With violent “extremism” on the rise, the international community is facing a new challenge, the battle against radical ideologies. But what drives radicalisation? And how do you prevent it from spreading?
The Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), based in Geneva, works with communities to identify early signs of radicalisation and intervene before violence breaks out.
Dr Khalid Koser, the executive director of the GCERF, talks to Al Jazeera about the fund and its fight to break the cycle of violent “extremism”.
I strongly believe that people are good. I strongly believe that if we give people an alternative, get kids back into education, empower women, then they’ll make the right decisions.
“We … identify which communities are at risk of becoming radicalised, we go into those communities, and we work to support local efforts to try to build resilience,” Koser explains.
“We try not to say we have the answers … We try to speak to mothers, sports coaches, clerics, imams, and ask them what they think the problem is … You’re a sports coach, you’re an unregistered NGO, you’re a mother who has some concerns, you need a few thousand dollars to launch an idea. That’s what our fund is about, trying to support you in launching those initiatives.”
“We’re reaching, at the moment, around a million people … that’s a million people who now have the capacity to do something more constructive with their lives.”
According to Koser, their projects fall into three main categories: Raising awareness, mobilising action, and creating alternatives. He believes that creating alternatives is key:
“I strongly believe that people are good. I strongly believe that if we give people an alternative, get kids back into education, empower women, then they’ll make the right decisions, and do something constructive with their lives rather than being tempting down this wrong route.”
But what are the main challenges and risks facing the GCERF?
“One risk is the money falls into the wrong hands and that’s a redline. It’s absolutely clear to me that if our money starts fuelling and funding violent ‘extremism’ rather than preventing it, then this fund will and should close down … so we have a robust anti-terrorism screening process.”
“The other sort of risk that is more palatable, is that some of the projects we’re funding will fail. We’re giving small amounts of money to local communities that have never received money before, that may be illiterate, that have no idea really how to do project management … and are asking them to have a go. And I think all of our donors and funders understand that sometimes those will fail but we’d rather give small amounts of money and take risks and be innovative than do nothing at all,” Koser says.
The main link between migration and violent extremism is that people are fleeing violent extremism, [they] are not coming to perpetrate it.
“Let’s move away from the thought that Europe is under threat or there is a crisis. I don’t think it is. However, there is a strong perception out there that migration is bringing a threat to Europe at the moment. That there is a risk of terrorism or radicalisation amongst mobile populations …”
Koser says there is a link between migration, displacement and radicalisation, but “the last thing I’d want to do is to fuel xenophobia by ever suggesting that migrants and refugees are tending towards extremism. I don’t think they are. I think the evidence is absolutely clear, that the main link between migration and violent extremism is that people are fleeing violent extremism, [they] are not coming to perpetrate it.”
However, looking at the way governments across Europe have responded to the influx of refugees, Koser says:
“There is a risk that if we get our policy settings wrong, if we return people to countries where they don’t feel safe, if we fail to integrate people effectively here in Europe, then some people somewhere down the line may become radicalised to violence. I don’t think we should be surprised if that happens. There is a risk out there and we have to be aware of it.”
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Source: Al Jazeera News