Thank you Foreign Minister Keonders and thank you for your government’s continued support for the global partnership against violent extremism that was launched earlier this year.
Hello everyone! What an exciting day this has been. I think we have over 75 young people from 45 countries here today. That is remarkable. I know that most of you have come a very long way to be here – thank you.
And thank you to everyone from government and the private sector who have made time to be here with this inspiring group of young activists, peace-builders, and community leaders. And finally, a big thanks to Search for Common Ground and the Counter Extremism Project for co-hosting this event with the State Department.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending the first European Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism in Oslo. Many of you were there as well. The energy and creativity at that event, the powerful example of young people from across the continent coming together reject violent extremism and affirm a more positive future, inspired us to try and replicate it at a global level.
And here we are! I hope you all have enjoyed yourselves today and learned something.
I know I have. To the more than 75 amazing young activists, peace-builders, and leaders here today -- after listening to so many of your stories and seeing examples of your work, you’ve reminded me that young people simply aren’t as tied down by conventional thinking as the rest of us. Because you see problems differently, you tend to arrive at different solutions. That is such an incredible but undervalued resource.
That’s why, when it comes to the struggle against violent extremism, it is time to stop thinking of youth as a problem to be solved and start thinking of youth as the problem solvers!
While many love to talk about young people as “the future” and the “next generation” – I’m sure you’ve been called both plenty of times – it overlooks the incredible skill and talent you represent now.
Talented young people like Salif Niang from Mali, who has drawn on his country’s rich cultural heritage – especially its music – to create messages of peace and tolerance through his nonprofit Timbuktu Renaissance.
That’s what today’s event is all about – giving you the space and additional support to unleash your generation’s potential against the violent extremists who try and tear down your future.
Today is about celebrating and reinforcing the power of your example to outshine extremism. It is about helping you all to connect, share, and learn from your different successes and challenges.
It is also to remind you that you are not alone in this struggle. The governments and businesses from around the world here today stand ready to support you – to offer their advice and resources to help your projects reach their full potential.
To those here from the business community, I hope you found some great projects to support. If not, you should look a little harder because there is no shortage of amazing young leaders here today.
People like Bai Sumndad-Usman, a young Filipino woman with a Muslim father and a Christian mother who has spent her life building bridges across difference. In that spirit, she founded the Teach Peace, Build Peace Movement to strengthen peace education in schools and communities through creative games and materials to overcome the stereotypes and prejudices that violent extremists exploit.
Or Jeeven Nadanakumar, a young man from Australia who used his role as a youth radio broadcaster to bridge the often heated conversation about refugees and asylum seekers in his country. He understood that the mistreatment and marginalization of communities can fuel allow violent extremism. What I like about Jeevan’s story is that he didn’t stop there, but took his passion to politics and became an advisor to the regional government on multicultural affairs and social cohesion.
This last part is important. I know that governments are not always the most open to letting young people have a real role in decision-making. Too often, governments presume to know what young people think and need. As you all know, they often get it wrong.
But, it’s a mistake to assume that engaging governments and politics isn’t worth it – that governments will just never get it. After all, you can’t change what you don’t engage. Jeevan understood that, and I know many of you do as well.
You all are here because you understand that young people have to engage in the debates shaping your future. You must be drivers of your own destinies. That is why it is very exciting to see the Action Agenda – written by youth and for youth – that defines in clear terms how young people can lead the way forward in our shared struggle against violent extremism.
Tomorrow, we look forward to hearing from one of your very own - Ilwad Elman - an inspiring young woman from Somalia on the front line of peacebuilding and building resilience to prevent the spread of violent extremism who has devoted herself to human rights and the reintegration young people who have turned away from groups espousing violence and hate.
Tomorrow at the Leader’s Summit, Ilwad will outline the Youth Action Agenda before more than 500 people representing 100 countries, 20 multilateral bodies, and civil society organizations from around the world.
And to all those representatives from government, civil society, business, and media with us here today, this Action Agenda calls on us to form new partnerships with these inspiring young people. We must answer, and not just with words, but with concrete actions like the establishment of a Youth Innovation Fund to help creative, youth-led CVE projects achieve scale. We are excited to announce that the fund has already received a $50,000 anonymous donation.
That is how we can sustain the energy and momentum generated today.
But to all of the young people here – you will have the greatest role in maintaining this momentum. One way you can do that is by making the most of the new One95 digital platform to continue connecting with, learning from, and supporting each other in the months and years ahead.
And let’s make no mistake – it will be a long road ahead. This is a struggle across continents, cultures, and generations – a struggle for the future you will not only inherit, but help build.
So as violent extremists combine modern technologies with medieval ideologies to tear down everything we stand for – let’s work toward a future of peace, tolerance, and opportunity that is worthy of the hard work, creativity, and leadership we have seen here today.
Thank you all again for being here, and I encourage you all to stay connected with each other on the road ahead!