Young people are particularly vulnerable to the disruptions the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, with many at risk of being left behind in education, economic opportunities, and health and wellbeing during a crucial stage of their life development. Over one billion children and youth, or 60 per cent of all enrolled learners, are affected by school closures, and poverty and unemployment rates due to COVID-19 have increased dramatically.
Many of these hardships are also known risk factors associated with crime, violence, and drug use, and may expose youth to increased victimization and involvement with crime during and after the pandemic.
Not a day passes without stories of organized crime making their way to the front pages of newspapers around the world. Despite copious legislation and strong law enforcement measures in most countries, criminal groups find ways to operate outside the rule of law across borders, causing immense physical, psychological, and financial damage to their victims.
Governments have since long joined efforts in combatting organized crime even as it continues to become more emboldened. With the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), signed in Palermo, Italy in 2000, they devised an international instrument enabling their collective fight against transnational organized crime.
This high-level side event aims to underline the importance of prevention programmes for vulnerable youth as part of comprehensive strategies to counter gang violence and organised crime. Panellists will share experiences from Latin America on the use of innovative approaches, such as through sport, to reach young people at risk of victimization and involvement in crime. Specifically, and building on the work of UNODC, the event will highlight the use of sport as a tool to build youth and community resilience by strengthening key personal and social life skills, and by generating safe public spaces that facilitate positive youth engagement in marginalised communities.
Sport can be a powerful tool to engage youth and promote positive values, building resilience to violence, crime and substance use. With this in mind, UNODC's 'Line Up Live Up' initiative has been rolled across the world in recent years, offering a sports-based, life skills training curriculum designed to help young people in vulnerable settings.
Most recently, Line Up Live Up, part of the Youth Crime Prevention through Sport initiative under the Doha Declaration Global Programme, partnered with UNESCO and the Ministry of Public Health of Lebanon to organize a four-day Training of Trainers in Beirut.
One of the many impacts of containment measures, including confinement, is the limitation of young people's participation in public life and sports events. Indeed, these were often part of their pre-pandemic daily routine and as has been observed, society's most vulnerable are often those most affected by the dramatic decrease in participation opportunities.
To counter this in Kyrgyzstan, UNODC and the Ministry of Education and Science recently partnered to provide children and youth across the country with opportunities for positive engagement and to foster physical activity and social inclusion during COVID-19.