- Publication date
- 14 September 2021
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
The effectiveness of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) interventions is based on an in-depth understanding of the relevant target audiences, and in particular of the needs of individuals. Most existing exit programmes are founded around concepts of in-person interventions where trust, respect and a personal connection are seen as essential. In this context, digital platforms and tools may serve as means to establish contact and to facilitate an offline in-person meeting.
Several extremist or terrorist cases in recent years, however, have shown that a segment of individuals is not interested in in-person contact, whether with fellow extremists or with exit counsellors. This expert meeting therefore discussed existing deradicalisation or exit lessons learned, as well as good practices in reaching and working with individuals only or mostly by digital means. Some of the key findings of the meeting are:
- Target groups comprised of “digital natives”, who grew up with social media, to build emotional connections might either not see or feel a difference between online and offline in terms of the value or depth of human connections, or they might prefer a digital exchange in principle. Also, individuals with social phobia or persons who seek anonymity might prefer digital formats to help them overcome stigma, shame and security concerns.
- Online exit counselling can work well if the needs of the clients are best served by using this method. An agreement over the objectives of the counselling can serve as the starting point for a process that identifies which formats and methods might be most helpful and effective. In general, providing options like online or in-person interventions, and also regarding different counsellor profiles (e.g. peers/age/gender), increase the likelihood of building trust and a safe space.
- Partnerships between exit programmes with different strengths and capacities might be a good way to make sure (potential) clients receive offers (and/or support?) that fit their needs.
This paper will first describe what challenges have been discussed from different perspectives shared. In the second part, recommendations for both practitioners and policymakers are presented.