Secretary General attends Pakistan sponsored event on youth and counter terrorism at UN

New York, 13 April, 2018

UN Secretary General, António Guterres appreciated Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi’s initiative of holding an event on “Investing in Youth to Counter Terrorism”. It was the first ever side event jointly organized by Pakistan and Norway, in partnership with the UN Office of Counter Terrorism and attended by the Secretary General.

In his key note address at the event, the Secretary General said violent extremist groups target and invest in young people because they are aware of their potential and their strong desire for change. He said that he did not agree that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, because more and more, they are the leaders of today.

“Dialogue and understanding, political inclusion and participation, good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law; the empowerment of women and girls: these are the tools to enable children and young people to grow into responsible citizens”, he added.

In her address, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi said, over the past two decades, terrorism had emerged as the most pervasive threat to peace and security even as the international community had intensified its efforts to address the challenge.

Young people, she underscored, were the most vulnerable to terrorism. “Terrorist and extremist groups prey on this vulnerability, recruiting youth to their violent ways by playing on their sensitivity to injustice and oppression; by propagating hate, intolerance and violence as the sole response to myriad inequities”, she said.

While agreeing that lack of good governance and absence of the rule of law contribute to the “conditions conducive to terrorism”, Ambassador Lodhi pointed out that more significantly, terrorism is spawned by foreign interference and occupation, political and economic injustice and marginalization as well as discrimination and social exclusion.

Ambassador Lodhi told the largely attended meeting that Pakistan had witnessed terrorism emerge and expand in the region as a consequence of unending turmoil and conflict caused principally by a series of foreign interventions in Pakistan’s neighborhood over the past several decades.

Through a comprehensive strategy, she said, Pakistan had turned back the terrorist tide. “My country and its brave people have met this threat with fortitude and determination”.

Ambassador Lodhi stressed that hard power was a necessary but not sufficient factor in fighting terrorism. Pakistan, she said, has undertaken the largest anti-terrorism military campaign anywhere in the world, deploying 200,000 troops. “But we complemented the use of force with a holistic National Counter Extremism Policy that encompasses political, economic, social and cultural elements”, she added.

She also told the gathering that the Government of Pakistan has mobilised faith leaders and scholars to issue a Fatwa to unequivocally condemn terrorism. “The Fatwa also states that the territory of Pakistan will not be permitted to be used for terrorism anywhere”, she said.

Ambassador Lodhi recounted the steps taken by Pakistan Government to engage youth in productive activities, including a comprehensive “Prime Minister's Youth Programme”, which aims at providing the young and under privileged with skills training, access to higher education as well as to employment.

A short video, highlighting Pakistan’s efforts to turn the tide against terrorism and embark on multidimensional efforts to create an environment for sustainable peace and progress following successive law enforcement was also shown at the event.

The Norwegian Ambassador to UN, Tore Hattrem, in his remarks called for empowerment of youth, calling them the ‘most important asset’ in the fight against terrorism.

USG Vladimir Voronkov appreciated the initiative of starting a dialogue on engaging youth to counter terrorism. He underlined a the need for more of such events to develop a consensus on a comprehensive approach to address challenges being faced by youth across world.

In the second session the panelists highlighted “Challenges faced by Youth in Different Parts of the World” and their efforts to help youth deal with these specific challenges.

The first panelist from Pakistan, Mr. Ahmad Jalal, CEO of the Aman Foundation highlighted the Foundation’s work in empowering youth

Dr. Feriha Peracha, Director, Sabaoon Project gave a presentation on the efforts by Saboon towards the de-radicalization of youth involved in violent acts.

The third panelist, Mrs. Shannon Martinez, the US Regional Coordinator for Against Violence and Extremism Network (AVE) emphasized the need to socially integrate young people to prevent them from falling for twisted ideologies. As a former white supremacist, who has left her life of hate behind, and now works on combating violent extremism, she shared her moving experiences with the audience.

After the presentations, the floor was opened to participants’ comments. Speakers from different regions of the world thanked Pakistan and Norway for their timely initiative to organize this event on an issue of critical importance. Ambassadors and representatives who spoke on the occasion included Qatar, Tunisia, Finland, UAE, Mexico, the United States, Morocco, Egypt, Ireland, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Italy.

The event was attended by a large number of Ambassadors, diplomats, UN Secretariat staff and members of civil society.