The White House CVE Summit

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1 The White House CVE Summit February 17-20/2015 Washington DC 1. CVE Roundtable with Vice- President Biden + three American cities (17 th feb.) 2. Meeting with Homeland Security & IA (18 th feb.) Presentation: Panel discussion: key notes 3. Ministerial component (with John F. Kerry) Key- notes Hans Bonte Mayor Vilvoorde

2 CVE: I. Vilvoorde = a surprising laboratory for radicalism and Syria fighters I.1. Introduction Let me begin by thanking you for your kind invitation. In my presentation I will be telling you about my town and its problems with Syria fighters. Then I will be happy to share with you our definition of radicalisation and our approach to the problem, and finally, I will offer some conclusions and considerations which I feel are relevant for other cities and towns that are struggling with a similar problem. I.2. About Vilvoorde Vilvoorde is a small town near Brussels, at the heart of Belgium and of Europe. We have just about 42,000 inhabitants. But due to Brussels spreading we form one whole, sociologically, with the capital. From Vilvoorde you can get to the centre of Brussels in 10 minutes and from there to Paris in 1 hour, to London and to Amsterdam in one and a half hours. Our town in located within a very prosperous region, but a very pronounced process of dualization is emerging. A major gap is developing between those who enjoy the fruits of economic prosperity and those who don t. Vilvoorde is the fastest growing town in the country. It is striking to see that this growth is due first of all to a very strong expansion of the ethnic community, of mainly North African origin. Today one in four inhabitants is not of Belgian origin, among minors the figure is 40%. Let me point out that the speed of growth of the population has created a structural shortage of school capacity, child care facilities, and of infrastructure for the young and for sports. That ethnic community frequently has language and communication problems. Often they don t speak Dutch, the official language of Vilvoorde and of the Flemish region. That no doubt explains why unemployment is so high in that community. For years we have been grappling with racism and discrimination. It is a drawback in that respect that my police force is predominantly white. I.3. Syrian Fighters from Vilvoorde: the figures It is estimated that 380 fighters have left Belgium for Iraq and Syria. 101 have returned in the meantime. Of 50 we are as good as sure that they have been killed. From Vilvoorde - and let me remind you that we have just 42,000 inhabitants - 28 people have gone to Iraq and Syria. 5 were killed. 8 have returned. Two of those are in prison. We have another 45 potential leavers, including a number of under- age girls. It is important to note that nobody has left for Syria or Iraq since the summer of 2014.

3 I.4. Vilvoorde is a laboratory for CVE Due to the limited size of our town, - only 42,000 inhabitants- and due to the fact that I, and even more so, my Moroccan alderman for integration, personally know every family confronted with radicalism and with a boy or girl who is leaving, we have a good overview of the problem. We have seen young people leave from virtually every secondary school (your high school) and neighbourhood. The first ones left at the end of 2012, usually on the run from justice and prison. They headed the foreign militias of ISIS, now IS. This first lot of very violent extremists and some were identified in the gruesome IS videos and the appalling internet films- managed to recruit more Belgian and Vilvoordian youngsters. Very often the latter were very vulnerable young people, youngsters with lots of frustrations and few positive prospects. In the meantime we have after two years of trial and error- succeeded in developing a method thanks to which we can draw radicalising young people out of the radicalisation process. With this method furthermore, radicalised youngsters whether they have returned from Syria or Iraq or not - can be deradicalised. These last few months we have needed to be vigilant to ensure that under- age young people - 14 to 16 year- olds, and quite a few girls in mid- puberty do not get drawn away from our democratic society.

