C Explanatory memorandum by Sir Roger
Gale, rapporteur for opinion
1. Preventing radicalisation and
extremism in children and young people is certainly one of the urgent challenges
our democratic societies must meet today. The deadly terrorist attacks
in Paris in January and in November 2015, and those of 22 March
2016 in Brussels, clearly show how the report by the Committee on Social
Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development is relevant and timely.
2. Of course, the problem does not lie in having strong convictions
or beliefs, but in the danger that these are turned into an absurd
justification of violence against others and into a determination
to annihilate their values. Indeed, values, or more correctly “democratic
values”, are the key and our starting point should be that in taking
a stand against radicalisation and extremism that leads to violence
– including verbal violence as hate speech – and even to terrorism,
there is nothing stronger and more effective than anchoring any
future measures in democracy. We shall work not towards further
divisions, but to bridge cultural and social divides, building trust,
creating inclusive communities, fighting discrimination and cultivating
I am glad that Ms Fataliyeva referred in her explanatory memorandum
to the 2015 edition of the Lisbon Forum on “How to combat radicalisation
and terrorism: Prevention tools and shared knowledge in the Mediterranean
and European space”, held in Lisbon on 3 and 4 December 2015. This
event highlighted a great number of relevant initiatives and proposed
concrete actions that member States could take in this area. It called,
in particular, for community-based approaches to counter radicalisation
that would involve a wide range of stakeholders, civil society,
local authorities, schools, religious bodies, media and community
centres. “Local and regional authorities have a key role to play
by promoting exit programs using a multi-agency approach including
partnerships with schools, civil society and other local stakeholders”.Note
This has also been stressed by the
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe,
in its Resolution 384 (2015) on “Prevention of Radicalisation and
manifestations of hate at grassroots level: guidelines for local
and regional authorities”.
The role of media in preventing radicalisation and extremism
is equally essential. Children and young people are exposed from
an early age to the expression of violence through the media channels
they have access to. Television, radio and, now, social media may
lead to familiarity with violence without grasping the danger of
such an exposure. The Assembly, in its Resolution 2001 (2014)
on violence in and through the media, stressed that
incidents of extreme violence have been perpetrated by individuals
who have had intensive prior exposure to violence in the media,
and that children (up to the age of 18) were especially exposed
to all the attendant risks. Their situation therefore deserves particular
attention. The Assembly should recall that governments, national
parliaments and media service providers have the responsibility
to combat violence in the media. Any incitement to violence through
the media shall be prohibited by law in accordance with Article
20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
I would also like to draw the Assembly’s attention to specific
actions mentioned in its Recommendation 1962
on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue.
Acting towards greater respect of religious diversity is crucial.
The Assembly insisted on the need for everyone to learn to share
their differences positively and accept others, with their differences,
in order to build cohesive societies that are receptive to diversity
and respect the dignity of each individual. Religion is central
to identity. It is referred to in children and young people’s lives
as a foundation, based on which behaviour and values take shape.
I therefore think that the religious leaders should consider enhancing
their communication strategy, seeking to reinforce positive messages
on our shared values and the foundations of our democratic societies,
and to avoid moves that divert religion from their core and proper
beliefs. As Mr Jorge SampaioNote
at the Lisbon Forum, religious leaders “should not allow extremist
views and fundamentalism to make their religion an instrument of
violence and terror”.
The European Union Education Ministers, meeting in Paris on
17 March 2015, adopted a Declaration on education and radicalisation.Note
It called on European Union member
States to boost EU-level co-operation on four overarching priorities:
- ensuring young people acquire
social, civic and intercultural competences, by promoting democratic values
and fundamental rights, social inclusion and non-discrimination,
as well as active citizenship;
- enhancing critical thinking and media literacy, particularly
in the use of the Internet and social media, so as to develop resistance
to discrimination and indoctrination;
- fostering the education of disadvantaged children and
young people, by ensuring that education and training systems address
- promoting intercultural dialogue through all forms of
learning in co-operation with other relevant policies and stakeholders.
As a follow-up, the Commission and the Council – in November
2015 – jointly decided to adapt their policy co-operation in the
fields of education and training and youth to give priority attention
to the implementation of the Paris Declaration. In 2016, two dedicated
expert groups were launched – one focusing on education and training
and the other on youth work – to accelerate the exchange of good
practices, inspire policymakers on issues listed in the Declaration
and prepare concrete policy guidance tools. To underpin policy change
with financial support, when allocating the €400 million envelope
for the 2016 Erasmus+ co-operation projects, priority will be given
to those projects tackling the objectives of the Paris Declaration.
