Although there are few researches that focus on how young people consume extremist messages and how they could contribute with the development of counter-extremist measures, the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace (MGIEP) in partnership with UNESCO launched a guide last year based on young people perceptions. The document highlights the importance of promoting dialogue with young people to develop more effective strategies to tackle violent extremism.
After having reached more than 2,000 youngsters from more than 50 countries, UNESCO invited 50 individuals to attend the first International Conference on Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education: Taking Action, in New Delhi. During this event, young people had the change to express their opinions regarding violent extremism to 12 senior policymakers. The results can be verified in the guide YOUTH WAGING PEACE.
During the discussions, three key messages emerged: 1. Peace, empathy, and compassion cannot be taught. 2. Start now. 3. This is a long, slow process. For each of these points, it was identified a corresponding framework to guide policy making.
Besides giving youth the chance to express its thoughts, some stories regarding its perception on how extremism has been tackled by teachers and other stakeholders were also brought to the table. One of the individuals, for example, claimed teachers who feel unprepared end up dealing with their students with lack of confidence.
The document underscores the importance of education in extremism prevention:
When we encourage critical thinking we must be prepared for, and even welcome, the ability of young people to correctly identify and challenge injustice. When we promote empathy and compassion, we must be prepared to discuss the global and local realities young people will point to as instances when they, as individuals, as a community, or as a country, race, or religion, have been treated with indifference and intolerance
After taking note of the points highlighted by young people, UNESCO developed some guidelines to support the work of teachers, families and guardians, religious leaders, schools administrators, and policy makers. Some of them are: discuss controversial and difficult issues, develop understanding of structural barriers and injustice, understand language barriers, promote inclusion and understanding in the classroom and school, support ethical classroom and assessment metrics, understand violent extremism, provide resources to families and close relatives to address warning signs in young people.
The guide also provides tips and examples of how it is possible to avoid acts of extremism and it is full of practical examples of how one can challenge prejudices and assumptions that lead to hate.
With case studies individuals can develop critical thinking and skills to identify acts of extremism. Aimed at engaging, supporting and encouraging individuals both to tackle and to prevent extremism, this guide is a very comprehensive and innovative way to attract people’s attention to a problem that affects society as a whole: the advance of extremist ideologies
Here you can access the full document: https://d27gr4uvgxfbqz.cloudfront.net/files%2F69d36f17-ae3f-4b18-bab3-5b7915ced369_Youth%20Waging%20Peace.pdf
By Priscila Firmino Carneiro (UFRJ/Brazil)