• David Thibodeau

Preventing Violent Extremism in Youth

Violent extremism is defined as a form of extremism that condones and enacts violence with ideological or deliberate intent such as religious or political violence. The United Nations has highlighted the unique power that sport has to help prevent violent extremism.

UNESCO has made it a priority to not just counter violent extremism but to prevent it. ‘Soft power’ is essential for preventing violent extremism. Engaging young people in disenfranchised areas and addressing their needs is essential to support efforts to prevent violent extremism. Governments, NGOs and civil society can use sport and recreation as a way to engage youth to help prevent extremism.


Sport teaches young people important life skills, and using sport to empower young people with these skills we can help prevent youth turning to violence to achieve extreme goals. Using sport, we can help give youth a positive outlook on their future. Around the world more programmes are popping up that use sport to “help build resilience of at-risk youth, strengthening their life skills in order to minimize risk factors and maximize protective factors.” - UNODC.


The UN Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) technical guide on preventing violent extremism through sports identifies 5 key outcomes in which preventing violent extremism through sport must aim:

  1. Safe spaces and social safety

  2. Social Inclusion

  3. Education

  4. Resilience

  5. Empowerment

Source: UNODC's technical guide on preventing violent extremism through sports

Each outcome is closely linked with prevent violent extremism in youth. We must create safe spaces for meaningful sport intervention that includes mentorship with coaches and other athletes. Social Inclusion is important to promoting unity and safety through sport, extremists are successful at recruiting when society is divided over identities and diversity. Sport is an effective way to help young people learn and through sport based programming and also as a way to learn about other cultures and people. It is well known that sport helps build resilience in young people, helping them build important skills that allow them to build up. And empowerment is helping find or give a voice to those who feel they are not heard.


Through sport’s ability to create social cohesion, greater connection to the community and a sense of belonging, sport addresses some of the key factors that drive people to violent extremism. Grassroot sport diplomacy also helps create a space for peace within the community.


Of course these actions have to be partnered with other actions, such as increasing access to education and jobs, sport can contribute to a more peaceful world by preventing extremism in all forms.


 

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