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From Awareness to Action | Youth Driving Change for Peace and Social Cohesion

A Regional Endeavor to Prevent Violent Extremism in South and Southeast Asia

The project “Leading the way to Peace – Youth Together for Social Cohesion” was designed to enhance civil society organizations (CSOs) and youth capacities for youth-led prevention of violent extremism (PVE). Because high levels of violent extremist activity impact South and Southeast Asia, the project focused on sensitizing and building the capacity of young people in urban areas across Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines. Between February 2020 and May 2022, we succeeded in identifying and comparing different approaches and good practices to be shared and replicated in the region and beyond. The following article summarises the project’s work and impact. 

“United Together” graffiti art. Credit: Extremely Together Pakistan

Uniting for Peace

Across Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines, we successfully reached and engaged a wide range of communities, including youth groups, local and regional CSOs, government representatives, national authorities, and the international community, uniting them for peace and preventing violent extremism.

A total of 13,489 young people, 51% men and 49% women were engaged. Between February 2020 and May 2022, 2,101 young people were trained, and 96.9% of the youth reported increased knowledge and understanding of preventing violent extremism (PVE) and the causes of violent extremism.

“The project taught us how to dissent, to be critical, and yet encouraged us to be open and have a common understanding on issues that matter to us.” – Project participant, Tegum City, Philippines.

Showcasing effective practices from youth in South and Southeast Asia

The project aimed to gather and distribute successful approaches in youth-led efforts to prevent violent extremism among CSOs at regional and global levels. Moreover, to draw on the experiences and consolidate inspiring practices from youth-led efforts to understand better what works and what remains a challenge when engaging youth for PVE and peacebuilding efforts, we supported youth-led research and engaged over 30 organizations, 60 young people and regional actors. As a result, in February 2022, the Kofi Annan Foundation unveiled a report highlighting effective practices from South and Southeast Asia titled “Building Peace Together: Youth-led Initiatives to Prevent Violent Extremism.”


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Strengthening the capacity of youth people to prevent violent extremism

Young people connected with peers from diverse backgrounds, including minority groups, and promoted the creation of safe spaces among marginalized communities. The establishment of youth groups in each of the three countries promoted collaboration and strengthened the capacity of young people to prevent violent extremism. In total, 14 youth groups were established across ten cities under the umbrella of Extremely Together, in addition to two national youth chapters in Pakistan and the Philippines. 44% of the youth networks’ members were women.

96.9% of the youth reported increased knowledge and understanding of PVE.

The project’s peer-to-peer approach allowed the youth to develop their leadership skills and self-confidence in getting engaged in PVE and developing projects for their communities needs. These acquired skills benefit them as they grow up, enter the job market and play an increasing role in their communities. As a result, 40 youth-led PVE initiatives were organized in three countries, promoting social cohesion, interfaith harmony and youth action for peace. Out of the participants, 69% came from religious and ethnic minorities.

A “Pledge for Peace” signature wall from Extremely Together Pakistan. Credit: Extremely Together Pakistan

In conclusion

The “Leading the way to Peace – Youth Together for Social Cohesion” project successfully empowered young people in South and Southeast Asia to prevent violent extremism and promote peace. Through community engagement and youth group establishment, collaboration and capacity-building were fostered to address the causes of extremism. The project significantly increased knowledge on preventing extremism among youth, resulting in 40 youth-led initiatives for social cohesion, interfaith harmony, and peace.

Some of the organizers and participants at the “Enision Together: Youth Building The Future For Peace” South & Southeast Asia Regional Conference in 2021.

The impact of the “Leading the way to Peace – Youth Together for Social Cohesion” project extended beyond the region, with the Kofi Annan Foundation publishing a report on effective practices and disseminating it at the country, regional and international fora. Learn more in the external evaluation report.

The project serves as an inspiring example of engaging youth in preventing extremism and fostering social cohesion. Thank you to all involved!

“Leading the way to Peace – Youth Together for Social Cohesion” was made possible by the European Union, which funded the project. The Kofi Annan Foundation implemented the project in partnership with the College of Youth Activism and Development (CYAAD) in Pakistan, Kris for Peace (KRIS) in the Philippines, the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) and Rupantar in Bangladesh.