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  • Writer's pictureLa Xixa

Radicalization leading to violence among Youth in the EU

To prepare the 1000layers project we took into account three basic resources regarding extremism and radicalization leading to violence:

  • the 2016 SALTO Youth “Young people and extremism: a resource for Youth workers” (the SALTO report, from here on)

  • the 2018 European Commission Report “Youth Work against Violent Radicalisation: Theory, Concepts and Primary Prevention in Practice” (the YWR report, from here on)

  • the 2017 European Commission “The contribution of Youth work to preventing marginalisation and violent radicalisation: A practical toolbox for Youth workers & Recommendations for policy makers”. (the EU toolbox, from here on)

For our project, we will use the definitions provided by the EU toolbox, which makes an important distinction among the different terminology:

  • Radicalism is the advocacy of, and commitment to, sweeping change and restructuring of political and social institutions which involves the wish to do away with traditional and procedural restrictions which support the status quo.

  • Radicalisation is the process of growing willingness to accept, pursue and support far-reaching changes in society, conflicting with the existing order.

  • Radicalisation leading to violent extremism is a process whereby a person accepts the use of violence to achieve political, ideological or religious goals, including violent extremism and terrorism.

  • Extremism refers to positions that are strongly directed against shared values and moral standards within a given society. The term ‹extremists› refers to people who strongly disrespect or even fight those values and standards (including the use of violence).

Regarding types of radicalisation, the EU framework identifies four different types:

  • Right-wing extremist violence is a form of violent radicalisation associated with fascism, racism, supremacism and ultranationalism. This form of radicalisation leading to violence is characterised by the violent defence of a racial, ethnic or pseudo-national identity, and is also associated with radical hostility towards state authorities, minorities, immigrants and/or left-wing political groups.

  • Politico-religious extremist violence is a form of radicalisation leading to violence associated with a political interpretation of religion and the defence, by violent means, of a religious identity perceived to be under attack (via international conflicts, foreign policy, social debates, etc.).

  • Single-issue extremist violence is a form of violent radicalisation essentially motivated by a sole and specific issue. This category includes the following groups if they use violence: radical environmental or animal rights groups, anti-globalisation movements, anti-abortion extremists, sport-related violence, certain anti-trans and anti-feminist movements, and ultra-individualist or independent extremist movements that use violence to promote their causes. Murderers whose motivations are partially or wholly ideological may also fall under this category.

  • Left-wing extremist violence is a form of radicalisation leading to violence that focuses primarily on anti-capitalist demands and calls for the transformation of political systems considered responsible for producing social inequalities, and which may ultimately employ violent means to further its cause. This category includes anarchist, Maoist, Trotskyist and Marxist–Leninist groups that use violence to advocate for their cause.

According to the YWR report, left-wing extremist violence is rarely the focus of practice and must be considered separately from other forms of violent radicalization, since “these groups in contemporary Europe are rarely equated with right-wing and religious radicals, since their goals do not go against democratic principles. While radical right-wing and religious groups target violent actions against human beings, the violence used by left-wing radical movements is targeted at objects or institutions, thus having a different level of gradation.”

Actually, in the case of left-wing extremism, among other types of extremism such as those related to the defence of animal rights and the environment, Youth work can be particularly useful in preventing violence by offering “alternative solutions and scenarios, giving young people options to engage, contribute to the society, and be “radical” while promoting positive social changes.”

Regarding the motives to turn to violent radicalization, the SALTO report identifies the following:

  • To find a sense of identity, belonging and acceptance

  • To assure security or safety, especially in areas where radicalisation is majoritarian among Youth

  • To obtain status, honour, responsibility and/or legitimization

  • To find a way out of poverty

  • To obtain a sense of empowerment and purpose

  • As an opportunity to resolve injustices

  • As an opportunity to fight back or exert revenge

  • As a way to achieve a utopian vision

  • For the “buzz”

Many of these motives can find space through Youth participation in community spaces, and can be addressed through Youth work if the Youth worker has the necessary tools and is prepared to guide the young person to channel their restlessness positively and following the principles of Youth leadership and active citizenship. The SALTO report explains that when “Youth workers, educators and others who have professional relationships view young people in this way, it releases the potential for young people to develop their understanding of the world around them and to use their skills (including critical thinking skills) to work in partnership with adults to bring about social change.”

The YWR report and the EU toolbox indicate three stages of prevention: generic, targeted and indicated. "Generic prevention targets all young people in an indirect way, by equipping them with life skills which contribute to their democratic resilience and thus strengthening their democratic values." Targeted prevention is to be used with young people who show tendencies of violent radicalization, and indicated prevention with those who are already involved.

The 1000layers project wishes to equip Youth workers and participating young people with tools and skills required for generic prevention, although these are also relevant skills for Youth workers to apply in other stages of prevention. According to the YWR report, Youth work can make the most impact at the stage of generic prevention, including ways to work with young people to address a positive development of their identity.

Concretely, we will focus on developing the Creative Identities Methodology, which allows critically reflecting on identity, but also provides tools for promotion of diversity and non-discrimination, intercultural dialogue and interaction, conflict mediation and resolution, critical thinking and critical media use, among other basic soft skills relevant to prevent violence and marginalization among Youth.

Through this method, which we explain in detail further on in this document, we will address, through generic prevention, the ground floor of Moghaddam’s six step model to violent radicalisation as indicated in the YWR report:

  • ground floor: psychological interpretation of the material and social conditions

  • first floor: options envisaged against the unfair treatment

  • second floor: aggression

  • third floor: moral commitment

  • fourth floor: categorical thinking and legitimacy of the violent group or organisation – recruitment

  • fifth floor: the violent act and the mechanisms of inhibition.

Through the 1000Layers project and by using the Creative Identities Method, we will be specifically addressing the three components of ground floor stage:

  • Subjective perception of deprivation, injustice, social immobility

  • Threats to identity

  • Influence of the media spreading the feeling of injustice.

The 1000Layers project brings an innovative approach to already tested methodologies aligned with the 20 selected best practices highlighted by YWR report, including working with identity as one of the main areas of generic prevention, as well as using creative, art-based and participant-centred methods such as storytelling and theatre.

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