CESI joins the EESC & other social partners in efforts to prevent radicalisation

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held recently a public hearing on ‘The role of civil society in the prevention of radicalization of young people’. The event, which gathered policy makers, practitioners and experts in the field, was organised as a preparatory consultation for an own-initiative opinion on ‘Prevention of radicalisation’, an initiative driven by Mr Christian Moos, active member of CESI and the EESC and Divisional Director for European and International Affairs at the German Civil Servants Association (dbb). As such, both the opinion and the event aimed at addressing how civil society, supported by institutional bodies, could counteract the effects of political and religious radicalisation.

CESI joins the EESC & other social partners in efforts to prevent radicalisation

The EESC event was particularly relevant because it provided, in a nutshell, information but also examples of good practices of what actions civil society organisations could take in order to tackle radicalisation. From the SCOUT Movement in Belgium to the ConnectFutures in the United Kingdom, or the RAN (Radicalisation Awareness Network) European initiatives, it is clear that in preventing radicalisation there are already some good practices.

The most important take-aways from the meeting have already been reflected in the work of CESI: education, transmission of common European values and labour market integration. To begin with, a common point highlighted by all the speakers in the event was the importance of critical thinking and passing on the European values through education, citizenship engagement and community work. As mentioned in the reflection paper on the transmission of values, “both upbringing and education play a key role in the shaping of values, through the teaching of knowledge and know-how to young people, allowing them to actively participate in the construction of their individuality and identity. Today, human beings need an identity, because anyone who opens up to the outside world, must be sure of him/herself.” In addition to that, the CESI statement on the position paper about fighting radicalization highlights that the public servants working with youngsters at risk are key for ensuring the early detection, prevention and assistance in preventing radical acts. That is why more efforts, investments in the human capital and even funding should go into supporting these categories of servants.

“As a trade union confederation, CESI represents many public sector employees that get in touch on a daily basis with persons at a potential risk of radicalisation: Teachers in schools, security forces in prisons, police forces in their local communities. They have stressed understaffing and shortcomings with regards to equipment and training for a long time. Our position paper tries to bring this issue to the political agenda.”

As highlighted in the meeting by Mr Claude Heiser (President of CESI Education Trade Council and vice president of the Athenee de Luxembourg Highschool), teachers play a fundamental role in forming youngsters but their efforts should be more supported by the state through funding and by other social partners though extra-curricular/ after-school activities/ volunteering. Mr Heiser also mentioned that European institutions should put forward more strongly an agenda of promoting European values and democratic citizenship in member states’ schools.

In the same opinion on fighting radicalisation, “CESI is of the opinion that it is fundamental to set up a greater number of informal educational programmes, volunteering opportunities, sports activities and intercultural dialogue fora that actively include young people, enabling them to access a wide range of experiences and exchange with other cultures. It is also important to encourage cooperation with religious centres that can provide a counter-narrative to certain religious beliefs.”

Moreover, the topic of integration as a ‘two-way street’ has been another recurrent theme of the discussions. Panellists identified labour market integration as the most important way to tackle extremism. Lys Cylaerts, expert working in re-integrating former prisoners on the job market, emphasized the importance offering people more opportunities to work and to gain their financial independence in order to avoid the traps of illicit activities. In Belgium there are initiatives which encourage employers to hire people convicted of crimes, but it is not enough. CESI is very much aware of this topic. The CESI Trade Council on ‘Justice’, which is made up of representatives from various European trade unions in the field of justice and prisons, is also very much concerned by this reality and as part of its 2016 work it provided the following recommendations: “to Increase follow-up services and educational alternatives suggested to repeat offenders & to increase investments in rehabilitation programmes.” To follow the same line of arguments, in its position paper on labour market integration of refugees, CESI already acknowledged the fact that “more intensive interaction and cooperation between employers, trade unions and refugees could facilitate the transition into the labour market as trade unions and employers have precious experience and insight.”

The half-day event was a very good opportunity to raise vital question about how member states should deal with the threat of radicalization, it provided some examples of good practices and it enabled the social partners present to reflect on possible synergies for improving the work of prevention and how to cope better with the challenges of both religious and right wing extremism. All in all, as Mr Moos, the EESC rapporteur on the topic and CESI member, puts it into words, “radicalization is a dehumanizing phenomenon and prevention requires a long-term commitment from all societal actors.” CESI, as the confederation representing people working directly with youth at risk of radicalisation, believe it is important to highlight and value these workers and to support them accordingly so that they can achieve the highest degree of efficiency in their job.

The list of guest speakers of the event, who should be acknowledged and thanked for their contribution, included:

  • Marguerite Potard, ‎Director for external relations and funding – ‎World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM);
  • Jessika Soors, Head of service for deradicalisation and CVE,city of Vilvoorde
  • Lies Cylaerts, Skills counsellor, Groep INTRO vzw;
  • Lynn Davies, Emeritus Professor of International Education in the School of Education at the University of Birmingham;
  • Szilvia Kalman, Team Leader, Unit A1 – Strategy and Investments, DG EAC, European Commission;
  • Karin Heremans, GO! Coordination Policy radicalisation & polarisation, Principle GO! Atheneum Antwerpen and Co-chair RAN Education Working Group;
  • Claude Heiser, President of CESI’s Education Trade Council, representative of an education trade union in Luxembourg and vice principle of Athenee de Luxembourg high school.

Picture: © CESI 2017