During the Central Asian Regional Peacebuilding Festival (23-26/03/2021), which is part of the “Strengthening resilience to radicalisation and disinformation in Central Asia” (Phase II) project, financed by the European Union and implemented by Internews, the European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) in cooperation with Internews office in Kyrgyzstan organised an online session on PVE educational models by RAN. The meeting was dedicated to learning from one another, to exchanging better practices in preventing violent extremism. And what better opportunity than engaging with the Radicalisation Awareness Network and their experts who have been involved in several training programmes throughout the project’s life span.
The third event, which was livestreamed through Three Dots Fest social media platforms to four Central Asian countries, took place on the 24th of March 2021, and featured an introduction of RAN and general presentation on prevention in education, schools & communication by Karin Heremans, Principal of the Royal Atheneum school in Antwerp & RAN representative for Belgium, a presentation on the “Aarhus model, a model focused on developing trust between authorities and the communities as well as the social circles in which radicals are believed to operate” by Jesper Holme, Danish educator and expert in preventing radicalisation, and a presentation on fake news & conspiracy theories by Kris Custers, from Stamp Media. The discussion was moderated by Andreas Marazis, European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) Head of Research for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Karin Heremans presented the RAN and its focus on preventing terrorism and addressing radicalisation. Within that scope, its objectives are to facilitate exchange among and between practitioners and other stakeholders (notably DG Home); to deliver support to both the EU and its Member States (and sometimes third countries) through trainings, workshops and counselling, and to disseminate learning and best practices gathered through RAN activities to different audiences.
“RAN DNA”, as explained by Ms. Heremans, consists of four principles: a key focus on prevention, the involvement of first line practitioners in trainings, tailor-made interventions adapted to local circumstances, and a multi-agency approach to deal with radicalisation and building resilience (which includes schools, social care, partners, mosques, parents, police, non-governmental organisations, law enforcement, etc).
Ms. Heremans shared RAN’s vision on radicalisation. First, she defined radicalisation as a process whereby a person increasingly accepts the use of violence to achieve political, ideological or religious goals. It is generally characterised by a cognitive development towards a steadily more unilateral perception of reality, where there is no room for alternative perspectives (tunnel), and a further development where the perception of reality is experienced so acutely and seriously that violent actions appear necessary and just.
Jesper Holme’s presentation revolved around the Aarhus model, a multiagency approach of working with prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism. The Aarhus model was designed to help create trust between the authorities and the social circles in which radicals operate, to help them find a way back into the society. Based on the WHO’s model for the prevention of drug abuse, the Aarhus model divides the population in three categories: most manage themselves and receive information, a small part needs advice and help, and a few individuals need intensive efforts. RAN offers what is needed for these different categories: dialogue-based workshops, awareness briefings, risk assessments, mentoring, interventions, etc.
Mr. Holme emphasized that working on the field of crime prevention demand a close cooperation across the different authorities. For example, when an intervention effort is needed, there is a joint assessment of whether young people are at risk of repeated crime or other negative developments based on factors such as parental ability or lack thereof, schooling, friendship, structure in leisure and well-being. The person at risk, its parents as well as a social worker and a police officer are participating.
Kris Custers started by highlighting the differentiation between misinformation, where false information is spread regardless of the intent to mislead, and disinformation, which is deliberately misleading. Considering that fake news spreads six times faster than true stories, Mr. Custers shared his views and gave a few practical examples on how to detect fake news: the audience has to check the source, the author, links and date, but also has to read more than just the title and look at the overall signals.
In the second part of his presentation Mr. Custers explained how conspiracy theories are structured, and how one can easily be convinced that the emergence of an unpleasant event is a secret plan of powerful people. According to Mr. Custers, people believe in conspiracies for several reasons, from the lack of trust in the government to a “gut feeling” and not wanting to believe what everyone else believes. In response to people believing fake news or conspiracy theories, Mr. Custers advises to be empathic, ask questions (Socratic method), find the emotion behind the belief, and try to find a common ground without expecting miracles.
Regional Peacebuilding Festival “.Three.Dots.Fest” was organised within “Strengthening resilience to radicalisation and disinformation in Central Asia” project financed by the European Union and implemented by Internews.
The project aims to strengthen the resilience of citizens to radicalisation narratives and disinformation leading to violent extremism through support to media, civil society organisations, government institutions, religious leaders and active citizens in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. To contribute to this objective, Internews will support national and regional initiatives focused on the production of inclusive, high-quality content that is accurate, trustworthy, and balanced to help local communities enhance their ability to make informed choices and take positive actions to support peace and security against radicalisation attempts and narratives. The project has been implemented since October 2019 with a total budget of 4,500,000 Euros and covers all countries of Central Asia.