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 Preventing of Extremism through Fostering Global Citizenship

During the last 70 years, UNESCO has implemented numerous measures in order to contribute to the preservation of peace and cooperation between countries and peoples of the world. However, in spite of all those actions, there still remain several significant challenges imposed on this committee and its global goals (among which the expansion of the concept of global citizenship) by the epoch we live in.

Perhaps the biggest threat we are faced with in this era is violent extremism. It has been present since the beginning of this millennium and it seems to be getting worse each day. While the entire world focuses on countering its executors, and attempts to minimize the casualties of their attacks, they easily neglect the only real long-term solution — tackling its origins. And the most optimal solution for the issue, apart from various other UNESCO’s actions promoting tolerance and acquisition of global values, is education.

 Violent extremism is ‘encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve a political, ideological, religious, social, or economic goal.’[1]. Driven by twisted ideologies, these persons spread hatred of another race, religion, ethnicity, gender etc., attracting masses of seemingly like-minded individuals, tricking them into believing their points of view (religious, ethnically, political etc.) are under attack, extreme violence being the only possible solution to their frustrations and self-imposed problems. Given the blurred state of mind of these individuals, there is no rational way to stop them from destroying everything in their way, from cultural heritage to human lives, and since confronting violence with violence only contributes to the intensity of their rage, rather than scaring them off, a new peaceful technique needs to be invented.

 A light at the end, or perhaps the beginning, of the tunnel is the fact that nobody is born a violent extremist. They are made and fuellad by continuously being exposed to distorted interpretations of religion, patriotism, culture etc., unable to dismiss hatred as the wrong approach, due to lack of proper education and general ignorance. It is therefore important to prevent them from coming to the stage of implementing what they have been taught wrongly. Specialists distinguish two categories of the main factors that turn a person into a violent extremist [2]:

 1.    ‘'Push Factors’' (the ones that push individuals into conducting violent extremism) include:

        1) Lack of socioeconomic opportunities,

       2) Marginalization and discrimination,

       3) Poor governance, violation of human rights and the Rule of Law,

       4) Prolonged and unresolved conflicts,

       5) Radicalization in prisons;

 2.   ’'Pull Factors’’ (one's motivations involved in transforming one’s ideas and perceptions of injustice into violent extremist actions) include:

      1) Individual backgrounds and motivations,

      2) Collective grievances and victimizationoriginating from domination, oppression, subjugation or foreign intervention,

      3) Distortion and misuse of beliefs, political ideologies and ethnic and cultural differences,

      4) Leadership and social networks.

While it may not be possible to keep all of these factors in control at all times, the individuals in question can be taught to cope with various situations in a healthier manner, one that does not result in violence of any kind. And the most efficient approach seems to be the Global Citizenship Education (GCED) proposed by UNESCO. Using the so-called ‘soft power’, which includes arranging knowledge and thinking of new ways to promote the importance of education, the sciences, culture, communication and information, is part of the UNESCO’s contribution to the Post-2015 Development Agenda, especially Target 4.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 4 on Education), that calls on countries to ‘ensure that all learners are provided with the knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development’.[3]

The idea of global citizenship mainly consists in teaching young people how to be a part of the global community, inclusive of all other people, regardless of the differences existing between them, having a positive sense of belonging to a tolerant, open-minded community which respects the human rights and promotes peace and equality. In support to the United Nations Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, UNESCO is promoting the fortification of national education systems, focusing on equipping the educators with the skills and values necessary to empower young people to live up to the definition of global citizens. In May 2016 it published a guide called Teacher’s Guide for the Prevention of Violent Extremism, giving practical advice to teachers on how to discuss the issue of violent extremism with the students openly, without labeling it as a ‘taboo’ subject, all the while spreading the word of the importance of solidarity, respect for diversity, human rights, connecting to others and youth’s engagement. Apart from that, another guide called Policy Guide is planned to be published at the UNESCO’s ‘International Conference on the Prevention of Violent Extremism: Taking Action’ in September 2016, proposing new ways to reduce the risk of young people turning into violent extremists, some of which include replacing the negative values with the positive ones, paying more attention to integrating all of the students into the learning environment and getting them more involved with their families and their communities. Furthermore, in 2015 UNESCO adopted two notable resolutions, 196 EX/32 and 197 EX/46, which in detail state its role in the implementation of global citizenship education and the promotion of peace and human rights education for sustainable development along with its role in promoting education as a tool to prevent violent extremism.

 It is no surprise that UNESCO recognizes education as the key tool in preventing violent extremism. Majority of extremists coming from developing countries with lower literacy rates, varying significantly between genders, it is easy to see why they are more prone to inadequate judgment which leads to undesirable, radically discrimination behavior. Though it is not possible to repair the damage that has already been done, with the correct implementation of UNESCO’s proposals for the improvement of the education system on the global level, it is very likely we will witness a significant drop in the number of violent extremist attacks alongside the presence of intolerance in the future.


 [2] from the UN Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism Concept Note (page 4), April 2016


   How can UNESCO further contribute to tackling the factors leading to violent extremism?

   How can Global Citizenship Education be implemented among the groups of people in risk of becoming violent extremists?

   Who should UNESCO turn to for help when it comes to promoting Global Citizenship?

   In what other way, besides education, can UNESCO spread the idea of Global Citizenship?





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