31.10.2016 - ODG

Prevent youth radicalisation – nurture the Internet for peace


UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova opened today the International Conference on Internet and the Radicalization of Youth: Preventing, Acting and Living Together, declaring, in Quebec, Canada, “Violent extremism seeks to impose a sectarian vision of society, and propaganda is a central element of its strategy.”

Ms. Bokova identified the challenges and the opportunities that the Internet presents. “Anonymous, decentralized and easy to access – the Internet is a boon for extremists.”

But she was quick to add that it is also a platform on which positive change can occur. “I see this as a new global struggle of ideas, a struggle for hearts and minds,” said the Director-General. “Young women and men must have knowledge to claim humanity’s cultural heritage and diversity as their own – and they must have skills to build dialogue through diversity. This means nurturing the Internet’s full potential for peace."

The Conference opened in the presence of the Minister of International relations of Quebec, H.E. Christine St-Pierre, who, in her remarks highlighted the contradictions that must be addressed. "We are living in an era of paradox," said Ms. St-Pierre, “of deep interconnections and also rising violent extremism.”

Mr. Jean-Paul Laborde, Assistant Secretary General, spoke on behalf of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, underlining the vital need for tolerance, diversity and mutual respect to spearhead new joint actions to prevent radicalization leading to violent extremism.

The International Conference is designed to provide a platform for discussion between high level representatives of Governments for across the world – including Mr Martin Coiteux, Minister for Public Security (Quebec); Representative of the Government of Canada, Mr Amadou Koïta, Minister of Youth and Civic Construction (Mali) ; Mr Hector Leonel Ayala Minister of Governance and Justice (Honduras); Mr Rachid Madrane, Minister of Youth Aid, Houses of Justice, Sports and Promotion of Brussels to the Federation Wallonia-Brussels (Belgium); Ms Juliette Méadel, Minister of State for Victim Assistance (France).

The conference, organized by UNESCO, its Information for All Programme, the Government of Quebec, with the support of the Government of Canada, has attracted some 400 participants, who have come together to explore how to prevent the rise of violent extremism and radicalization of young people on the Internet.

The conference is a follow up to the first ever conference on the subject, “Youth and the Internet: Fighting Radicalization,” organized by UNESCO in June last year. 

In its work against violent radicalization, UNESCO is promoting global citizenship education, media and information literacy, skills for intercultural dialogue and initiatives to stimulate civic engagement and promote counter narratives on all platforms both on and offline.

Ms. Bokova also thanked the Government of Quebec for its support to UNESCO, with the UN Center for Counter-Terrorism, to prevent violent extremism through youth empowerment in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, as well as the proposed new UNESCO Chair on Preventing Radicalization and Violent Extremism in Quebec.

UNESCO Artist for Peace Celine Dion, Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Ms. Kathleen Weil and the Mayor of Quebec, Régis Lebeaume, were also among the key speakers during the opening.

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