A day at the Madrid + 10: Policy dialogue on preventing & countering violent extremism part 1


Just like a great presentation does, the opening ceremony of the “MADRID +10: Policy Dialogue on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism” started with a big bang. When King Felipe VI arrived, it left us very reverent. But, after giving a very charismatic speech he was even friendly enough to allow us to take a picture with him. By then, the realisation of what an amazing opportunity was given to us, kicked in. What followed was the first panel we were able to attend on “Beyond Counterterrorism: New Approaches towards Preventing Violent Terrorism”. The underlying consensus established was that Extremism is only a symptom and not the root cause. Thus, policy makers need to analyse the grievances of the people that push them towards radicalisation. At the same time, it is important to stress that extremism is not a religious or an ethnic issue. In addition, CVE is a generational challenge and should strongly be addressed to the youth. Furthermore, it was said that religious leaders should play a greater role in condemning radicalisation and in guiding the international community on how to deal with extremism from the Middle East.

Afterwards, we attended our first workshop. The workshops were divided between four topics 1) “Role of women in countering radicalization and violent extremism” 2) “Educators in dialogue, youth in debate: countering violent extremism” 3) “Building peace through inter-religious dialogue” 4) “Online Radicalisation”. That evening, I attended the fourth workshop, which in summary discussed how civil society can be mobilised online, by creating a comprehensive, positive narrative, to take away the media space terrorists have. Furthermore, it was discussed whether the Internet needs regulation and how you can counter terrorism online, without taking away freedom of speech. In addition, the day ended after very intense discussion, which only made us look forward to the next day even more!

Day 2 started with another panel on “Managing Turmoil: the Middle East in Transformation”. In the overall dialogue it was agreed that the development in the region has created a monster. According to Former President of Sudan, Sadig Al Mahdi, this monster was created mainly due to geopolitical competition and the bad way Iraq was handled. Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, criticised Europe’s unpreparedness, by observing that the Syrian crisis is now already 5 years old. Europe should not be surprised by the refugee crisis, there were many warning signs. Meanwhile, he sees the refugee crisis as an opportunity to invest into the youth. If we invest in them, they can counter violent extremism and not only be the perpetrator. During the second Workshop, this time I attended the workshop on the “Role of women in countering radicalization”, the role of women not just as the victims, but also as the perpetrator was discussed. For recruiters, women are almost more valuable then men due to the multiplier effect they have on other family members. Fortunately, this also goes in the other direction, by educating women on counter extremism techniques, they can also have a multiplier effect in preventing radicalization.

The next panel was on “International Jurisdiction on Terrorism as a Preventive tool”. Here the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and José Garcia-Margallo y Marfil suggested that an implementation of an international court against terrorism would be an effective tool in not just defining terrorism in legal terms, but also in countering it internationally. However, the room seemed rather divided as to whether the implementation of a new court could really work or whether it would not just be another ICC, which is too slow to function properly. Instead, it was stressed that strengthening the current institution might be a more effective measure. John Aldardice, House of Lords, during the Closing Ceremony, also mentioned that we cannot solve the issue of extremism using the legal mechanism as it only addresses individual wrongdoing. Alternatively, we should focus on collective phenomena.

Ban Ki-moon in a very personal speech also emphasised how terrorism is on the march and spreading like cancer, despite of all the measures that the international community has taken to try to prevent it. As he put it “avoid breeding the problems we are trying to solve, failure to resolve conflict, not just extremism, ends up driving the problem”. Nevertheless, he ended on a very positive note that “when we are united we can do everything and nothing is impossible”.

As being part of the youth, these two-days have left me, while being a little overwhelmed with all the given information, feeling much more empowered. Being able to attend this conference enables you to see such a complex problem like violent extremism from many different angles so that you are getting at least a little closer in comprehending the big picture. In addition, I am incredibly grateful to Ie University for giving me this opportunity and can only encourage other students to make use of these.

Written by Anja Ungeheuer, Bachelor of International Relations Student