women and men.
“We need their involvement and commitment, if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), take effective action on climate change and create a safer and more peaceful world,” Guterres stressed.
In calling for the engagement of young people, Guterres described their main needs as: “Education, jobs, and vocational training. Investment, interest, role models and goals. Meaningful participation in decisions that affect them”.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said that “the vast majority of youth are peaceful, and are not in danger of participating in violence.
“On the contrary, young people’s resilience is transforming local communities while combating extremist movements,” she said. (NAN)