Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue organises panel discussion on de-radicalisation

GENEVA, 2nd July, 2016 (WAM)--Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, has said the centre seeks to enhance the scope of cooperation between the civil societies and international organisations, with regard to human rights in order to support elements of reconciliation on the humanitarian values.

He referred, in this regard to the discussion panel, organised by the centre under the title: "De-radicalisation or the Roll-Back of Violent Extremism," on the sidelines of meetings of the 32nd regular session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, under the auspices of the Democratic People’s Republic of Algeria's Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office and International Organisations in Geneva.

Dr. Hanif Al Qassim said the move comes within the framework of keeping up with international events pertaining to the humanitarian affairs.

He added that the panel discussion touched on several topics including special procedures to promote dialogue and follow-up of the United Nations resolutions on the human rights and tackling the phenomena of increasing violence.

Dr. Hanif added that the discussion involved specialists in the field of human rights and experts and international dignitaries, stressing keenness to organise research and training activities in the field of human rights and promotion of humanitarian dialogue, as well as the centre's role in this area.

Over the past years, radicalisation and violent extremism have become a universal challenge for the North as well as for the South. This Panel was a follow up on the outcome of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism – The Way Forward, held on 7 and 8 April 2016. The discussion took place against the backdrop of the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development and, in particular, of goal no.16, which envisions promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and to provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The panel discussion was opened by Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Management, followed by Boudjemaa Delmi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria to the United Nations Office in Geneva and other International Organizations in Switzerland. The moderator of the panel was Idriss Jazairy, Resident Board Member of the Geneva Centre.

The panelists included: Dr. Farhad Khosrokhavar, Sociologist and Research Director at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales , Paris; Dr. Herve Gonsolin, Special Adviser on Peace and Security,Geneva; Dr. Raphael Liogier, Professor at the Institute d’Etudes Politique d’Aix –en –Provence, Professor at the College international de Philosophie, Paris, and Mr. Reda Benkirane, Sociologist and Research Associate at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies),Geneva. Copies of the text of a statement by Dr. Mariem Baba Ahmed, Anthropologist, and Research Associate at the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur l’Ouest Saharien (CEROS), were circulated amongst the participants during the discussion.

This event took place in the wake of the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which was itself aimed at focusing on preventive measures set out in the UN Global Counter-Terror Strategy of 2006.

The discussion revolved around two distinct concepts; radicalism and radicalization. Dr. Hanif Al Qassim as well as other participants pointed out that "radicalism" is nothing but reverting to origin as the famous Arab proverb says; "Going back to origin is a virtue". Caring about origin is a common intrinsic feeling shared by all people around the world, as it bonds people to their identities regardless of their personal inclinations.

The phenomenon of reverting to origin exists in the West under what is known as "radicalism", which had played an important role in ending tyranny and advancing democracy. The concept of radicalism per se does not entail violence; on the contrary, reverting to origin usually has quietist overtones. Hence, radicalism is about the freely espoused pursuit of authenticity.

Radicalisation on the other hand is about the imposition of an "off- the- peg "value system and it is likely to lead to bigotry in the majority of cases. Violence starts when radicalization through hate speech replaces the low esteem of self by low esteem of others. Thus, people deprived of solid religious upbringing may be drawn to engaging in violent extremist action. There is no logical or theological correlation between faith, which is used by extremist as a pretext for committing violence, and violence itself. At best, it is a case of radicalisation affecting religious practice rather than the reverse.

In this perspective, a constructive exchange of opinion addressing the causes of violent extremism took place. Some of the panelists stressed the importance of the responsibility of governments from both North and South in both causing and tackling violent extremism. This could be related to discriminatory policies against minorities, or to failures in governance or corruption. Other participants alluded to the case of youths joining violent extremist groups in the Middle East without having a clear understanding of religion or of any particular ideology. It was clear that youth violence in such cases is more about youngsters being influenced by virtual violence that is widely propagated through the Internet.

Those youths in the West at times seek revenge for what they perceive as their marginalization. In their view, revenge could be achieved through playing the super hero role in an illusory adventure that turns out later to be a disastrous experience with harsh consequences. In the developing world, the high degree of youth unemployment was seen as a key factor in exacting revenge or eschewing a sense of powerlessness.

