Youth Against Violent Extremism

Fornebo, 4. juni 2015

Good afternoon everyone, We are at the end of a meeting that I hope has lived up to everyone’s expectations. From what I hear, there has been a lot of exciting things going on. And there has been a lot of effort going in to preparing this in a fairly short period of time.

I would like to thank both my officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the officials at the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, the ISD partners, and not at least Laila [Bokhari], as the pillar of this effort. 

Today we have had the opportunity to share experiences, to listen to committed voices among you, to see that the problems that concern us are basically the same, and to be moved by dramatic reports from young people’s daily lives. I thank you all for contributing to the success of this conference. 

Your recommendations will inspire and guide the European government officials meeting tomorrow to discuss effective CVE responses. As Prime Minister Erna Solberg promised earlier today, I can assure you that the Norwegian government will follow up. 

This last year has been an extremely difficult one for young people all over the world. Hundreds of pupils and students were cruelly murdered in their schools in Kenya and Pakistan. A number of children were abducted by Boko Haram. Countless young people are manipulated and exploited every day by religious and ideological extremists.

We all have a role to play in defeating this evil. Preventive efforts are paramount. And I believe it is particularly important to work with young people, and to put young people at the front of this effort. We often talk about young people as victims, but above all, they are a key part of the solution.

This is why we have put such emphasis on bringing young people and national experts to Oslo to prepare specific recommendations to the General Assembly in New York in September. This year is the 50th anniversary of resolution 1325 on women peace and security, and this reminds us that we must ensure that women play a central role in our efforts to tackle extremism. 

We must also address the whole spectrum of extremism – whether cultural or ideological, violent Islamist or neo-Nazi. The underlying questions are; What is the attraction of extremist ideologies? And how can we reclaim religion from those who seek to exploit it for destructive purposes? 

I am convinced that respected voices like yours are in the best position to undermine the extremists’ ideologies. But we must take note of the fact that violent extremists in Europe today are far better organised than moderate forces. 

The internet and social media can be powerful tools for standing up to extremism. I learned that tweeting from this conference this morning was trending as number one in Norway and apparently number three in the UK for a while. That shows the potential power of using social media for good purposes. All of us – government officials, members of civil society, and representatives of industry – must ensure that young people are at the front and centre of our efforts. Only then will we be able to present a credible, hopeful alternative to the hate-speech of extremism. 

You have highlighted the need for a strong European-wide network of moderate young people that can advance the CVE agenda and deliver strong counter narratives. 

I hope that the platform for moderate voices that we are launching today will grow into a global network that provides valuable input to national governments in their efforts to counter violent extremism. A network for moderate voices and organisations across Europe that share a common vision. 

Supporting youth advocates entails more than just giving them a platform. The government has therefore decided to provide funding through the Institute for Strategic Dialogue to support the network’s activities over next 18 months. 

I welcome the growing emphasis on addressing the underlying drivers of violent extremism at the global, regional, national and local levels. It is therefore my hope that your proposals will be implemented in close cooperation with your respective national authorities that will be meeting here tomorrow. 

As it was said, we need to amplify our efforts. And on behalf of the Norwegian government I can pledge that we will certainly encourage European governments and EU institutions to invest in your ideas, and to support your actions. Because this should really not be “a one off”. And that’s why I would like to thank you, not only for coming to Oslo, not only for sharing your ideas and visions today, but also for your dedication and commitment to continue this work. To continue seeking to make tangible progress in the battle against violent extremism. By listening together. By taking action together. Working together. 

Thank you very much!