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Counter-radicalism policies and strategies

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Asanga Abeyagoonasekera Asanga Abeyagoonasekera i.ytimg.com

Lessons learned and future steps

Speech made by Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, former Executive Director LKIIRSS on “Counter-radicalism Policies and Strategies: Lessons Learned and Future Steps” at annual Strategic Studies Summit held in Antalya, Turkey 24th March 2015. Organized by Strategic Studies Network (SSN) and the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM).  The theme of this year’s Summit was “Building Partnership” focus on fostering strategic alliances to tackle common problems that are often beyond the capacity of a single nation or organization. More than one hundred scholars and distinguished guests attended the conference.

Distinguished scholar
I have been participating for the SSN events for the last three years and it gives me a great pleasure to be part of this important network. I thank the organizers, SSN and ORSAM for this important summit.

Having defeated one of the most brutal terrorist groups, Sri Lankan security forces are training the militarized, law enforcement and intelligence services worldwide. The Sri Lankan case demonstrates that any insurgency and terrorist campaign can be defeated with will and skill. Sri Lanka built a state-of-the-art de-radicalization program to rehabilitate 12,000 terrorists who were either captured or surrendered at the end of the war. Best practices from Sri Lanka together with Saudi Arabia and Singapore assisted in crafting the Rome Memorandum, the best available guide on how to rehabilitate terrorists.

Ethno-political and politico-religious conflicts as well as regional and superpower politics lead to the emergence of terrorism. If there is reconciliation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and between India and Pakistan, terrorism will diminish. In the case of Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu was a safe haven for Sri Lankan terrorists. Only after India-Sri Lanka normalized could terrorism be defeated in Sri Lanka.

The Islamic State (IS) presents a growing threat to the security and stability of not only Middle East and Africa but Asia. With the meteoric rise of IS, an al Qaeda mutant, the nature of the Asian threat landscape has changed. Multiple threat groups in Asia have either pledged support to IS or taken an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

In Asia, two dozen groups support IS. Over 1000 recruits from Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Australia and New Zealand have traveled to Syria and Iraq. The al Qaeda centric threat landscape is eclipsed by an al Qaeda-IS hybrid global threat. Today, al Qaeda and IS compete for supremacy of the terrorist movement. Nonetheless, their ideology is identical: IS more permissive in its brutality. If either of the apex leaders is killed, they will unite presenting an unprecedented global threat.
With IS mastery of shock action and social media, the threat is both territorial and global.  With Western and Middle Eastern political will, IS infrastructure can be dismantled and by building international partnerships, global harmony can be restored. Although the threat of IS and al Qaeda-directed attacks persist, the dominant threat is by self-radicalized homegrown cells and individuals. The strategy is to create a multinational, multi-pronged, multi-agency, and a multi-jurisdictional framework to fight upstream counter radicalization and downstream de-radicalization.

The role of civil society in counter-radicalization and de-radicalization is essential in this process. Civil society and Governments can work in partnership to prevent radicalization by tackling economic, social and political drivers. When Governments set the policy framework, providing funding, and addressing structural issues, but communities also need to play their part for the overall approach to be successful. Civil society has a role to play to counter-messages of radicalization and often it will be more effective when they come from communities rather than governments. It’s important to create a space for dialogue and discussion among youth, its part of the process of taking on divisive narratives and creating an inclusive society that listens and responds to the needs and concerns of the citizens. Civil society can spot the signs of vulnerability and work up stream to protect individuals from radicalization, through improved parenting, neighborhood support, and community resilience (Role of civil society in counter-radicalization and de-radicalization, ISD). Civil society can play a role in the de-radicalisation process. Some community organizations and individuals could contribute immensely to this process. Policies and strategies should include civil society and given a top priority.
Thank you!

 

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