In recent months we have worked on our Ycare handbook. As a result we have reached agreement on the overall content that it will hold. As previously announced, this handbook is meant to equip youth counsellors with information useful to detect and combat radicalisation. As we have finished our fourth draft version, we would like to give a more detailed description of the content of the various chapters of the handbook.
The needs indicated by professionals themselves have served as a guiding principle in the construction of the handbook. Also, we used our own expertise in the field of youth counselling as well as radicalisation to decide on the information that should be included in the handbook. After consultation, we have reached agreement on the content of the various parts of the handbook, the first of which is an introduction to the project.
In the introductory part (Part A) the role of youth counselling in combatting radicalisation will be discussed. We discuss the relationship between education on the one hand and radicalisation on the other. Vulnerable youngsters are in need for guidance in various spheres of their lives. Parents, co-educators in voluntary and professional institutions and key-figures in the community of a youngster can all contribute to his or her wellbeing and thus prevent radicalisation. Attention is paid to issues such as ‘ethnic socialisation’, discussion about sensitive issues at school and the risks of an authoritarian and disciplinary parenting style.
Apart from this, there will be a section on youth counselling services in Europe. Young people require an information framework that enables them to make their first crucial decisions of great impact in the long term, at all levels (educational, vocational, family and personal). Youth counselling services respond to this need with the help of various practitioners (“counsellors and advisors”) and centres which offer global and comprehensive counselling and information in areas such as Education, Employment, Health, etc. We distinguish between generalist and specialised services.
Part B is about the phenomenon of radicalisation. First, we will explain some controversies as regards the definition of radicalisation. Several questions will be addressed. Does radicalism always involve violence? And to what extent is radicalisation context dependent? By means of a metaphor of a staircase to terrorism the process of radicalisation will be illustrated. Next, we will go through some important trigger factors: concrete events that initiate identifiable radicalisation or de-radicalisation. As will be described, a radicalising person can adopt the character of an identity seeker, a justice seeker, a significance seeker or a thrill seeker. A radical person’s character tells us something about his or her sensitivity to specific trigger factors.
The handbook also provides information on the way in which radical persons operate. Attention will be paid to the organisation structures of radical groups as well as on persons who self-radicalise: the lone wolves. Part B concludes with an overview of radical ideologies in contemporary Europe, such as the radical extreme-right, the radical extreme-left and radical Islam. Although there is much debate about the content of these ideologies some general features can be identified.
In Part C country specific information on radicalisation will be provided. In this part attention will be paid on the trend towards radicalisation that European countries have faced in recent years. As will become clear, the threat posed by the extreme right, the extreme left and radical Islam differs per country. Correspondingly, there are considerable differences in the kind of counter-radicalisation policies that are enacted by national governments, as well in the programs developed by non-governmental actors. An overview of these initiatives against radicalisation will be provided to ensure that readers are well informed on the counter-radicalisation strategies in their own country, and know what strategies are enacted in other European countries as well, to find inspiration in these strategies or just for information ends.
Part D is titled “approaches against radicalisation”. This part provides in-depth information on counter-radicalisation policies. We provide an overview of the methods that are commonly used in combatting radicalisation, categorising these methods early detection, prevention, intervention or exit strategy.
The first of these approaches, early detection, consist in raising awareness of first line practitioners working with vulnerable individuals or groups at risk of radicalisation in order to ensure that they are well equipped to detect and to respond to radicalisation. Prevention does not focus on professionals, but focusses on the young people at risk themselves. In order to prevent them from radicalising, they are educated in politics, are stimulated to enter in intercultural dialogue and the like.
Intervention strategies are more profound. These kind of strategies include community empowerment, family support and the delivering of alternative narratives. The last type of approach, exit strategies, consist in setting up programmes of de-radicalisation or disengagement aimed at reintegrating violent extremists (de-radicalisation) or at least dissuading them from violence (disengagement). Exit strategies are aimed at radicalized persons who need to re-integrate in society. Part D explains why the different strategies are needed, while it also makes clear the limitations of these strategies.
The next part (Part E) describes good practice examples of counter-radicalisation programs across Europe. Whereas part D is written from a theoretical point of view, part E describes initiatives that have proven successful in preventing and combatting radicalisation. These real world examples are explained for purposes of inspiration. With some adaption, these programs may be implemented in other contexts.