Welcome to the Model UN. It is a privilege to have hundreds of young people gather to dialogue for peace and prosperity as well as against the rise of violent extremism that’s threatening the security and fundamental rights of citizens all over the world. I thank all the young women and men who are stepping up and assuming leadership responsibilities.
Many young people today are at risk of disempowerment and alienation, and susceptible to extremist narratives and recruitment. Unfortunately, they are being recruited everyday into violent extremism, churned out in their numbers and armed with fatal weapons. The world is trying hard to curtail the recruitment spread, but what if they may just be going at it the wrong way?
Violent extremist groups target and invest in young people because they are aware of their potential and their strong desire for change. Recruiters and peer networks engage personally and individually with young people, tapping into their discontents, listening and offering alternative views and analyses. They exploit grievances and use manipulative messages, conspiracy theories and lies, offering a twisted sense of purpose to disaffected young men and women.
In a world where young people are recognized, cajoled, and enlisted to do evil, it makes great sense to engage young people everywhere in promoting peace, and countering violent extremism.
If the world is serious about preventing conflict, the nations need to be serious about engaging with and investing in young women and men. The world needs our energy to tackle the most serious challenges facing humanity. The world needs our involvement and commitment.
There is such a thing as the intensity of our adolescent years. Our exposure and experiences embolden us to action. We need greater exposure into the complexities of peace and tolerance, the problems with the world’s societies and route for interventions. We need experiences that change us from passivity into actions, and measurable results that contribute to the cause of peace all over the world.
Young people can be acknowledged and recognized for their zeal and commitment to creative task. They can be empowered to reject violent extremist groups. They can be equipped with a range of experiences, skills, and assets in order to transition to adulthood and have the resilience to overcome adversity.
In a world filled with hate, young people can be used as instruments of peace. All we need is a dream- a reason to believe that we are important, relevant, and significant. Every young person can start from where they are to be that voice for change. And, that’s one reason we are here: to be relevant, to do something important, and to contribute values that are significant to the world’s collective global concerns.
Once again, I welcome you.