16 October 2013, Antwerp, Belgium – UNITAR, the Government of Flanders and the City of Antwerp are partnering to organize an Expert Meeting on “Understanding the Underlying Philosophies and Psychological Causes of Extremism” on 21-22 October 2013 in Antwerp, Belgium.

Due to isolated incidents within Europe and abroad, there is a growing concern in most countries and cities concerning polarization, radicalization and extremism. Governments and other relevant groups are looking at how to prevent and counter radicalization through raising awareness, improving communication, strengthening coordination and collective understanding of how such processes unfold.

Local and regional authorities (LRAs) play a vital role in countering radicalization and extremism, not in the least as federal authorities increasingly depend and rely on LRAs. There is a need to both understand how LRAs prevent radicalization and extremism, and what support they require to pursue this goal.

Among others, it is evident that a multi-stakeholder approach is required that involves: first-line practitioners (youth workers, police, teachers, etc.); relatives; community networks; social networks including virtual ones; and civil society. Nevertheless, inherent challenges exist, such as obstacles to information sharing amongst and between sectors.

The Government of Belgium recently passed its first national strategy on “the prevention of violent radicalism” and a number of Belgian cities, including the City of Antwerp, have recently also developed a local strategy to prevent and counter the radicalization of young people. The Antwerp-based Expert Meeting on “Understanding the Underlying Philosophies and Psychological Causes of Extremism” will offer international perspectives with both experts and practitioners from other corners of the world to share specific case studies and preventive approaches.

During the Expert Meeting, participants will outline the principal factors leading to radicalization; share evidence and data from different cities and regions worldwide; discuss how to detect early warning signals; share experiences on how LRAs can mitigate related factors and map out the existing and required support roles in Belgium of community leaders, non-governmental sector and public services.

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For more information, contact Ms. Kato Van Broeckhoven at kato.vanbroeckhoven@unitar.org