4 II. Radicalisation = indoctrination + isolation Radicalisation is essentially a dual process. A first component is indoctrination. The person concerned will be consistently bombarded with a particularly radical message so he/she has the idea forced upon him/her that he/she has a special part to play in bringing about the caliphate. He/she can and must become a real hero(ine) in the history of the creation of an Islamic state. And he or she is expected to clear away any obstacle on the way to this goal. This indoctrination comes through different channels and is usually carried out simultaneously through personal conversations with recruiters, via the internet, social media, iphone and in direct messages on pc in the privacy of one s individual room. The second component of the radicalisation process is isolation. Isolation usually starts with the instruction to convert to Islam. But soon the demand follows that all ties be broken with Christians, moderate Muslims, friends and family, to the point where people feel that they have been chosen to take part in the armed fight in Syria and Iraq. Both processes (indoctrination and isolation) are taking place in a context in which the conflict in Syria and Iraq, that has gone on for years, is covered permanently by the media. Another reason for mobilisation is the cruelty shown there every day, with brutal murders of Muslims without any reaction of the West. You should also note that in this context the unresolved Palestinian- Israeli conflict is usually experienced/presented as the cowardice of the international community vis- a- vis the oppressed Muslims. This process of indoctrination and isolation is much more successful among people with a weak position in society or who are struggling with their identity (youngsters or 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants). It is striking that recruitment by isolation and indoctrination works best among people carrying with them many frustrations from the past and who, mainly, see few or no chances of achieving anything in the society they grew up in.

5 III. De- radicalisation = information + involvement Starting from this analysis we have, over the last months, by trial and error and after lots of exchanges with other towns, developed and applied a practice that appears to work. We manage to deradicalise people by doing exactly the opposite to what happens during a radicalisation process. But first we need a clear picture of who is radicalizing, who is tempted by the siren call of IS, who glorifies the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen, For that reason we invest heavily in awareness- raising. Receiving signals of concern Town authorities and police are constantly at work increasing the awareness of different actors in the field: schools, parents, first line workers, organisations from civil society, aid workers Signals of concern about possible radicalisation come in through different channels. It is important therefore to be as accessible as possible on different fronts in order to catch the signals. The signals go to the town deradicalisation officer and the administrative unit of the local police. Once it has been established this is definitely a case of radicalisation, the file goes to the partners table. In dealing with this vulnerable group, we concentrate mainly on strengthening and restoring social relations by mobilising the individual s former and present environment to encourage the young adult to engage in social activities. At the same time key persons are brought in who,using religious insights, try to convince the individual that extreme, violent Salafism has nothing to do with true Islam. Partners tables bring together social actors and security actors who agree precise strategies for each individual, setting out how the social network around one person can be strengthened (teacher, person of confidence, ex, friend from sports or youth, social worker). Effective follow- up by police is guaranteed. By investing in involvement, connection with the social environment and by means of a correct, argued case coming from the Muslim community, we manage to stop the radicalisation process in young people and to deradicalise people who have radicalised. Because of the security risk inherent in radicalism, obviously the deradicalisation process always requires follow up by security and police services.

6 IV. Conclusions and considerations IV.1. Think global, act local Radicalisation is a world problem. I am the mayor of a small town in Belgium, sometimes I have felt like the mayor of a town in Syria. We are fighting the excesses of radicalism in Iraq and Syria with an international coalition. But that alone will not suffice. We must also bring our combat to our towns and cities, our vulnerable neighbourhoods. Today a small group of fanatics are sowing terror. A small group that seems to succeed in radicalizing mainly vulnerable young Europeans (Americans?). Just as we need to counter IS in Iraq and Syria on an international level, so we need to stand up to extreme radicalism in the inner cities. The fight against extreme radicalism and terror will to a large extent be won or lost in the cities. IV.2. Ostriches A second consideration. It is right that radicalisation should be at the top of the agenda in many countries and cities today. So far I have seen quite a few Belgian towns and European countries stick firmly to a kind of ostrich policy. They are trying not to see the problem, hoping it will go away by itself. That approach doesn t work and it is one we cannot afford. We cannot win the fight against violent extremism if not everybody will shouler their responsibility. IV.3. Icebergs And a very final reflection. Extreme radicalism in our cities is like an iceberg. And just as in the case of the iceberg, we should not focus on the visible part. Instead we must look at the base, the deeper causes beneath the waterline. As I have said before those lie in the frustration of a group of people in our society. And there is another parallel. As I have remarked, what our society needs is an injection of opportunities, respect and warmth (that is genuinely felt by this vulnerable group) And as it happens warmth is the only thing that will make an iceberg melt.

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