It was also noted that the status of the recruited youths from different countries had evolved. When Al Qaeda used to guide violent movements, it used to rely on ideologies claiming falsely to be committed to Islam. Daesh, however, resorted to different recruitment tactics adapted to the frustrations of the youths in targeted countries in an attempt to convince them to express their anger through fighting for its cause. The numbers of recruits however were only a minute part of the youths in their countries. Thus, the cohorts of misguided youngsters, of European origin for instance, was less than 5000.

During the discussion, it was pointed out that the percentage of women joining violent extremist movements prior to 2011 did not exceed 10%, whereas it had risen to 30 percent nowadays. Similar percentages applied to the increased involvement of converts in violent extremism in the Middle East. Furthermore, it was noticed that those that responded to the calls of extremist movements, who were at the beginning from the most destitute segments of society had evolved nowadays to include youths from the middle and upper social stretches of societies.

All participants dwelled on the importance of taking into account the variety of conditions prevailing in different countries to roll back violent extremism. They stressed the key role of security policies compliant with human rights to counter extremist violence policies in the short term. Modern technologies to detect and destroy films of hatred and extreme violence on the Internet following similar measures to eliminate pictures of child pornography on the Net were likewise being devised. However, longer-term psycho –social action was also required under the broad- heading of de-radicalization.

The panelists described different stages of radicalizations that need to be considered when taking remedial action. Upon their return from fighting zones to their home countries, some of the violent extremists repent and become susceptible to logical, social or theological argument. Other more dogmatic extremists refuse to respond to any attempt aimed at changing their faulty perceptions about violent extremism. They need to be put in isolation.

Yet, others return with noticeable post-traumatic stress disorder, and require mental health treatment. This shows that imprisoning those who are involved in violent extremist activities is not a panacea for tackling violent extremism.

Dr. Hanif Al Qassim indicated in his statement that studying all the solutions for managing this kind of crises, which is a shared concern for Islamic and non- Islamic countries, was not possible in two hours. He proposed to convene a meeting next autumn to study more at depth the way out of such dilemma. There was consensus amongst the participants supporting the fact that all basic rights had to be preserved, in the process, for concerned human beings, including violent extremists, as freedom of opinion is a basic inalienable right and so is non- discriminated.

H.E. Boudjem?a Delmi, Permanent Representative of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva highlighted in his speech that his country organized an international conference on 15 July 2015 on the theme of de-radicalization and the roll –back of violent extremism. Participants agreed that this conference paved the way for the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism – The Way Forward, held on 7 and 8 April 2016.

H.E. Obaid Salem Saeed Nasser Al Zaabi, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations Geneva recalled that his country established a Ministry for Tolerance. Whereas, H.E. Saja Majali , Permanent Representative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United Nations Office in Geneva mentioned King Abdulla II , Amman Message Initiative for Religious and Intercultural Dialogue .

A representative from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Sudan to the United Nations explained that radicalization is not linked to religion; however, it is linked to politicizing religion. He also added that researchers and policy makers must consider the social and educational conditions that draw the youths to terrorist groups, analyzing this phenomenon, especially where the percentage of unemployed in the countries of the South surpasses 60 percent.

H.E. Vaqif Sadiqov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United Nations Office in Geneva said that radicalization did not come out of the blue, and stressed the need for analyzing the policies of some countries that according to him are part of the problem as much as they are part of the solution to the problem.

The panel witnessed a discussion, focused on finding solutions for modern societies based on the recognition of the prominent role that youths play in shaping the world’s future.Youths were never the problem; they are rather the solution to it.

Finally, it was recognised that societies worldwide are pulled asunder as a result of the rapid transformation of their material base. It has indeed been claimed that the rapidly evolving technologies of information and communication and the increasing resort to artificial intelligence are introducing changes in our societies at 10 times the speed of the Industrial Revolution, which was itself socially disruptive.

The scope of the change process was furthermore broader and its impact accordingly much deeper. Despite these trends, violence had not increased in the world as compared to the recent past. It had simply changed its nature and had become randomised, thus provoking widespread fear and xenophobia, which in turn are the best recruiting agents for terrorist gangs.


WAM/Majok