Reinforce a response to radical messages by proposing a positive narrative based on tools from traditional media, social media and citizen journalism is the aim of the latest Club de Madrid project: ‘Preventing Violent Extremism: Leaders telling a different story’. This initiative is supported by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development and was officially launched in Brussels on 28th in a kick- off event featuring two CdM Members and former Prime Ministers: Mehdi Jomaa (Tunisia, 2014-2015) and Zlatko Lagumdzija (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001-2002). Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, and Adriaan Van der Meer, Head of Unit Stability, Security Development and Nuclear Safety, DG for Development and Cooperation of the European Commission, were among the participants.
The effectiveness of the recruitment strategies of extremists groups showcases their deep understanding of communication, marketing and social media tools and to which extent the 21st century conflict and violence is borderless. ISIS is probably the terrorist group that has invested more efforts and resources in communications and propaganda than any other violent organization before. Thus, there is a pressing need for better understanding how messages can be countered and the appropriate tools to carry it out.
With an increase of more than 80 per cent in the total number of deaths caused by violent extremism in 2015, international efforts and current strategies to tackle the drivers of radicalization suffer from lack of empirical data and coordination. In this context, the Club de Madrid 12 months project ‘Preventing Violent Extremism: Leaders telling a different story’ aims at strengthening counter-narrative messaging and producing a multi-dimensional response to extremist propaganda by channelling the collective expertise, ideas and political leverage of policymakers, media representatives, experts, practitioners and the wisdom and experience of the Club de Madrid members, all of them former Presidents and Prime Ministers democratically elected in their countries, many of whom have already faced the problem of violent extremism.
One of the main outcomes of the project will be a scientific and data based recommendations/guidelines on how to effectively create and apply positive messaging and which tools and strategies are more effective to counter violent extremism. The beneficiaries of the project will be state and non-state actors, including political leaders, media stakeholders, experts, scholars, journalists, media and practitioners in communications and the preventing and countering violent extremism field.
To that end, a process of regional and national consultations will be develop in countries such as Tunisia, Lebanon and Nigeria. In them, key stakeholders and practitioners will provide the technical knowledge and engage with the Club de Madrid Members who will contribute with the political insights. This way, the project will provide a platform for dialogue between qualified key actors in the PVE/CVE field in the pursue for an effective, positive and attractive new narrative capable of countering the one ISIS and other violent groups have successfully developed.
This project builds upon the Club de Madrid work on countering and preventing violent extremism that started with the Madrid+10 Policy Dialogue on PVE/CVEconvened in Madrid October 2015 and the release of the main outcome from that gathering: the Global Consensus, a document summarizing a set of principles and values to fight against terrorism from a democratic perspective, respect for human rights and the assumption that military means alone are not enough to tackle the challenge of violent extremism.