Vulnerable young people must not be blamed & stigmatised for violent radicalisation

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The European Youth Forum welcomes the adoption of the Council Conclusions on “the role of the youth sector in an integrated and cross-sectoral approach to preventing and combating violent radicalization”. It calls, however, for wider society and different sectors to jointly tackle this issue, in order to avoid blaming and stigmatising vulnerable young people.

To encourage this engagement, the European Youth Forum is tomorrow launching, at an event at the EESC’s Civil Society Days, its own publication “The Role of the Youth Sector in Preventing Violent Extremism”. This publication outlines that youth work alone cannot combat violent radicalisation among young people, but it can help to address some of the root causes in a joint approach with other sectors, such as education, social affairs, health etc.

The Youth Forum also highlights that youth organisations offer a safe space for the personal development of young people and that formal and non-formal education are key to providing citizenship education and support intercultural learning. But, in order to have a positive impact on creating more inclusive societies and as promoters of civic values, youth work and youth organisations need to be supported through sustainable funding. It calls for substantial investments in the forthcoming Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) review, as well as in discussion of the following MFF in the next year.

The Youth Forum believes that a coordinated approach is essential to tackle the root causes of violent radicalisation of young people, for example the social exclusion of young people, and to ensure that all young people have access to their rights. It recommends that: a coordination body be established to build a joint strategy; “one-stop” services be set up in more vulnerable neighbourhoods; less privileged groups must be prioritised with access to social security, healthcare and good quality education.

Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum, said:

“Violent extremism, leading to acts of senseless terror, is of course a huge concern for Europe and its leaders. But young people must not be the scapegoats for fear and stigmatisation. In addition, such concerns must not allow other forms of extremism, based on xenophobia and racism, to flourish and to create yet more division in our societies. What we need is concerted, joint action, which examines and then tackles what lies behind young people being drawn into violent extremism. Youth organisations and youth work have a key role to play to help tackle marginalisation, but without additional, sustainable support we will not be able to have the impact that we could.”

The Youth Forum supports the integrated and cross-sectoral approach of the Council Conclusions, which invite Member States to promote cooperation between the youth, education and other relevant sectors. It is disappointed, however, that the Conclusions do not recognise young people as the positive force for good that they are. The document puts a focus on the important role of youth work, the promotion of volunteering, civil society involvement and democratic values, such as participation, intercultural learning, non-discrimination and active citizenship. It also sees as positive the role that is highlighted in the conclusions that both formal and non-formal education can play in ensuring the social inclusion of young people.

However, the document could have been more ambitious in putting forward concrete actions, with Member States and the European Commission committing to specific joint initiatives from all sectors. Moreover, it is fundamental that the safe environment created by youth work and non-formal education activities should not be jeopardised by duties, such as the mentioned “early signaling” of young people at risk of violent radicalisation. Such measures would be counter-productive, leading to the exclusion of certain young people and the transferal of discussions towards less safe and transparent spaces, where they are likely to become even more violently radical.

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