Young people are “disproportionately viewed as the primary perpetrators of crime”, despite often being the most vulnerable, the UN General Assembly President told a high-level meeting on Monday, highlighting crime fighting solutions.
“Young people are also amongst the most vulnerable to victimization, particularly around gang-related crime, violent extremism, and sexual exploitation - all the while lacking sufficient coverage or protection,” said Abdulla Shahid, speaking at the first completely in-person debate of the General Assembly in New York, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By virtue of their age, energies and learning abilities, the senior UN official described young people as “key agents of change in effectively addressing many world challenges”.
“Their importance in crime prevention is no different, and they deserve a greater say and contribution in how this is undertaken,” he said, reminding that this means providing them with safe and supportive environments to prevent involvement in criminal activities.
“It means also addressing risk factors that lead young people to engage in violence and crime, including on the developing and human rights fronts and involving young people in decision making…as it pertains to crime prevention, justice, and the rule of law,” he added.
Empowering youth has been “a keystone” of Mr. Shahid’s presidency.
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed that given how impacted they are by crime, young people had a vested interest in finding effective solutions to prevent it, adding that “we need young people” in the debate.
Ms. Mohammed emphasized that because education is critical in shaping more crime-resilient societies, it is imperative to invest in further education that is “grounded in integrity.”
Meanwhile, Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UN drugs and crime prevention office, UNODC, flagged that an increasingly fragile world, meant one that is one more vulnerable to crime.
“Hardship and instability create the conditions for crime, violence, violent extremism, and corruption to flourish, and they hold back young people in every way,” she said.
“The rule of law is under threat around the world, and the values, conditions, and opportunities that young people need to thrive are undermined”.
Calling the Assembly debate “timely,” the UNODC chief noted that young people continue to be confronted by crises and anxieties that threaten their hopes and futures.
Youth Representative Junbert Pabon, from the Philippines, highlighted the experiences of youngsters written off as “criminals” at an early stage, warning that incarcerating them in adult facilities, just created a breeding ground for more hardened criminality.
Moreover, he noted that some branded as criminals, prove the sceptics wrong and given a second chance, or a chance to clear their name, emerge later as important “peacemakers”, who can steer others away from the wrong path.