Save the Children Finland preventing violent radicalization and extremism
Violent radicalization and extremism
Violent radicalization is a process in which a person’s values, attitudes and worldview escalate to black and white and become robust, and which can lead to violent acts.
Violent extremism is a way of thinking and acting that opposes the core values of a democratic society such as equality, diversity, human rights, and the rule of law. Extremist thinking is inherently black-and-white and inflexible and at its core is a divided worldview with strong notions of right and wrong, us and them.
Violent radicalization and extremism threaten child’s rights and welfare in many ways. Narrow-minded extremism opposing equality and diversity jeopardizes a child’s right to a safe growing environment that supports the child’s individual development and moral and responsible growth into a full member of society. Children and young people, as part of society, are exposed to extremist ideologies and violent messages, and in addition, extremist movements target their propaganda especially at youth.
Hate speech, as an action stigmatizing entire demographic groups and questioning the basic values of a democratic society, also normalizes the culture of hatred and violence in the society at large. Such social climate and general culture of violence threatens child’s right to safety, equality, and general well-being. Hate speech affects the sense of security of its targets and causes fear, especially in children and young people. Thus, it also reproduces social inequality: a child experiencing fear and insecurity has worse opportunities to participate in society than others.
Save the Children Finland’s work in the prevention of violent extremism (PVE)
Save the Children Finland works to strengthen the knowledge base and build youth work’s prevention capacity towards violent extremism and its harmful impact on democratic society.
Youth work and professionals working with young people have a particularly good opportunity to prevent and intervene in potentially harmful actions and pathways at an early stage. Youth work can, for instance, support young people in challenging situations, strengthen young people’s media literacy and critical thinking, provide safe spaces for discussion, and thus support young people’s participation in society. Furthermore, it is important that professionals working with youth have the competence to recognize early signs of violent radicalization so they can intervene early on when they become concerned about a young person’s well-being.
Save the Children Finland’s PVE experts have created both in-person and online training programmes to fit the needs of the professionals working with young people. The trainings focus on early prevention and detection of violent attitudes and radicalization of youth and cover a variety of topics related to violent extremism (e.g. how to identify negative and potentially harmful actions, how to talk about it with young people, how to intervene both online and offline).
In addition to professional’s trainings programmes, Save the Children Finland also works to build up young people’s resilience towards violent extremist messages and attitudes, and enhance youth participation in the prevention of violent extremism.
Save the Children Finland has currently two ongoing projects focusing on these themes.
The RadicalWeb project
The RadicalWeb project (2018-2024) focuses on raising awareness of violent extremism, building youth work’s capacity to prevent extremism, and reinforcing stakeholder cooperation. The focus of the project is on training professionals working with young people regarding violent extremism and related phenomena; how to talk about it with young people, how to identify negative and potentially harmful actions, as well as how to intervene both face-to-face and online.
The publications released so far have examined e.g.:
- How violent radicalization and extremism manifest in Finnish online environments and what kind of effects they have on children and young people;
- What kind of strategies and environments do extremist movements use when recruiting young people to join their activities, and what kinds of factors protect and on the other hand expose young people to radicalization;
- How do violent extremism, hate speech and a general culture of violence manifest in the eyes of professionals working with youth and what kind of needs do the professionals have in terms of prevention of violent extremism (only in Finnish).
RadicalWeb is part of the National Action Plan for the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Extremism 2019-2023. The project is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland and is ongoing until the end of 2023. RadicalWeb has also been selected as one of the inspiring practices of the EU’s Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN).
The Resilience project (2021-2024) has a special focus on youth participation: the aim of the project is to prevent violent extremism by enhancing young people’s participation both in the society and in PVE-efforts. The project operates at a local level, in cooperation with 15 Finnish municipalities, by training youth workers and organizing workshops for young people aged between 13-19 about violent radicalization and closely related phenomena.
The workshops address violent radicalization by using a pedagogical escape room game as a tool. The escape room game was developed by Save the Children Finland’s PVE experts. The aim is to create a safe space for young people to learn, discuss and share their experiences about violent radicalization. In addition, the workshops enhance youth participation and strengthen young people’s critical thinking skills and democratic citizenship.
The Resilience project’s trainings for the professionals working with young people foster professional’s understanding about violent radicalization, extremist attitudes, and general culture of violence, thus contributing to the prevention of violent extremism.
Domestic and international cooperation
Save the Children’s work to prevent violent radicalization and extremism is conducted in close cooperation with several domestic and international partners. RadicalWeb is part of the current National Action Plan for the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Extremism in Finland (2019–2023). The program is set by the Finnish Ministry of the Interior, which also has established a National Cooperation Group responsible for directing and coordinating the program. Save the Children Finland’s experts are members of the National Cooperation Group and thus work closely with other representatives of the group. Trainings and workshops are carried out in collaboration with operators of various youth activities, of which, for instance, regional administrative agencies and municipal youth services are the most important partners.
Save the Children Finland’s PVE-experts are also actively involved in international PVE-networks. Nordic Save the Children organizations have a shared working group focusing on the prevention of violent extremism and Save the Children Finland’s experts are also part of the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN) coordinated by the European Commission.
Publications and other recourses available in English
Youth as a target for extremist recruitment (pdf)
Violent extremism online (pdf)
Podcasts and interviews
RAN in Focus – Grooming Tactics on video Gaming platforms
RAN Spotlight on the Digital Ecosystem – Enhancing digital and media literacy