On Saturday, April 2, The Hague Institute and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs co-hosted a panel discussion on countering violent extremism at the annual conference of the American Society of International Law (ASIL). Hague Institute President Dr. Abi Williams moderated the discussion, which featured former Minister of Justice of the Netherlands, Ernst Hirsch Ballin; President of Eurojust, Michele Coninsx; US Special Envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, Rashad Hussain; Executive-Director of the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, Jean Paul Laborde; and Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, Hina Shamsi.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Williams observed that international efforts to address violent extremism in the past two decades have focused largely on security-based counterterrorism measures. He noted that recent attacks in the Middle East, Africa and the heart of Europe demonstrate that such measures have not been sufficient. Dr. Williams highlighted the work of The Hague Institute on the role of cities in conflict prevention, and the role of education in peacebuilding as examples of initiatives in support of preventing violent extremism.
The subsequent panel discussion focused on several key issues, including how to bridge and balance counterterrorism efforts at the international, national and local levels; how to respond effectively to the threat of foreign terrorist fighters; how to ensure that counterterrorism measures do not stigmatize and alienate ethnic and religious groups and fuel racism and xenophobia; and how to respond to the use of social media by extremist groups to communicate their ideas and exploits. The panelists also reflected on what we still need to know about the phenomenon of violent extremism and the possible trajectory of its evolution.