UN Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary General, made an intervention at the UN Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism in Geneva on 8 April 2016.

The Secretary General declared that “preventing violent extremism has to be one of our top priorities. There can be no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety and security of our citizens”. She detailed how the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed in Malta last November to establish a new dedicated unit within the Secretariat to strengthen national, regional and global action on preventing violent extremism. This work will be carried forward in collaboration with civil society and education networks to support member states with devising and implementing their own national strategies by countering radicalisation and strengthening their national human rights institution and the rule of law.

Impact of Health and Education

As policymakers and practitioners 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 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 and education 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

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.

Risk, Resilience, Respect and Rehabilitation – the panel discussion is available in full below, or listen/download the podcast here.

Draft Radicalisation Brief

This brief has been developed by the Commonwealth Health and Education Unit (HEU)  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 now closed for public comment, but is still available in draft form here: Draft-Radicalisation Brief

Please send any comments to healthhub@commonwealth.int.