Mr Secretary-General, Mr. Under-Secretary General, Ambassadors, Excellencies. First, let me say how thankful and pleased I am that Norway is co-organizing this event with Pakistan and the Office of Counter Terrorism.
This event is rooted in the realization that youth is our most important asset in the struggle against terrorism and violent extremism. As the title of this event says: We must invest in our youth.
For too long the international community – the United Nations included – has viewed youth as problems to fix instead of as resources to our communities.
As the Secretary General has repeatedly made clear, also here today:There is no greater resource than our youth.
We must therefore empower our young people and we must talk with them and not only about them.
Recent developments here in the UN suggest that we – the Member States – are starting to engage youth more systematically than before.
Both the Security Council and the General Assembly have now recognized the critical and positive role played by youth in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security.
And the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, successfully introduced by the then Secretary General Ban in 2015, highlights the importance of systematic preventive measures to address factors that can drive youth to violent extremism.
Norway is strongly committed to the Prevention of Violent Extremism agenda, not least because of its emphasis on youth as an integral part of the solution.
This agenda also highlights how social and economic marginalization, human rights violations and poor governance disproportionally affect youth and make young people easy targets for those who seek to recruit youth to terrorist causes.
The main purpose of today’s Joint Event is to hear from three individuals - who in their own unique way - have worked to empower youth through education, dialogue and respect for human dignity.
We all have a lot to learn from them.
We also hope to exchange good practices and lessons learned in dealing with youth vulnerable to recruitment to terrorism and violent extremism.
I should therefore want to say just a few words about Norway’s approach to this issue.
Let me start by highlighting one Norwegian initiative that we are particularly proud of. In June 2015, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg hosted an International Conference on Youth against Violent Extremism.
Following that landmark event, Norway has supported the Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN), launched at the Conference. YouthCAN equips young people with skills, opportunities, networks and resources in order to build resilience within their communities. It has 1 000 members across 125 countries, and the network is still growing.
At the domestic level, the Government has worked hard to integrate youth in policymaking, and developed targeted initiatives to empower young people. In 2014 the Government published an Action Plan Against Radicalization and Violent Extremism.
Taking of a whole of government approach, the plan was a joint effort by seven ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office. The plan sets out a range of practical programs to prevent youth from turning to violent extremist ideologies.
Examples include the development of teaching resources, the establishment of interfaith teams, also for our correctional services, guidance programs for parents and guardians, and support for youth organizations.
We have achieved real progress but challenges remain. We must therefore continue to improve ourselves by listening to youth and integrating youth into our national decision making process.
Norway continues to believe that youth is our most important asset in our struggle against terrorism and violent extremism.
We therefore attach particular importance to today’s event. We very much look forward to hearing from the panelists as well as those in the audience.
I thank you.