As the economic crisis worsens, young people worldwide call for a return to humanitarian values – latest Red Cross Red Crescent poll

Published: 24 November 2011

Geneva: 24 November 2011

As young people continue to feel the effects of the global economic crisis, racial tension and the negative impacts of alcohol and other drugs, they are calling for a return to education based on humanitarian values, according to a poll released by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The results were released today at the organization’s 18th General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

The poll, which was shared through the global network of Red Cross Red Crescent youth, canvased the views of people aged 18 to 30 on factors that contribute to a culture of violence in their countries. It also examined what they believe would help create a culture of peace and non-violence.

“The results of this poll bear out what I see among my peers and young people with whom the Red Cross works,” says Anca Zaharia, head of the international department for Romanian Red Cross. “The boom times are gone and we are left with a generation questioning where to find inspiration and purpose in their lives,” added Zaharia

European youth, hit hard by the economic crisis have highlighted unemployment and a lack of self esteem as the biggest contributors to increased violence in some communities. In Latin America, alcohol and other drugs were cited most often, whilst in the Middle East, racial tension and discrimination were the most noted. Most respondents called for a return to education based on humanitarian values as a solution to violence in society.

“Our education system emphasizes intellect and analysis: maths and language. It doesn't help children and youth to learn how to live peacefully together and make informed choices later in their adult lives that will contribute to their health, well-being and happiness,” says Dr. Katrien Beeckman, head of the IFRC’s principles and values department.

Whilst the most significant contributory factors to a culture of violence among many young people were unemployment and a lack of self esteem according to the poll, but stress caused by financial or economic problems was the one of the lowest rated factors.

“What these young people are saying is financial stability alone is not enough; values must be nurtured to build self-confidence, and a sense of belonging and togetherness,” added Beeckman.

For values such as these to be promoted among today's young people, school curricula need to reflect this. The IFRC has already taken major steps in providing national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies with non-formal education tools via a global flagship initiative, Youth as agents of behavioural change (YABC), which provides young people with the skills they say they need, such as empathy, active listening and non-violent communication.

For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

  • Jessica Sallabank, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, Mobile +41 799 481 148
  • Anca Zaharia, Romanian Red Cross, Mobile +40 21 317 17 18
  • Susie Chippendale, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, Mobile +41 799 592 536