[email protected]: Radicalisation must be prevented through improved social inclusion at all levels, experts say

Today, CESI hosted another edition of its lunchtime event series '[email protected]'. This time experts discussed with the audience about how public services in Europe may be enabled to better prevent and counter radicalisation among the citizenry - a topic that CESI's Trade Council 'Security' has worked on in depth in the recent past.* With more than 120 participants registered for the event, the relevance that not only CESI but also policy makers, the organised civil society and citizens attach to addressing the recent spread of radicalisation in European societies was more than obvious.

CESI@noon: Radicalisation must be prevented through improved social inclusion at all levels, experts say

Addressing the audience in keynote interventions, all speakers agreed on the need to put a reinforced emphasis on the prevention of radicalisation of citizens if the threat of terrorism in Europe is to be minimised in the long-term. At the same time, each speaker brought in own sector-specific expertise and background knowledge, thereby making an informed, well-rounded debate possible.

Delivering the opening address, Hermann Benker (President of the Bavarian Police Trade Union and Vice-President of CESI’s Trade Council ‘Security’) introduced the challenge involved in the inhibition of radicalisation of young citizens: The capacity and potential to detect the often discretely radicalising youngsters in the first place.

Omar Ramadan (head of the Radicalisation Awareness Network, RAN) followed up on this, noting that this challenge can only be overcome by joint action of different societal actors: NGOs and victim groups must become partners of public services involved in preventing radicalisation, police officers need to build bridges locally in communities at risk (on a continuous basis and not only when radicalisation has already become imminent), teachers and educators need to exchange best practices more systematically in order to learn how to detect potentially radicalising youngsters. He went on to explain that the RAN was established with the explicit aim to facilitate such activities. 

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Rodrigo Ballester (member in the cabinet of education, culture, youth and sport Commissioner Tibor Navracsics) added in his intervention that the EU must deploy all its instruments to counter radicalisation, naming a number of possibilities of action under Erasmus+ as an example. He also mentioned that the recently issued European Agenda on Security for 2015-2020 is a new attempt to put the inhibition of radicalisation and terrorism at the centre of attention of European policy makers. Importantly, he stressed that radicalisation can only be successfully prevented and fought in the long-term if social inclusion at all levels and in all sectors is used as a weapon against it – be it in or through sports, education, or employment. After all, well-integrated citizens are least likely to be susceptible to terrorist activities, he explained.

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Claude Heiser (President of CESI’s Trade Council ‘Education’) then spoke on the role of schools in preventing the radicalisation of young people. He seconded Mr Ballester’s words on social inclusion, noting that keeping young people away from school drop-out is an important tool to inhibit their radicalisation. To this end, he said, schools must be enabled to be places where young people enjoy going and can flourish. Moreover, he noted, teachers must be trained to be not only excellent knowledge transmitters but successful conflict managers and true pedagogical educators beyond school subjects, too. He also called for syllabi to be adjusted so as to focus school education more on ethics and tolerant lifestyles.

IMG_0625Jean-Claude Delage (Secretary General of the French National Police Alliance and one of CESI’s Vice-Presidents) then brought the discussion away from education-related challenges to the need to enable police forces to effectively ensure public order and prevent terrorist attacks. For this, he said, more and better equipped police forces are required. He said that even though police forces alone can never achieve a ‘zero terrorist threat’ scenario, they play a crucial role in the fight against terrorism.

The floor was then opened to comments and questions by the audience. They related, for example, to the need to also involve prison guards in radicalisation prevention strategies (for instance through the European Organisation of Prison and Correctional Services, EuroPris) and on the necessity to include a cultural dimension into social inclusion and radicalisation prevention mechanisms in Europe (for example via cultural diplomacy and the Creative Europe programme). 

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In his concluding remarks, CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger recalled the relevance of the topic of the debate for CESI, saying that many of the members of the organisations it represents work in direct contact with those societal groups where radicalisation is statistically most present: Teachers with students, prison guards with prisoners, and police forces with inhabitants in local communities at risk. In this context, he urged policy makers in the EU and the Member States to do all they can in order to better support, enable and protect them in their efforts to carry out their work in the best possible manner.

If you are interested in more information about the event’s discussions or the subject area of radicalisation and terrorism and the public services’ role in preventing it more generally, please do not hesitate to contact the CESI General Secretariat.

* CESI’s Trade Council ‘Security’ is its primary forum of debate on policy and political developments in the area of working conditions for employees in the field of internal security, bringing together representatives from its member organisations working in this field.