The radicalization of youth and children has become an alarming issue in recent years. With the rise of violent extremist groups, one of the most appealing targets for violent extremist recruiters has increasingly been youth and children. Following the United Nations General Assembly’s High-Level Thematic Conversation on Children and Youth Affected by Violent Extremism (June 2016) and the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF) Neuchatel Memorandum on Good Practices on Juvenile Justice in a Counter-Terrorism Context, this phenomenon is gaining more attention from the international community.
Recruited and radicalized children are often exposed to sustained radicalizing environments both in-person and online. There is also a possibility that children are exposed to radicalizing narratives or experienced loss of family members as a result of violent extremist activities. For all these young individuals, social reintegration and personal resilience can be a serious challenge. The recent influx of returning foreign terrorist fighters (RFTF) from conflict zones also emphasizes that returnees not only include “fighters” but also comprise of youth and children, who have been exposed to varying degrees of radicalization and/or violence. Preventing youth radicalization through specific early interventions and through the disengagement, rehabilitation, and reintegration of radicalized youth and children is one of Hedayah’s strategic goals.
On this note, Hedayah has been collaborating with the National Counter-Terrorism Commission of Tunisia and relevant Ministries in Tunisia to develop and deliver a capacity building program for social workers, educators and psychologists working with vulnerable and/or radicalized youth and children in Tunisia. The first cycle of the initiative took place between December 2017 and December 2018. A total of 30 practitioners from several Social Defence and Integration Centres – CDIS (community-based centers that are under the Ministry of Social Affairs) and Child Detention Centers-CDCs (under the Ministry of Justice) were provided with additional knowledge, skills, and tools to face the challenge of youth radicalization. In January 2019, a second cycle of the initiative started with a total of over 40 practitioners from CDIS, CDCs and the Delegate for the Protection of Children (under the Ministry of Women, Children, and Family). The program is still ongoing and will be completed in late 2019. In terms of structure, this program entails one needs assessment visit, 3 capacity building trainings and 1 MM&E visit to assess the results. Select civil society organizations also participated to ensure the sustainable success of CVE activities on the ground.
Preventing youth radicalization across communities and Rehabilitating and Reintegrating youth and children exposed to RLVE.
- Increasing practitioners’ understanding and knowledge of radicalization leading to violent extremism (RLVE), key terminologies in prevention, early intervention, rehabilitation, and reintegration (CVE-cycle);
- Increasing participants’ skills and capacity in developing an appropriate response in prevention, early intervention, rehabilitation, and reintegration through the following three pedagogies:
- Digital and media literacy;
- Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): sense of identity, belonging and purpose, self-awareness, self-management; and
- Safe methods and spaces for dialogue – tolerance towards diversity (in opinions, religion, and cultural backgrounds).
- Increasing participants’ operational capacity in developing, implementing and measuring appropriate CVE approaches.
- Report of Cycle 1 (published in May 2019)
- Statistically-significant increase in knowledge and understanding of terminology, and approaches in dealing with youth radicalization (March 2018)
- Retention in knowledge and skills (June 2018)
- Good quality projects designed as a result of the program (October 2018)
Hedayah is committed to supporting the Government and civil society of Tunisia on increasing practitioners’ and government officials’ capacity and skills to tackle the challenge of radicalization in all its forms. Relevant conversations are already taking place to upgrade the current program as part of the strategic and collaborative relationship between Hedayah and the National Counter-Terrorism Commission of Tunisia.