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Extremists exploiting lockdown during the Wuhan Coronavirus Pandemic to recruit youth online: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting on youth, peace and security that “these frustrations and, frankly, failures to address them by those in power today, fuel declining confidence in political establishments and institutions”.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that radical groups are exploiting the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic to and intensifying their efforts on social media to recruit youth online. Extremists are trying to capitalise on the ‘anger and despair’ unleashed by the economic crisis caused by the virus to increase their strength.

Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting on youth, peace and security that “these frustrations and, frankly, failures to address them by those in power today, fuel declining confidence in political establishments and institutions”. “When such a cycle takes hold, it is all too easy for extremist groups to exploit the anger and despair, and the risk of radicalisation climbs,” he said. He said that despite all of this, young people “are still finding ways to engage, support each other, and to demand and drive change” including in the fight against the Wuhan Coronavirus.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, the secretary-general’s envoy on youth, criticised the media for emphasising “the small minority of young people who disregarded guidelines” but “completely sidelining the thousands of young people who were already fighting in the front lines of the crisis.” She dedicated her speech “to all the young people who are putting their communities ahead of themselves within war zones, within refugee camps, within favelas and within settlements, showcasing grit and leadership that sometimes we even fail to see in our own political leaders.”

“Young people are a huge source of new ideas, solutions and innovation,” Estonia’s UN Ambassador Sven Jürgenson said. “During the current pandemic, however, they can be among the greatest victims.” He added that between 42 million to 66 million children could fall into “extreme poverty” as a result of COVID-19 and an analysis from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization showing that 91 percent of the world’s students are affected by school closures, and more than 1.5 billion students in 191 countries have trouble continuing their studies normally.” “This will lead to increased educational gaps, serious damage to the prospects for a better future and can potentially lay seeds of radicalization among young people, constituting a threat to peace and security,” Jürgenson warned.

US Ambassador Kelly Craft warned that the 400 million young people directly affected by violence or conflict are the most vulnerable in the matter. “Now, the imperative to protect them is even greater: on top of social, education, and health systems that (are) already weakened by conflict or disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic is triggering multiple, interlinked crises impacting hundreds of millions of young people,” she said.

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