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Side event at the ECOSOC Youth Forum


(Re)building post-pandemic societies: youth using sport to prevent and counter violent extremism


Violent extremists across the ideological spectrum view the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity for expansion and young people are likely among the most at risk. The rising discrimination and xenophobia amid this unprecedented health predicament, are for example among the key drivers of radicalization and violent extremism. Its impact on the fabric of our societies is perhaps one of the most severe upheavals inflicted upon our world today. Several violent extremist groups have used the pandemic to spread propaganda, including recruitment and incitement to violence. Similarly, the interruption of conventional educational, physical/sport, recreational opportunities caused by the pandemic has increased time spent on social media by young people, therefore increasing the risk of exposure to violent ideologies and narratives. It has also intensified feelings of loneliness and socio-economic exclusion, which are some of the push factors leading young people towards radical narratives.

Role of sport

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Security Council resolution 2419 (2018) on Youth, Peace and Security recognizes the “growing contribution of sport and culture to the realization of development and peace in the promotion of tolerance and respect as well as the empowerment of youth and women, individuals and communities; health, education and social inclusion objectives”. Sports have historically played a significant role in the dissemination of positive values throughout the world and across civilization and cultures, especially for youth. Research has demonstrated that sport can play a positive role in preventing radicalization, promoting gender equality, the empowerment of individuals, and facilitating global integration, thus making sports a powerful vector for the development of efforts aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism and radicalization. Inspired by the positive role of sports, in September 2020 the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), and the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS), through its Save the Dream initiative, held an expert-level meeting on the margins of the 75th UN General Assembly launching the workstream on Preventing Violent Extremism through Sport Values of the “Global Programme on Security of Major Sporting Events, and Promotion of Sport and its Values as a Tool to PVE”.

Role of youth

The current youth generation is acknowledged as the largest in history, with the global agenda increasingly focused on young people as key actors in powerful social movements. Their diversity in course of actions and rationale has greatly contributed to addressing the triggers of violent extremism, among other challenges related to global and local instability. Moreover, young people are the most able to mobilize their peers and be the principal stakeholders of societies that are increasingly free from stereotypes, discrimination and extremism. Their engagement in the prevention of violent extremism spans from sports, art and street theatre initiatives, to online campaigns and capacity development support within global reach.

Role of the Global Programme

The Global Programme provides direct support to Civil Society Organizations, in particular youth-oriented and working at the level of communities, to run sports values-based PVE projects and identify successful and inspiring field-level practices. Moreover, the Global Programme is designed in collaboration with young people as key stakeholders, through a series of youth consultations and other inclusive mechanisms, to successfully assert the significant value of youth leadership.

Objective of the side event
  1. Sustain and strengthen discussions on the importance of integrating young people in the fight against violent extremism and advancing the role of sport in P/CVE interventions.
  2. Affirm the importance of youth leadership in ensuring sustainable peace and development.
  3. Celebrate the 6th of April, International Day on Sport for Development and Peace.
Guiding Questions for presentations and discussion
  • Why is it important to involve young people and youth organizations in the fight against radicalization and violent extremism?
  • How sport programmes can be used to effectively build youth resilience to violence, extremism and promote inclusion?
  • What are the challenges in reaching out and engaging youth at-risk, especially those in marginalized communities? What role sport can play?
  • What priorities should Member States have in the area of youth engagement to prevent radicalization and violent extremism?
  • In what ways can young people build their resilience to violent extremism by safeguarding their mental and physical wellbeing, despite the closure of community/sport centers due to the pandemic?
  • What type of sport interventions could be developed by young people to fight some of the consequences of Covid-19, such as increase in hate speech and hate crime, both online and offline?

Format and Agenda (60 mins session)

Opening remarks: UNOCT, UNICRI, UNAOC, ICSS (10 mins)

Panel Discussion on the role of youth in preventing and countering violent extremism through sport (40 mins)

Moderator: UNAOC


  • Mr. Nasser Al-Khori, Programme Director, Generation Amazing
  • Mr. Sean Arbuthnot, P/CVE expert and Prevent Coordinator in Leicester, St Philip’s Centre
  • Ms. Lihini Weerasinghe, Youth and Women Affairs Envoy, National Youth Services Council of Sri Lanka
  • Ms. Agnes Atwijukire, Project Officer, Integrated Community Development Initiative
  • Champion for Peace, Peace and Sport (TBC)

Q&A (10 mins)

Platform to be used: Live stream:


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