Radicalisation and the role of health and education

Topic Update

UNDP published the report: Preventing violent extremism through promoting inclusive development, tolerance and respect for dignity. The Global Meeting on ‘Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) through Promoting Inclusive Development, Tolerance and Respect for Diversity’, organised by UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre and the Governance and Peacebuilding Cluster in the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support was held in Oslo on 14-16 March 2016.

Principal messages summarised in the report:

  • Current trends and characteristics of violent extremism and efforts to prevent it;
  • The role, comparative advantages and constraints of development actors in preventing violent extremism;
  • Development actors must develop and sustain partnerships with key stakeholders; and
  • Critical next steps for development actors to enhance PVE programming.

Download the report.

The Global Center together with Hedayah launched an edited volume of essays exploring the roles of women in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism: “A Man’s World? Exploring the Roles of Women in Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism.

The collection of essays draws on examples from a number of countries and regions to offer policymakers and practitioners a set of concrete lessons learned and recommendations to inform ongoing policy and programming discussions on women, peace, and security as well as counterterrorism.

Download the report.

Violent extremism has had a devastating effect on people’s lives and livelihoods across the African continent. Peace, stability and development have been compromised by violent extremists and warlords who operate seamlessly across territorial borders. Evidence suggests that the challenges posed by radicalization continue to grow.

High profile attacks such as the abduction of 276 girls in Chibok Nigeria in April 2014, the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian migrant workers in Libya in February 2015, the murder of 147 students at Garissa University in Kenya in April 2015 and recent Boko Haram attacks in northern Cameroon are just a few examples of the atrocities committed by these radicalized groups.


As policymakers grapple with the threat posed by violent extremism, increased attention is turning to the ways in which practitioners in education and health sectors can provide a supportive role in countering radicalisation.

The Commonwealth Secretariat Health & Education Unit seeks to stimulate a productive dialogue which can be built on to support member countries in countering violent extremism and radicalisation through multi-sector approaches based on the Secretariat’s Civil Paths to Peace model.

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This model played a central role in talks at CHOGM 2015, in which the Ministers Communique condemned violent extremism, acknowledging the serious threat this presents globally and encouraging the implemntation of this report’s recommendations. The role of education was also specifically highlighted as having the ability to address the conditions conducive to grievances and alienation which can contribute to radicalisation.

Governments must go beyond traditional approaches to security, to cultivate ‘respect and understanding’ between people. The Secretariat adds value to this agenda by providing a comprehensive policy approach to address this complex and challenging issue. A multi-sector policy approach engages all different sectors to cooperate and work collaboratively towards a combined effort to counter radicalisation and violent extremism.

This approach engages the Commonwealth’s ability to act as a forum for dialogue and consensus-building across borders, to foster and strengthen inclusive initiatives and cultivate mutual understanding. This is critically important to tackling the underlying mechanisms influencing violent extremism and moving away from the compartmentalising of individuals at risk and engaged in radicalisation.


The full Civil Paths to Peace report can be found here: Civil Paths to Peace


Panel Discussion – 2 December 2015

The Commonwealth Secretariat hosted a panel discussion of experts on 2 December 2015 which examined the role of formal and informal education and drew from the perspectives of health workers and other experts. The discussion was chaired by Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Josephine Ojiambo.

Speakers included:

  • Professor Joyce Kikafunda, High Commissioner of Uganda
  • Professor John Ashton, President of the Faculty of Public Health UK
  • Mr Graham Robb, Chair of the UK’s Restorative Justice Council
  • Mr Shaun Collins, Assistant Director of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust

Risk, Resilience, Respect and Rehabilitation – the panel discussion is available in full below.

Listen to/download podcast

Key points raised in the discussion

Violent extremism and radicalisation were presented and discussed as global issues, to which every country is vulnerable. Panellists cautioned attempts to pinpoint the type of individual to be radicalised, stressing that radicalisation should not be linked to one religion, gender or ethnicity. And whilst there is no clear evidence base for radicalisation, there is nevertheless still a need to take action in the absence of clear evidence.

The tendency of radicalisation to exploit individual and societal vulnerabilities and tensions was discussed. Potential risk factors include socio-political history, inequalities and lack of opportunity, corruption and lack of government transparency, and rapid urbanisation. Social media is an important mechanism for radicalisation, but other influences such as individual grooming also need to be addressed.

All panellists stressed the importance of prevention over reaction, and the need for a preventative strategy to intolerance. A unifying approach should promote a sense of belonging and cohesion; it should work to bridge social capital to build reciprocity and trust between individuals and communities as a preventative strategy.

Health and education were discussed as having potential to effect change as key mechanisms for both prevention and rehabilitation. This includes the opportunity to highlight and address risk factors, develop and circulate resources, mitigate harmful effects, mobilise partnerships and provide frameworks to help tackle the issues involved. Practical solutions discussed included the use of adult literacy, a focus on positive examples over pathology, and efforts which work to bring youth and communities together.

Panel Discussion Twitter Feed


eDiscussion through the Education Hub Community of PracticeADEA-logo

On the eve of the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta, the Education Hub launched a discussion related to critical talks to take place at CHOGM exploring the strengthening of peace efforts and Radicalisation Report Covercountering radicalisation and violent extremism. Education has an important
role to play in formulating an effective response to radicalisation, building resilience and respect, and in rehabilitation.

The objective of the three-week discussion is to engage a wide range of education stakeholders from various professional and geographical backgrounds to critically reflect the role education can play in addressing radicalisation and violent extremism.

The discussion summary report is available here.


Policy Brief: Radicalisation, Resilience, Respect and Rehabilitation

This brief is being finalised by the Commonwealth Health and Education Unit (HEU) in to help inform as to the vulnerability factors and role health and education can play in preventing and reducing the radicalisation of young people in the Commonwealth.

This policy brief is expected to be published in early 2016.

The draft policy brief is available here.


Ongoing topic discussion

Please send us your good experiences of how to reduce radicalisation through education.

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