TASHKENT (TCA) — Raising awareness and formulating policy recommendations on the need to engage and empower youth in preventing violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism (VERLT) was the focus of a two-day international conference that ended on June 12. The event, organized by the OSCE in co-operation with the upper house of the parliament, the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the United Nations, was held in Tashkent and Samarkand, respectively.
Over 200 participants from across the OSCE region and beyond, including government officials from all Central Asian countries, and civil society groups, discussed and shared best practices on how to engage youth in preventing and countering VERLT, specifically through education, media, arts and sports. The engagement of local communities, religious actors and the increased empowerment of civil society was also discussed.
Addressing the conference, the OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger stressed the importance of developing comprehensive, nuanced and co-ordinated responses to preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism. “It is also essential that we stand by our commitments to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of belief, freedom of expression and freedom of the media,” he said.
On the basis of the debate and the work of three working groups during the conference, recommendations were developed that underscored the importance of an inclusive, whole-of-society-approach when countering VERLT. Participants also recommended strengthening the role of youth in decision making in the spirit of the UNSC Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security and newly adopted UNSC Resolution 2419 on Increasing Role of Youth in Negotiating, Implementing Peace Agreements.
The winners of the OSCE regional competition “Central Asian Youth Against Violent Extremism!”, chosen for their innovative recommendations to counter VERLT online, were announced during the conference: Nursultan Rakhmanov from Kazakhstan, Ermek Aktanov from Kyrgyzstan, Nilufar Muradova from Tajikistan and Sardor Nazirov from Uzbekistan. The competition was open to university students from all Central Asian countries.
The OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan also announced the launch of an information web portal on countering VERLT, which it developed in co-operation with the Tashkent-based NGO, Center for Studying International Threats.
The OSCE has been engaged in countering terrorism in the Central Asian region since 2007. This conference, the first of its kind in Uzbekistan, was organized within the framework of the 2016 Ministerial Council Declaration on Strengthening OSCE Efforts to Prevent and Counter Terrorism and the 2015 Ministerial Council Declaration on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization That Lead to Terrorism, adopted under the German and Serbian OSCE Chairmanships, respectively.