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Approaches to countering violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism (VERLT)

An overview of the European approaches to prevent radicalization and counter violent extremism with effective involvement of the first line practitioners.

The following article presents the different approaches taken up by the European governments to tackle the issue of radicalization and violent extremism. Here, the different types of multi-agency approaches, involving first line practitioners has been described. It includes different CVE programs, in which first line practitioners facilitate the process of counter radicalization and counter violent extremism. Further, similarities and lessons learned from the implementation of these programs have been discussed.

The multi-agency approach involves several authorities working to counter VERLT at multiple levels (RAN, 2017). The key players include police officers, youth workers, teachers, social workers, etc. One of the Multi-agency approach based in Germany is ChamaLion, which employs the training of the first line practitioners to counter VERLT. The main objective is to aid the vulnerable individual during the early phase, which involves three modules. First line practitioners like teachers and social workers are trained in three modules:

  1. Belonging and orientation
  2. Identity and acceptance
  3. Conflict management

The teachers are made aware of their own prejudices and ways to deal with radicalization. This information is passed on further. This also serves as a role model for children at school. Similarly, New Connexion is another project based in Sweden, with aim to promote self-reflection regarding attitudes and views one holds. New Connexion has two teachers guides on countering radicalization and racism, one which caters to the needs of grade 7 to 9 students and other for addressing the needs of high school students. The government has recognized their work. Surveys have suggested that the education material has changed the situation in schools for the better. The Danish SSP system involves three institutes- schools, social workers and police working together to support well-being and upbringing of the children. The SSP councils all over Denmark have been trained to spot the symptoms of radicalization among the youngsters or extremist views.

Slotevaart Action Plan aims to increase awareness amongst the youth regarding radicalization and its dangers. This program works on three levels- Micro, Meso and Macro, involving the authorities and civil society actors. At the Micro level, its focus is on increasing awareness amongst the youth regarding dangers of radicalization and providing the empowerment, so that their negative emotions are aligned in the right direction. At the Meso level, the program focusses on the social context- factors that push individuals towards radicalization, promoting discussions on cultural and religious topics. Macro level activities focus on removing stigmatization and promote freedom of expression and religion. Similarly, another program based in Germany is Legato- key client model. It is based on the idea that radicalization always happens within a social system. Radicalized individuals are less likely to ask for help from CVE experts. It’s the family, friends, teachers, youth workers that note the change and call the counsellors associated with the programs. Its focus is to build up relationship with the radicalized person predominantly. The organization’s role is to identify the person close to the risky individual and provide them with support to prevent radicalization.

RecoRa Institute (U.K.) developed the “Train the Trainer Training” and empowers the local people of the community to counter-radicalization and violent extremism. It includes a host of resources like one or two-day training programs youth development resources on presenting radicalization. RecoRa trains individuals into Quality Assured Mentors who are experts in de-radicalization practice. This program makes sure that every neighborhood has experts to support individuals vulnerable to radicalization or to facilitate their exit through de-rad program. Manchester City Council have tested this online learning course. Channel is also based in the U.K., which uses multi-agency approach to support individuals on the verge of radicalization or drawn to terrorism its objective includes identifying individual risk, assessing the risk level, and providing these individuals with support from professionals.

Family Support Sarpsborg is a holistic approach, implemented by the Sarpsborg Municipality in Norway to prevent radicalization or reverse radicalization. This approach involves training of the first line practitioners to support the families of radicalized individuals or foreign fighters who have left the country.  It has linked the local police municipality, security services and others first line practitioner to prevent radicalization. It was stated in 2011, that families reported a positive feedback and that they reviewed support and felt understood by the experts. It takes care of all the needs of the family from child welfare, financial support psychological treatment, family guidance and job etc.

The Preventive policing unit in Helsinki, prevents violent extremism with the help of four teams. Team 1, involves cooperation of different cultures and linguistic communities and prevents religious extremism. Team 2, employs problem solving and work with risky youth who are vulnerable to extremism or are first time offenders. Team 3, works to prevent political extremism involves both left and right wing. Team 4 “The Archer”, employs a multi-agency approach involving different professionals with policeman, psychiatrists, social workers working together. This approach has not been evaluated but the feedback is positive.

To summarize, ChamLion, Danish SSP system and New Connexion are both employed at the school level to identify the vulnerable individuals in the early phase and training teachers. These are school based interventions. Family support Sarpsborg as well as Legato-Key Client model facilitates tackling the issue of CVE with providing support to the families of the radicalized individuals. Other programs such as Slotevaart Action Plan and Preventive Policing Unit employs the society involving society as a whole to counter VERLT. Hence, a multi-agency approach is very effective in tackling the problem of VERLT. The advantage of multi-agency approach is that different agencies work together to give a 360 degrees picture of the vulnerable individuals, the needs and intervention required (RAN, 2017). Another advantage of involving multiple actors in CVE interventions is that, it provides the vulnerable individual with a host of services and support like education, employment, mental health care etc. (RAN, 2017). There has been an increasing support for the multi-agency approaches, as the problem to be dealt is also multidimensional. Hence, such approaches include the police, public and communities working together to tackle VERLT. This has increased the effectiveness of interventions and accountability of actors (OSCE, 2014).

Note: This article is based on report by Preventing radicalization to Terrorism and violent Extremism, RAN (2017), Preventing Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism: A Community-Policing Approach OSCE, (2014)


Shruti Kapil, PATRIR