- 14 December 2022
- Generaldirektoratet for Migration og Indre Anliggender
- RAN Publications Topic
- Vulnerable youth and youth engagement in P/CVE
In the European and international community, youngsters have been and continue to be a target of recruitment and exploitation by terrorist and violent extremist groups. Youth from all backgrounds may become radicalised , but there are factors that make some more vulnerable to radicalisation than others. Infinite combinations of personal and external factors may contribute to their vulnerability to radicalisation.
As a result, measures to build resilience and foster protective factors need to be included in youth work early on. At the same time, once a young person has become at risk or maybe even radicalised and/or criminal, guiding and accompanying that person within the scope of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) requires a smooth cooperation between a wide range of working fields and professions, along multiple societal structures.
On 22 September 2022, youth professionals from all over the EU gathered in Vienna to discuss the current challenges and solutions related to working with youth on P/CVE. The focus of this meeting was youth and young adults between the age of 12-18 and professionals working with this target audience on all three levels of prevention.
Key lessons learned from the discussions included the following:
- Youth work is often embedded in a non-problem approach, which enables positive relationships between young people and youth workers. This can be a key tool when working on positive youth development and prevention. The concept of “open youth work” provides contacts and interventions initiated and led voluntarily by the young people themselves.
- Providing safe spaces for young people is an important protective function of youth work, which also includes non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising attitudes and environments. The labelling of the activity or programme is thus highly relevant, as young people are hesitant to voluntarily and actively seek out programmes labelled as “prevention of extremism”, let alone deradicalisation. Moreover, practitioners themselves also prefer to work on programmes aimed at the positive development and safeguarding of youth.
- Reflection on gender equality and the inclusion of gendered perspectives are fundamental building blocks in any P/CVE initiative and project. NGOs working with young people need to examine their own position to see how, and to what extent, the gender dimensions are visibly incorporated in their programs.
- Professionals working with youth should find common ground and talk about shared values. Value-based work and a positive climate in young people’s surroundings are key elements when it comes to working with them and asking them to open up about their issues.
- Young people currently experience stress about overarching crises like climate change, economic crisis and war. Unfiltered and often problematic discourses online add to the complexity of these issues and fuel polarisation. Therefore, integrating online and offline work is an essential approach when working with young people, especially with digital natives. As a matter of fact, young people can even be digital experts in reporting suspicious or criminal online incidents.
- In order to implement sustainable prevention with a positive social impact, the current project culture in the prevention and youth work landscape must be replaced by long-term basic structures with reliable funding.