Young activists have been the targets of government crackdowns and surveillance. Young people around the world, particularly young women, members of LGBTI communities, and people of colour, generally do not feel safe. According to the Davos Lab Youth Recovery Plan report published in 2021, increased racial, ethnic, and religious violence, and concerns about the growing misuse of digital surveillance tools (including those deployed to combat COVID-19) are behind this shared sentiment. In addition, government crackdowns on young people for advocating for more inclusive policies in certain parts of the world have further alienated many. The Youth Recovery Plan report collected survey responses in more than 180 countries; respondents said physical safety is the cause for most concern, followed distantly by “economic” safety. Most said the space they feel safest in is home, and only 5.9% chose “the internet.” Just 9.1% said they feel “most safe” in public spaces, and 6.5% said they feel “least safe” there. This hints at a potential problem, if heavy-handed policing (often based on racial or ethnic lines) leads to a situation where full participation in society is reserved only for people born into the “right” race or sexual orientation. The grim findings reflected in the report call for reforms that help ensure more of the young people who make up the biggest age demographic in the world can feel safe outside of their own homes. Some of the recommendations made in the report include crackdowns on the firearms that are the weapon of choice for committing violence in countries such as El Salvador and Brazil - in particular on “ghost guns,” which are unmarked and ready-to-assemble weapons that can be purchased as untraceable kits. Other recommendations include ending qualified immunity for police officers (in the US state of Texas, for example, 99% of the officers responsible for the killing of a member of the public between 2013 and 2019 were not charged with a crime) and ending both militarized policing and the abusive use of surveillance technology against activists and peaceful protestors. Ultimately, the public and private sectors must work together with civil society organizations to find ways to provide better training for police officers - including instruction on non-violent communication and ways to provide ready access to mental health services.
Young People and Public Safety