Christchurch Call Youth Engagement Session

18 December 2023

Young people are often early adopters of new technology. They are more likely to be exposed to terrorist and violent extremist content. And, in some circumstances, they are more susceptible to online radicalisation. Understanding these issues from the perspective of young people is vital.

The first Christchurch Call Youth Engagement Session was held on 10 November 2023 as a side event alongside the Christchurch Call Leaders’ Summit in Paris, after Call Leaders identified engaging with youth as a priority in 2022. The Christchurch Call Secretariat met with a group of passionate young people to discuss youth engagement and preventing youth radicalisation. Dame Jacinda Ardern, Special Envoy for the Christchurch Call, attended the final portion of the meeting for a roundtable discussion, providing a valuable opportunity for young peoples’ views to be heard at Leader level.

The role of online spaces

First, participants discussed the role of online spaces in driving youth radicalisation, and how the Christchurch Call Community might be able to counter this. Feedback included:

  • The online/offline divide does not exist for young people as it did for earlier generations. Young peoples’ online and offline worlds are blended, and online spaces amplify offline realities. This applies for both radicalisation and prevention – so the approach to interventions needs to bridge online and offline worlds. Ideas for interventions that could bridge this gap include improving access to education and providing young people with safe spaces to express their views.
  • In discussing online gaming, participants stressed that games are not the problem. However, users co-opting gaming imagery for extremist purposes, or gamifying radicalisation processes online, are part of the problem. Participants also discussed the use of gaming as a prevention tool, referring to a video game aimed at exposing tactics used by disinformation actors.
  • The Call’s approach to preventing youth radicalisation should focus on opportunities over risks. This means ensuring a focus on empowerment and bottom-up prevention – rather than solely a risk-based approach.
  • Examples could include recognising that young people are change makers, and empowering youth-led civil society organisations. It is also important to ensure prevention work is localised; non-Western approaches to prevention must be included.

How to effectively engage

The group then discussed approaches to safe and effective youth engagement. A range of views were expressed, including:

  • Young people must be empowered to engage genuinely and directly with young people. Creating a space for youth engagement is a good start, but young people should have ‘a seat at the table’ rather than ‘a separate table.’
  • The Call should prioritise meeting young people where they are. For example, it would be useful to have a dedicated online space for young people to provide advice for decision makers.
  • The Call needs to consider how it treats young people it seeks to engage with. This means not treating them as a homogenous group, but instead recognising their differences. It is also unhelpful to tell young people what they should or should not do; rather, it is more helpful to support and empower youth to engage in the ways that are most effective for them.  
  • Youth engagement does not stop with young people themselves. Engagement should also be with those who have influence over young people including, for example, parents/caregivers and teachers.

The Christchurch Call Secretariat extends a sincere thank you to those who participated in the Christchurch Call Youth Engagement Session. The feedback received in this session will directly influence the Christchurch Call Community’s work on youth engagement and preventing youth radicalisation.