Prevention of Violent Extremism

21.01.2015 - 18:47


Regarding to the actual incidents in Paris and Belgium I conferred with Dr. Robert Muggah, the salient expert for prevention of violence and Research Director of Igarapé Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I asked him: How can we detect and prevent young people from planning such ideologically based violence?

I share with you with pleasure Dr. Muggah´s fundamental and impressive insights – in hope to find effective solutions for our peaceful living together worldwide:

„Many thanks for your note, Christina E. Zech.  It´s a great question – how do we anticipate and prevent young people from joining radical and violent groups? Its definitely one preoccupying the minds of policy makers globally, and not just those with large Muslim populations. We´ve done some work with Google Ideas thinking about these issues (see here and here). Some of my own organization´s activities with governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations regularly involves reflections on the issue.

My sense is that these trends – the involvement of principally male youth in extremist causes/groups – are going to grow before they decline. The reasons for this are at least partly structural – an expanding demographic bulge, dramatically reduced economic horizons, hyper-connectivity, and more. So it is absolutely essential we get our heads around it.

There are several kinds of responses emerging, all of them imperfect. Some relate to the creation of new big data systems to track the real and digital footprints of at-risk young people. The idea is to monitor social media networks, real-life associations, financial transactions and more to intervene. This solution is obviously highly invasive and limited, but will likely expand in the coming years.

We also see more localized efforts to intervene with violence-prone youth. There are groups like CureViolence, for example, that seek to diagnose and interrupt violence by identifying those most likely to transmit it. They treat violence like a disease, operating at the neighborhood level with legitimate/credible mediators. It´s worked in some 50 cities around the world and others are applying the model.

There are also a wide range of efforts emerging to target the structural factors giving rise to radicalism, not least those related to health, employment, family cohesion, social inclusion and the rest. There are specialized programs designed to track psychological/emotional signals, alongside activities to promote de-radicalization through education. But many of these are not based on solid evidence, and tend to be quite piecemeal.

All the best, Dr. Robert Muggah
Research Director / Diretor de Pesquisa
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil