Historical archive

Empowering local actors to counter violent extremism

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Justice and the Police

Speech by Grete Faremo, Minister of Justice and Public Security, at the European Commission's High-Level Conference "Empowering Local Actors to Prevent Violent Extremism", Brussels, 29 January 2013.

Speech by Grete Faremo, Minister of Justice and Public Security, at the European Commission's High-Level Conference "Empowering Local Actors to Prevent Violent Extremism", Brussels, 29 January 2013.

 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, 

First of all, thank you for the invitation. I am grateful for the opportunity to address you all at this conference on how we work to empower local actors to counter violent extremism. 

The European Commission resently launched the Radicalization Awareness Network and Norway highly appreciates this initiative focusing on preventive work. International cooperation is key in the fight against violent extremism. Sharing information and best practices is of utmost importance. 

A terrorist attack on innocent people is a devastating blow. And as you may remember, the  22 of July 2011 Norway experienced an attack that shocked us all. An attack on our country which we believed to be one of the most peaceful places on earth. The explosion in the government office complex and the massacre on our Labour Party Youth at Utøya claimed 77 lives. Many were seriously injured. Vital institutions were affected. The attacks were carried out by what in many ways seemed to be a perfectly normal Norwegian young man. Mainly through his online world, he had gained views that in the end made him believe he could justify committing the worst atrocities in Norway in modern times. This goes to show that prevention of radicalization and violent extremism needs to be a priority for all of Europe. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that violent extremism can occur anywhere. 

In Norway, a Government appointed Commission has carried out a broad evaluation of the response to the attacks. It has presented a deep analysis and also 31 recommendations related to penal provisions, public service, police, the Armed Forces and security and intelligence services. 

And of course, a major task for me as the Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security is to respond to and follow up these recommendations. We must carry out measures and imply policies that will increase our security. And this spring, the Government will present a White Paper to our Parliament with measures to improve our society’s ability to manage the next crisis. And as we know the next crisis is not similar to the last one. Measures that ought to increase our ability to detect and to combat a threat whatever it looks like and to deal with attacks and their consequences. 

We consider new legislative provisions aiming at preventing future terrorist attacks in Norway. Receiving of military training or instruction with the intention of performing terrorist attacks is one of the issues that has been out on a public hearing. The Ministry is currently working on a proposal for new penal provisions that will be submitted to parliament in spring this year. 

But new legislations and preparations on how to handle a crisis, are not enough. Even more important are our efforts to prevent devastating incidents from happening in the first place. Few individuals in Norway support violent extremism. But we have concerns regarding networks and individuals who are already radicalized, or in danger of being radicalized. And as we have seen in Norway, as well as in other countries, it only takes a single person to do massive damage. The growth of violent extremism is a serious challenge to our security. 

Our approach to this challenge must balance the need for control and freedom of expression. We need to find an acceptable balance between the need for security and the need for privacy. We need to ask questions on how we can prevent terror and violent extremism, and still promote openness and a culture of dialogue - which we take such great pride in, in our nation. We have to improve our ability to provide security and protection without reducing our liberty and freedom. 

And we need a broad preventive effort at an early stage, before extremist attitudes turn into violent acts. This, together with a determined strengthening of our contingency planning, is crucial to our security. 

So I believe we need a broad approach. Firstly we must enhance our knowledge about how the Internet and social media can contribute to the fight against violent extremism. We can not allow that arena to be an arena for the extremists alone. 

We must learn more about activities on extremist websites and discussion forums and develop ways to prevent the net to groom extremism and extremists! And what  about the editors’ responsibilities? And how can we work together with civil society and the private sector to develop innovative solutions in the preventive work? 

The agenda today addresses key topics in this regard: The role of the Internet, the role of local actors, the role of Diasporas. I am really looking forward to these discussions. 

Being close to the challenges is crucial for taking the right steps. The way the Radicalization Awareness Network is working, connecting practitioners from many countries and various professions who are involved in countering violent extremism, with the aim of learning from each other, is an important step to ensure efficient preventive work. 

Our success depends on our ability to identify at an early stage people who would be at risk of being radicalized. That is why I was so moved by the testimonies today. Local actors play a key role in this respect. We have to ensure that there is good cooperation between the police and local authorities. 

We must also see radicalization and violent extremism as an inter-sectoral challenge. Preventive actions will be the responsibility of several authorities and sectors. A highly competent police is important, but prevention of radicalization and violent extremism cannot be met by using policiary measures alone. Broad cooperation is a key element in the preventive work. 

Local government measures are very important to prevent crime in general. Prevention of radicalization and violent extremism should be regarded in the same context. 

Two models have been established in many Norwegian municipalities in order to co-ordinate local services in the crime prevention work. Local authorities and the local police management have established what we call Police Councils for cooperation. We also have the Co-ordination of Local Crime Prevention Measures, a local authority model between public authorities, professional groups and voluntary organizations working together. Both models provide arenas for various parties to meet and exchange information and assessments. They increase knowledge on crime prevention and provides the opportunity to co-ordinate measures in different sectors that can positively strengthen each other.  We will continue developing these already existing structures for prevention further. When the different services meet to discuss local crime prevention in general, they may just as well include a discussion on local prevention of violent extremism, and take the opportunity to raise their concerns. 

Knowledge-based crime prevention, early intervention and strengthened and coordinated local crime prevention work are key elements in our approach. From our experiences with measures directed at right wing extremist groups, we have learned the importance of good routines for cooperation between The Police Security Service and the regular police force. Preventive talks with youth and their parents have also been a successful tool for early intervention and knowledge-based police work. Police is actually saying we see you, we would like to help you, at an early stage. These talks have been followed up by an offer of help to establish new social networks, continue schooling or facilitate employment. These measures were effective in the way that many young people left the groups, or took a more peripheral affiliation with the organization and eventually considered exiting it completely. 

We are developing these measures. In November last year, the Police Security Service and Oslo police district presented a common approach regarding extreme islamists, reflecting the lessons learned. Key elements are prevention, de-radicalization as well as prosecution. A broad preventive approach, involving police, schools, parents and faith groups, is essential. 

Knowledge is a fundamental condition for improved, more effective and focused prevention. And we have to make knowledge about radicalization and violent extremism readily available to public sector personnel as well as the general public. 

Radicalization can occur in any type of ideology. More research into violent extremism is required. We need to know more about the general threat, the trends, the risk factors and effective preventive measures. 

And in this regard, I would like to highlight a pan-European project of the Swedish Ministry of Justice and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). This project is aiming to enhance our understanding of what works in preventing and countering right-wing extremism. It is a two year project, funded by the European Commission, involving ten European countries. At this point. I believe this is a very important initiative which will provide valuable insight about the nature of the threat as well as effective ways of responding to the threat. And I am grateful for the possibility for Norway to participate in this project. 

We need to share our knowledge at the international level. This conference and the Radicalization Awareness Network represent excellent opportunities for us to establish such networks, ensure cooperation and exchange best practice. And I think this is of utmost importance in our work to develop effective policies to counter violent extremism. 

I am looking forward to today's discussions and would also like to take this opportunity to wish all the best in your important work. Thank you for your attention.

 

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