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Bridging Human Rights and Prevention of Violent Extremism

Human rights have always been seen and treated as a hindrance to counter-terrorism policies and practices. At the same time, terrorist and violent acts are a violation of basic human rights at both the individual and collective levels. I believe that this tension between human rights and counter-terrorism/ anti-radicalisation policies has created a vicious circle of failures, mistakes and a blame culture. More importantly, I have evidence to believe that by creating a bridge between the two norms and their legislative manifestation at the national and international levels, answers and long term solutions can be found.

The evidence supporting my claim are to be found in small places like community and youth centres, churches and barber shops. As Eleanor Roosevelt said when launching the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world".

The foundations of building this bridge will be laid at the 18th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights, which will take place on 4-8 November 2018 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on the theme of “Human Rights and Prevention of Violent Extremism”.

Asia - Europe Meeting (ASEM) and Human Rights Seminars

In March 1996, the leaders of 25 European and Asian countries, together with the European Commission, convened in Bangkok, Thailand, for the inaugural Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). This historic summit paved the way for the establishment of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) one year later in 1997. The agreement by the ASEM leaders to found ASEF can be found in the Ministerial Declaration of the 1st ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting (FMM1).

ASEF has been running human rights seminars on shared concerns between Europe and Asia for 18 years. The results of these seminars can be found on their website, and have informed UN, EU, national and international social policy.

I have the honour of acting as one of the two main Rapporteurs of the 18th Human Rights Seminar, which will host four simultaneous closed-door working groups that will address to following topics in detail:

WG1 – Push and Pull Factors of Violent Extremism

WG2 – Targeting Violent Extremism at the Local Level

WG3 – Violent Extremism and Women

WG4 – Youth, Education and Prevention of Violent Extremism

The Human Rights Seminar series is co-organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (nominated by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

The host of the 18th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Indonesia.

ASEM's effort is in line with RJ4All's long-term work and project "Violent Radicalisation, Restorative Justice and Human Rights", as well as the EU funded programme that I am coordinating the Youth Empowerment and Innovation Project. I am grateful to my Research Assistants Natalia Filippon, Anita Kwokori, Sara Natividade and Sumeet Jalgaonkar for helping me to write the Background paper that will prepare the 100 international delegates of the Seminar.

I have said many times that in order to win the "war on terror", we first need to raise the mirror of responsibility and look carefully the reflection. In this mirror, we will all see who is to be blamed first for the failures of society that lead to extreme views and gradually corrupt our ability to live together.


* Given the nature of the Seminar, participants are invited individually by the co-organisers; there is no open call for participation.

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