Leave no one behind, even those who were in a violent extremist group
By Yosuke Nagai
Despite impressive improvements in global governance’s quality and reach, violent extremism has continued to persist worldwide, with certain conflicts seeing little to no progress towards ending due to flaws in the mechanisms necessary for peace. Furthermore, conventional methods of counter-extremism, including corrective measures such as a unilateral religious re-education have shown little promise in establishing sustainable solutions. The factors that motivate individuals to pursue extremism or other criminal activities are highly sensitive and diverse, and collaborative approaches built by stakeholders must be mindful of this reality. Having spent considerable time amongst communities embedded in conflict hotspots worldwide, Accept International has developed the “Re-define, Prepare, Action” (RPA) model in a new approach towards counter-extremism especially for de-radicalization and reintegration of ex-violent extremists in a penal institution.
The RPA model has been implemented in response to mistakes in extremism-related global governance, where overly correctional methods would often see little change, or even a worsening in the de-radicalization and reintegration of people formerly involved with extremist groups. It operates on the belief that despite their past, everyone has a right to re-establish themselves in society. To begin, the model seeks to “re-define” a former member’s identity without outright denying their beliefs, helping them establish values that both belong to the individual yet are not harmful to society. As an organization we look to extend a hand to those who feel “left behind”, shunned by society for their past involvement in violent extremism. Our model actively reaches out to defectors and former prisoners to give them a chance for a new life. The “prepare” step empowers the individual by comprehensively equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue a future they believe in, preparing for the difficulties of reintegration with tangible life skills and reconciliation with the community. Finally, the “action” step continues to support the individual as they re-enter society, measuring their progress with follow-ups and continuous counseling.
Taken together, our RPA model maintains an emphasis on the collaborative nature of reintegration, building tangible results and lasting trust between individuals and their communities. With little interest in mental health and a preference for interrogation and incarceration, reforming the predominant belief in global governance has long been overdue. Our initiative’s focus on the empowerment of individuals and their relationship with their community has proven to be effective, both in their reintegration as well as preventing re-radicalization, which occurs far too often under current counter-extremism efforts.
With several conflicts involving violent extremist organizations and gangs worldwide, our efforts in de-radicalizing and reintegrating these former members of these groups are inherently international and will require the continued support of parties from around the world. While our current operations focus on innovative counter-extremism in Kenya, Somalia, and Indonesia, the RPA model, which has spearheaded each project, was developed to apply to former violent extremists everywhere.
To this end, our organization maintains an approach of working intimately with local partners instead of attempting to replace their operations on the ground, placing their insights at the forefront of the decision-making process. It is critical to promote productive avenues for the individuals to live and work towards to separate them from the drivers which drove them towards violence. Together with local and international stakeholders, Accept International aims to maintain accountability and curb recidivism through occasional check-ins and community building between graduates of the model. Through continuous communication between all concerned parties, we aim to create a circular environment for global governance, looking to reduce the effects and potential of extremism with the sense of “Leave No One Behind”, even they were in a violent extremist group before.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Mr. Yosuke Nagai is CEO and Founder of Accept International and also Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) mentor of United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Social Inclusion and Human Rights Unit. Since the establishment of Accept International in 2011, we mainly have been active in implementing deradicalization and reintegration programs for former members of violent extremist groups, such as Al-Shabaab and Jemaah Islamiyah, and gangs as well as radicalization prevention in Somalia, Kenya, Indonesia. Our efforts hinge on the core belief of understanding those previously involved in violent extremist groups and investing in their futures as members of society. Recognizing that many of these individuals suffered from tremendous difficulties and dilemmas as youths, we support directly former members to constructively establish a second chance at life with our original human rights-based framework “Re-define, Prepare, Action” (RPA) model rather than military-like correctional approaches. The RPA model is selected as one of 100 solutions for peace at the Paris Peace Forum 2020.