Sounding off on addressing youth extremism

Young men on Lido Beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, a popular hangout spot since al-Shabaab militants, who banned such gatherings, withdrew from the area in 2011. Photo by:

Why do young people turn to violence? Many would quickly blame joblessness, but as noted by Devex Impact Associate Editor Adva Saldinger in her analysis for the ongoing Youth Will campaign, there are more factors that lead to youth extremism, including corruption, social exclusion and lack of a system to address grievances.

As such, addressing radicalization will require several actions: job training programs that link to actual jobs, better metrics to determine if youth-focused programs do work, more resources that will bring in youth development specialists in government to design programs and policies, and better coordination within the international development community to ensure harmonization of anti-extremism initiatives, just to name a few.

Over the past week, Devex readers reflected on the complexity of the issue.

“Probably the most effective way to think about radicalization is as a process rather than a state,” one reader said, adding that factors leading to it are not only varied but evolve over time.

A country’s development can play a role, as can the lack of opportunity for young people to showcase skills and talents, another reader suggested. Many graduates can’t land internships, let alone jobs, in their fields of expertise, or they need a long time to build their career if they do find employment.

Culture is another. In some developing countries, societies tend to not groom young people to take over positions of responsibility, with the older generation aspiring to hold on to power and the idea of a younger individual competing with an older person deemed rude.

“Dialogue across generations is severely constrained, even at the household level,” wrote Nishu Aggarwal about those societies. “Seniority in age is often abused by the elders, as they manipulate the youth to do their bidding to their own advantages (as is very evident especially at times of election).”

Governments, along with the private sector and the development community, should prioritize tackling issues on youth employment, youth skills development and most importantly preventive post-conflict programs, another reader, who identified as Laura SG, argued.

She added: “It is important to acknowledge that youth today are [tomorrow’s] leaders or … rebels. … If we disregard them now, they, the youth would not disregards us in their struggles!”

Want to learn more? Check out the Youth Will website and tweet #YouthWill.

Youth Will is an online conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with Chemonics, The Commonwealth Secretariat, The MasterCard Foundation and UN-Habitat to explore the power that youth around the globe hold to change their own futures and those of their peers.

About the author

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    Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Currently based in New York City, Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.