United Nations Security Council
Agenda Item – Maintenance of International Peace and Security
Open Debate on “The Role of Youth in Countering Violent Extremism and Promoting Peace”
Statement by [H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Maldives to the United Nations]
United Nations, New York, 23 April 2015
Thank you, Mr. President,
On behalf of the Maldives delegation, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to Jordan as President of the Council for taking the initiative to convene the open debate on this important topic. We also thank the Secretary-General for his engagement in this debate. We have read with much interest the concept paper circulated by the Kingdom of Jordan, and we welcome the call for a more in-depth analysis of this issue by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.
When we speak of violent extremism, terrorism and conflict, we rarely notice that young people are always somewhere in this picture. We catch horrifying glimpses in the news of children as victims of violence - a massacre at a school last year in Peshawar, Pakistan; hundreds of children kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria; an attack on a school bus in Yemen; the killing of teenagers in the West Bank; the bombing of a soccer game in Baghdad. As a Pakistani official poignantly put it, “the smaller the coffin, the heavier it is to carry.”
As the scourge of terrorism sweeps the world, it robs innocent children of their childhood, their parents, their sisters and brothers, and sometimes even their short-lived lives, well before their time. Around the world, children are losing the sacred sense of safety to walk the streets, go to school and pursue their dreams. It affects us all: acts of terror disrupt international peace and security, and undermine the inalienable rights of children.
My delegation joins others in condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Terrorism and other forms of violent extremism cannot be justified by any means. It should not be associated with any religion, race, faith, theology, values, culture, society or group. Nor can it be localised to one nation. The Government of Maldives denounces the acts of the terrorist organization ISIS, who are fuelling narratives of violence and promoting radicalism amongst the youth. We condemn in the strongest term the acts of this un-Islamic and anti-Islamic group and their recruiting of youth to engage in conflicts and grave violations against innocents.
We will not let Islam, a religion of peace and compassion, be hijacked by radical and extremist elements to perpetuate hatred and violence. And we will not let these extremists spread ignorance, preach hate, and corrupt our youth. The Maldives has always called for inculcating the true values of Islam, mutual understanding, respect, tolerance, and dialogue in our society. In particular, the Maldives has urged the spread of good social and Islamic values and principles among the youth.
More than 25 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly, it is shocking to hear of the continuing role of young people in violent extremism. We, the nations of the world, promised a better life for children when we signed this landmark Convention. We cannot let them down.
Even more confronting than the victimisation of children is the radicalisation of youth. Youth, especially those searching for a sense of belonging, purpose or identity, are highly vulnerable to manipulation by those with violent agendas or ideologies, who radicalise young minds, recruit them to a cause, and mobilise them as child soldiers, terrorist fighters, or accessories to violent crimes. The Maldives, as a party to the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, strongly opposes the recruitment of children in armed conflict, and urges States to take all necessary measures to prevent children arriving at this fate. The Government of the Maldives is committed to paving the way for youth to be more involved in the building of the nation and to create socio-economic opportunities for youth. We are committed to empowering our youth and implementing better programmes and mechanisms to protect them.
To bring our young people back from the frontlines to classrooms, we need a long-term game plan. A critical part of the solution is, firstly, investing in education. Education is a powerful tool in empowering young people to take control of their own futures. Secondly, we need to create opportunities for young people to find meaning and purpose in other pursuits, for example, through youth skills training and vocational programmes. Thirdly, we need to build strong, supportive communities for our young people to grow up in. Our children learn from us, adults; we need to set a positive example for them to follow.
We have been listening intently and taking note of the initiatives on involving youth in peace-building that we have heard about today from Member States. However, as we discuss solutions, let us not forget to engage young people themselves. We need to harness their limitless imaginations, optimism, energy and hope. What can children and youth teach us about bringing peace to the world?