A few days back, I attended the 2016 Nexus Global Youth Summit in New York that brought together Young entrepreneurs, philanthropists and impact investors together to the UN Headquarters for an exchange of ideas and collaboration to solve pressing global issues. It was an interesting opportunity for young people to jump start their social ventures by refining their ideas and raising funds to implement them.

1.8 billion of the world’s population is below the age of 25 (Source: UN Youth Envoy’s Office) and this significant part of the population is completely left out of all discourses. Young people needs to get their voices heard and their roles recognized as partners in peace, security and development.

International Youth Day (IYD) is coming on 12 August, 2016 and this day reminds us that Youth is an important partner in shaping the global agenda. Each year, this day gives governments, International organizations and civil society actors an opportunity to draw attention to youth issues and roll out youth policies.

UN Security Council’s resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security also recognizes youth’s role in the maintenance of International peace and security. It also recognizes young people as part of the solution rather than the problem and accepts their vital role in global development. The success of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is also not possible without the involvement of youth. This has also been recognized by the UN resulting in the active involvement of youth in the adoption of SDGs. The resolution also challenges the narrative that perceives young people only as victims of conflict and recognizes their role as agents of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). Young people can become partners in preventing violent extremism, if provided the opportunity and leadership. The youth have become tired of hearing that “youth is the future” and now is the time to change that tagline to “youth is the present”.

When thinking about the Push and pull factors of CVE, a major factor in pushing youth towards violent extremism (VE) is their disenfranchisement resulting from their lack of participation. If youth are involved in decision-making that concerns their future, then they will be have a better chance in turning down recruitment efforts from VE groups. Provision of meaningful alternatives to youth is therefore a key to preventing violent extremism and countering recruitment by Foreign Terrorist Fighter(s) (FTF) groups. Various activities such sports, dialogue and theatre groups etc. steers youth towards positive activities. A major step towards harnessing youth talent is entrepreneurship training. If young people are given life skills, vocational and entrepreneurship training then they become empowered to generate not only income for themselves for also for their families, in addition to generating jobs for others. It also adds to the sustainability aspect of development programming, where the trained and empowered youth will continue to drive positive change. Social entrepreneurship is thus the most sustainable modus operandi to CVE programming harnessing youth in vulnerable populations.