Happy International Restorative Justice Week 2018! This year (for my #RJweek blog 2017 here, 2016 here, 2015 here, 2014 here, 2012 here), I decided to focus on the extreme ideologies that corrupt our ability to live together, and which gradually lead to acts of hate and violence. This follows from my recent appointment as the Main Rapporteur for Europe for the ASEM 18th Seminar on Human Rights and Violent Extremism, which was held in Indonesia just a few days ago. It is also where I think our future restorative justice steps should be taking us.
The universality of restorative justice
Restorative justice week has been celebrated annually across Canada since 1996 and is now taking international dimensions. It is recognised every third week of November to celebrate restorative justice practitioners and volunteers especially those working in the community. It is also an opportunity to talk and learn about restorative justice, an ethos that was brought back in the 1970s in the form of mediation, conferencing, circles, sentencing boards and other local initiatives.
Truly, we can now speak of a global restorative justice movement, and restorative justice week bears the evidence of the notion's universality as we all celebrate together. Therefore, due congratulations to all the practitioners, researchers and campaigners from around the world who kept the real restorative justice flame burning.
Current narratives on terror
There can be no doubt that since the September 11th terrorist attacks, our narrative and attitude have changed. Governments started to use terms such “war on terror”, putting emphasis on security and national borders. Human rights and justice values are put on hold in the name of national security. In combination with public misinformation, this narrative created an environment where nationalism, extreme views and hate attitudes are breeding. This has created a vicious circle of division between “the bad” and “the good”. I have argued that the road that we have taken for security policies leads to further division and the polarisation of society.
The role of the community
I have warned many times that communities are rising. Their role in the prevention of violent extremism was not only discussed extensively at the ASEM seminar, but also highlighted through best practice in both Europe and Asia. Local groups and people do matter when it comes to addressing fears and feelings of isolation and hate. The need to work closer with these groups which are sometimes informal was highlighted. Governments and regional bodies must include these community voices and contributions in the design and delivery of their strategies, if trust is to be enhanced. In a “whole-of-society” approach to prevention from national to sub-national levels, local communities can now provide a strong basis for any plan of action. This is because underlying drivers of radicalization and violent extremism are intimately manifested at the local level. Community-led interventions supported by local government authorities; the private sector; leaders of communities; professionals; women’s and youth organizations; families; faith-based groups; and social service providers, among others, are crucial to any interventions at all stages from pre-radicalisation, radicalisation, engagement in violent extremism, rehabilitation, and reintegration.
The universality of human rights
The empowerment of the community and individual action is where human rights are mostly relevant. “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. Yet they are the world of the individual person”, as Eleanor Roosvelt noted during the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Seventy years since humanity came together to collectively say “no more”, it is now time to acknowledge their universality and use them as levers for re-balancing the misuse of power.
Human rights and restorative justice: Rebalancing power
Not long ago, I edited Human Rights & Restorative Justice highlighting the common bridges between the two concepts. What I missed to mention is their shared universality. This is a unique place to be especially in the fight against violent acts caused by extreme views and community divisions. Within this preventative framework, we are now called to acknowledge the role that we all have as community leaders, governments representatives, educators, women, men, fathers or mothers in fostering a culture of empathy and education.
But there is yet one more role that restorative justice and human rights can jointly play. For all my research and work in the field, I have come to conclude that the misuse of state and other power is the principal factor that shapes world views and the attitudes that corrupt our ability to live together and foster extreme ideologies. Human rights and restorative justice are the only universally accepted levers that can rebalance this misuse, and thus more emphasis is needed to promote them at the legislative, community, policy and educational levels.
This is an open call for international partnerships of all levels whether for research, policy development or practice. To read my ongoing work on violent radicalisation, restorative justice and human rights visit this page.
Dr. Theo Gavrielides - Keynote address, ASEM 18th Human Rights seminar on Violent Extremism, Indonesia Nov 2018
The ASEM 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 was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Indonesia.