People that make a difference

Listening to young people

For 100,000+ subscribers in his native Malaysia and beyond, twentysomething YouTuber Vikar is a master of comedy: sketches, straight-to-camera vlogs, music video parodies… his channel is packed with the sort of fun, irreverent content beloved by Generation Z. So, when his 2018 video ‘I Was a Terrorist’ appears on the queue, it comes as something of a shock. Set in a sparse prison cell, it shows a young female victim of violent extremism confronting the man who attacked her family – a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit, played by Vikar himself. The conversation plays out as each tells the story from their perspective, speaking with the same voice as they set out motivations and consequences, and lay bare their pain, anger and remorse.

“I had never seen content creators in Malaysia talking about violent extremism.”

Young YouTuber Vikar

Across many EU Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) activities, young people as a group play an important role. On the one hand, they can be more vulnerable to extremist narratives. On the other, they are some of the most passionate promoters of peace and tolerance in their communities. Initiatives such as Creators for Change provide a platform for young voices to contribute to the public debate on the issues that affect their lives, while other projects aim to build emotional resilience among young people who may be under pressure. The STRIVE Global GCERF programme, for example, has worked with Serbian youth through engagement, leadership skills training and cognitive and social-emotional skills development. And a STRIVE Global Hedayah theatre training initiative in Jordan has helped young people tap into their creativity while raising awareness of VE to a broader audience – as participants developed an interactive play on the impact of VE and toured it in various locations across the country.

As for the Creators for Change, the programme began by reaching out to young influencers and inviting them to attend a boot camp. Here, they met with local NGOs with expertise in P/CVE as well as more renowned YouTubers, film directors, and journalists. They offered guidance and support on the themes the creators wanted to explore, acting as mentors as they developed the concepts and produced their final videos. “I worked with a Malaysian anti-terrorism organisation who helped me understand more about VE in the country,” relays Vikar. “I was given full freedom to come up with the concept and content, while the experts gave input to ensure the facts were correct and that the storytelling was realistic – something that was especially important, as I had to be in the characters’ shoes in the video.”

Young people can be some of the most passionate promoters of peace and tolerance in their communities.

Worldwide, the Creators for Change series has racked up views in the tens of millions. By working with online influencers with huge follower counts, the programme has been able to tap into a vast network to spread the creators’ messages for peace and tolerance across the region. While it may not have been what they expected from Vikar’s channel, the response from his followers shows the video has clearly made an impact. “When I saw people begin sharing it and starting conversations in the comments about the topic of VE, I felt the video had achieved its goal,” he concludes. And while the real-life events that inspired the video may not have ended in understanding or forgiveness, the creative process allowed for a different takeaway. “The message I wanted to get across is that if people talked to each other, had conversations and actually got to know each other, maybe things would be different.”


Support networks are important to young people in preventing violent extremism and radicalisation