France : where are we in terms of policy against extremism ?

Are we ready to fight extremism ? More criminal regulations will not solve the problem

France : Where are we in theformation of a policy against radicalization?

The recent debates surrounding Sonia Imboul andDounia Bouzar’s center, CPDSI (The Center of Prevention Against Sectarianism Related to Islam) – once again bring into question the tools used in our country in the fight against radicalization. 

Facing a new threat and poorly configured, France is long behind in formulating an effective anti-radicalization policy. In this emergency situation, the government has used tools that have already existed: the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency, the Mission to Fight Against Sects, prevention centers, social services, etc. 

Our public policies in general suffer from a lack of audit and evaluation. We are not talking about the misuse of public funds; we are talking about walking time bombs in the streets of our cities and villages that if left unattended, risk spreading…

So we must evaluate, no matter the current failures of the system, because it is obvious they are there. We need proper scrutiny of our policies to improve and correct existing deficits. 

I asked for such necessary parliamentary audits during the “security mission assessment” budget debate on the 30th of November 2015. In France, de-radicalization policies are scattered amongst different prefectures that implement different programs and rely on existing structures, associations, and social services that monitor flagged youth. 

In a recent report dated on the 22nd of January 2016, the crime prevention committee stated that 63 prefectures have cells that are being monitored. Careful reading of the report shows that each prefecture uses the services of local associations, with scatted tools, non-unified procedures, and random training. 

Madame Latifa Ibn Ziaten has also commented that actors are sometimes isolated and poorly supported. The same is true of the money appropriatedas itseems that the appropriations are allocated based onthe number of individuals “in need of treatment".

As the number of people reported to UCLAT (Coordination unit for the fight against terrorism) will approach 9000 people, it is time, in my opinion, to think of a more comprehensive and systematic way to counter radicalization. 

Placing all these structures into a network so they can exchange experiences was also proposed (not adopted) in our report for the inquiry commission on the fight against Jihadist networks. 

We must professionalize trainers and unify training. Training specialists on the factors of radicalization throughout France better ensures support for young people that are radicalized but have not yet switched to extremism. 

This subject is highly serious and painful; it requires neither weakness nor delay. 

How can we improve these schemes? 

Training programs exist abroad. As recommended in the Inquiry Commission Report on Jihadist Networks in France and Europe, the Hedayah International Center (www.hedayah.ae) is a neglected tool of the French government. The international center, created by the Global Anti-terrorism Forum in 2011 (GCTF) is headquartered in the UAE and is co-chaired by countries as diverse as the USA, Turkey, Australia, Spain, the European Union, Morocco, amongst others. More than 75 countries have used its programs and over 1 500 people have attended its courses. Trainings take place at the request of the United Nations in New York, but also by various European cities. 

To date, it seems that our Ambassador of France in the United Arab Emirates has not yet visited this center, nor the authorities in charge of the fight against extremism. Why not use these well-evaluated programs that are well thought out by specialists? What is good enough for the European Commission and the Royal United Services Institute is surely good for France. 

The Saudi experience is also of interest, especially for its evaluation method, based on the work of specialists from the United States. The Saudi Center “Mohammed ben Nayef” works a lot on family ties and assessments. Every week, program participants are the subject of multiple and varied evaluations. 

This is a taboo but indispensable subject. 

In beginning to deal with our mistakes and shortcomings, we must first recognize them.

So this is the scattered state of our policy against radicalization. 

What to do?

Of course we must seek to unify and strengthen the training of field workers, support organizations working in neighborhoods, and provide personalized and continuous monitoring to help remedy affected youth.  

But the big question of prevention remains, almost as a dirty world. 

As you will understand, I do not believe the solution lies in revoking French citizenshipnor by the enactment of even more repressive laws – but rather, the patient and methodical reconstruction of the broken relationship the government has with its citizens. 

How? 

Every year the Senat holds an event called “le talent des cités”  (http://www.talentsdescites.com), city youth are awarded for their initiatives, are offered internships at ESSEC, are sponsored by the likes of French companies as Vivendi, EDF, SNCF, etc. 

And what if we ask the winners of recent years to return to their cities to set a positive example of success?
 
Giving a positive image, is fundamental for youth in distress, who, without great ideas, adopt those of DAESHSo ask the young winners of the “le talent des cités” to become leaders and examples of howthe Republic can accommodate all of its children.

Forge respect in the hearts of these young people by rebuilding these broken links. Lets ask them to be successful ambassadors in their neighborhoods andput them into networks to avoid discouragement and isolation.

There is neither one answer nor one instituationalresponse to solve the problem of radicalization. The problem is both societal and psychological and we must act on all fronts simultaneously, using the supports that exist and operate within these networks. 

The future of thousands of young people, including our model of life, depends on it. We must be creative and innovative about these issues and believe in the virtue of some existing models.

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