A specific call with a budget of €13 million has just been released
with the main objective of supporting dissemination, replication
and mainstreaming of good practices at grass-roots level in areas
falling under the scope of the Paris DeclarationNote
. Promoting inclusion and fundamental
values is one of the topics for another specific call for proposals
on policy experimentations with a budget of €14 million.
8. We should bear in mind that children and young people are
often influenced by people they relate to as role models. In the
absence of positive role models, and in need of recognition by their
peers as leaders in their own right, they tend to associate with
movements or persons that challenge authority, be it family, school
or society at large. In this sense, radical movements provide them
with the opportunity to demonstrate their capacities. Society therefore
needs to deconstruct the arguments used by radical movements to
enrol new recruits by providing children and young people with positive
opportunities to prove themselves. Sport and culture offer such
9. Recently, the European Union gathered examples of EU member
States’ actions to prevent radicalisation and published a report
entitled “Promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance,
and non-discrimination through education”. This effort is to be
welcomed; though I have doubts about the choice of “tolerance” as
an objective of education policies. As Pastor Kent DelHousaye phrased
it, “people like the idea of tolerance because it sounds like it
is a palatable “live and let live” approach to life. It is a mentality
that sells well in a postmodern world because it seems so inclusive
and it sounds so accepting. Everyone wants to be tolerant of everyone
else because apparently the worst thing you can be today is intolerant
or judgmental.” However, this is a kind of “minimum” standard that
owes more to rhetoric than to positive action.
10. Societies need to go beyond tolerance to full acceptance of
others, praising the value of diversity. Tolerance alone just keeps
the distance between individuals, fostering indifference and eventually
resulting in isolation of those who are different. This does not
solve the problems. We should create opportunities for dialogue
in order to discuss openly what may be disturbing and then find
solutions acceptable to all parties.
11. Based on this analysis, I propose a series of amendments and
give further details below as to the specific reasons for them.
Specific explanations of the
“Muslim background” and “Muslim community” immediately stigmatise.
The concern relates, potentially, to extremism and fundamentalism
in all or any faiths.
As explained before, “tolerance” does not necessarily imply
positive steps towards understanding the position of the other and
could limit the interaction to a passive observation at a distance,
without engaging in a dialogue or co-operation with the other party.
Democratic citizenship and European values involve more than just respect
and tolerance; emphasising them narrows the scope of the meaning
of this sentence.
The suggested addition is intended to clarify the meaning
of the reference to child participation.
1803 (2011) on education against violence at school addresses the
issue of violence at school from a number of perspectives. The premise
that a school free from violence generates positive behaviour stands
true also as regards the likelihood of young people being drawn
into extremist movements. It lists specific measures, also bearing
in mind the influence that teachers and educators have on children
and young people, which is the main target of Ms Fataliyeva’s report.
It proposes, for instance, that “17.2.3. school teachers and staff
should have mandatory training to better understand the different
forms of violence (physical, psychological, verbal and behavioural
violence) and learn how to combat such violence and respect the
right of children to a non-violent school”.
Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2015)3 on the
access of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods to social
rightsNote was adopted on 21 January 2015,
after the Charlie Hebdo shooting
in Paris. The recommendation lists a series of measures that should
be taken as regards education, employment and occupation, housing,
etc., and is not referred to in Ms Fataliyeva’s explanatory memorandum.
It asks member States, inter alia,
to: “(1.a) improve the living
conditions of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods by
providing accessible, affordable and youth-friendly public services
and other measures in the fields of education and training, employment
and occupation, health, housing, information and counselling, sports, leisure
and culture; and (1.b) implement
concrete measures to work towards abolition of the segregation and isolation
that negatively affects disadvantaged neighbourhoods irrespective
of their location”. A series of concrete measures is listed in the
Appendix to this recommendation.
It is important to involve the associations of victims of
terrorism and other civil society organisations in the actions aimed
at raising awareness of children and young people about the danger
of radicalisation. Visits to schools or open dialogue at local level
should involve parents’ associations. This can help detect first
signs of radicalisation. It should also allow early intervention
and help for young people at risk of being radicalised.
I believe it would be a serious omission not to refer explicitly
to media in the text; I understand the focus on Internet, but we
cannot forget the other media. This amendment is also related to
the following one (I) concerning the introduction of an additional
sub-paragraph on the protection against violence through the media
after sub-paragraph 4.5.2.
Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights underscores that any propaganda for war and any advocacy
of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement
to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by
law. Even though Article 20 does not explicitly mention incitement
to hatred through the media, in the context of the report, it would
be advisable to highlight the importance of prohibiting by law any
incitement to violence through the media.
It is important to invite religious leaders to enhance communication
to challenge radicalisation that may lead to terrorism.