By Sarah Chamekh, Medenine, Tunisia. March 2017

As participants in Leaders for Human Security, an ongoing project working with Dutch and Tunisian youth on issues concerning local security, social cohesion and resilience being carried out in close cooperation with local civil society organizations, Oussama and I presented our work to members of local and international civil society, and to representatives from The Tunisian Government and the UN. This was during a recent meeting (07-09 March 2017) organized by the United Nations’ Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and co-organized by the government of Tunisia, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism–The Hague (ICCT) and Human Security Collective (HSC), in light of developing a multi-stakeholder implementation plan for the national strategy against extremism and terrorism and to foster dialogue and engagement between both government and civil society representatives in order to implement this national strategy.

The meeting was a chance for us to put our work on display. In fact, it has been a year now that we have been working in the background, travelling in and out of our regions conducting activities and initiatives with our mentees and trying to be good role models for them and their peers. However, things are not always as easy as they sound.

Dealing with the phenomenon of violent extremism and radicalization is an everyday challenge for us. However, we are working for the long term and simple changes like ensuring one of our mentees has a proper conversation with his father to convince him of his own choice of study is a sign of  encouragement for us. So too are getting requests from other youngsters wanting to join the group of mentees and wanting to participate in the initiative, and receiving new ideas on raising awareness and bringing about change in the community. I was excited to finally have the chance, at the UN CTED meeting, to share the collective work that we have put in since January 2016 as  twelve mentors from six different governorates, in coordination with Free Sight Association (Tunis) and Human Security Collective (The Hague).

After presenting the video from the exchange visit of Dutch and Tunisian mentors in the Netherlands, Oussama and I had the chance to explain in some detail the “Leaders for Human Security” project to the attendants of the workshop. And I was glad to be able to answer the many questions about our work as a whole. Later that day, I was able to moderate one of the working groups dealing with socioeconomic conditions.

Government representatives expressed their willingness to collaborate with both the private sector and civil society in order to create a better future for the next generation. This presented me with the opportunity to speak out about the challenges that we have been facing as youth working on PVE in our regions, especially the lack of collaboration with government-run Youth and Cultural Centres, which provide services to young people.
On the second day of the workshop, I had the chance to participate in a working group thinking about creating a platform between the different stakeholders – government, private sector and civil society and what this would look like.

Being present in this workshop enabled me to showcase all the work that we have been doing as youth for our society. However, representing and speaking on behalf of Tunisian youth, I felt the  responsibility to make clear that a state can never work for youth and for the younger generations without their presence in the decision-making processes, without their view on societal ground realities, and without their innovative ideas and perspectives. Youth are the future of all countries and they are also the main target of violent extremist messaging.

So in order to have a better future, youth are key.