Tackling Violent Extremism in Prisons: Kazakhstan hosts international conference to mark the completion joint initiative of the European Union and the United Nations System

On 22 September, officials from three beneficiary countries: Kazakhstan, Tunisia and Uganda gathered in Astana to mark the end of a five-year programme aimed at preventing the spread of violent extremism in prison settings. This programme, co-funded by the European Union, the Netherlands and the United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism (UNOCT) was delivered in these three countries.


Mr. Kestutis Jankauskas, Ambassador of the European Union to Kazakhstan, noted that “The European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Agenda provides the foundation for the counter-terrorism international cooperation” and underlined that “the joint programme demonstrated the positive impact of collaboration, and provided a unique opportunity to exchange experiences and good practices in preventing and countering radicalization to violence in prisons in different countries.”


Violent extremism is a significant and growing challenge in the world today. Prisons play a crucial role in tackling this challenge by ensuring the secure and safe custody of violent extremist prisoners, preventing radicalization to violence within prisons, disengaging prisoners from future violence, and preparing released persons for reintegration into the community.


Over the past five years, Kazakhstan, Tunisia and Uganda have been at the forefront of efforts to allow prisons to manage violent extremist prisoners more effectively, making both prisons and the community beyond prisons safer. Mr. Talgat Kaliyev, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan thanked the EU/UN joint initiative, stressed the importance of international cooperation and emphasized that “the EU/UN joint initiative has done a significant work to reform the penitentiary system of Kazakhstan and increased the effectiveness of measures to prevent radicalization to violence in prisons”.

Mr. Sami Ennar, General Director of Security for the General Committee of Prisons and Rehabilitation of Tunisia, reiterated the value of collaboration and noted that “Tunisia worked in close collaboration with international partners on embedding interventions to prevent violent extremism in prisons into broader prison reform agenda by improving prison conditions, enhancing institutional capacities and designing rehabilitation programmes.”  


Dr. Johnson Byabashaija, Commissioner General of the Uganda Prisons Service, highlighted that “the focus of the EU/UN joint initiative on good prison management, prison intelligence and dynamic security enabled Uganda prisons to respond more effectively to the challenge of violent extremism and ensure a safe and secure environment for staff and prisoners.”


Key achievements of the programme have included:

  • Developing and piloting prisoner classification frameworks and associated risks and needs assessment tools in Uganda and Kazakhstan to facilitate the successful rehabilitation of prisoners. .
  • Training more than 6,500 prison officers across the three countries on subjects including dynamic security, risk assessment and international standards for the treatment of prisoners.
  • Launching CRIMINO-TN, Tunisia’s first-ever research centre on violent extremism in prisons.
  • Establishing rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for prisoners, including violent extremist prisoners. For example, the launch of six vocational training facilities in Kazakhstan, preparing prisoners for their safe release by providing them with training in computer literacy, welding, furniture-making and more.
  • Supporting prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, sharing guidance documents, providing medical equipment and vaccinating more than 12,000 prisoners, prison staff and family members in Uganda.
  • Enhancing the capacity of prison administrations in all three countries to design and deliver inter-disciplinary disengagement interventions through providing expert support and training, strengthening IT capacity and improving coordination between stakeholders.


The final conference was organized in the framework of a study visit of delegations from Tunisia and Uganda to Kazakhstan (17-23 September 2022). The delegates learnt the experience of Kostanay Police Academy to train prison and probation officers on the management of violent extremist offenders, exchanged knowledge and expertise on the rehabilitation of violent extremist prisoners and visited male prison that accommodates violent extremist prisoners.


The joint EU/UN initiative was implemented by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime and the United Nations Counter Terrorism Centre in close partnership with the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. The implementing partners express sincere gratitude to the beneficiary countries – Kazakhstan, Tunis and Uganda for the constructive cooperation and thank donors – the European Union, the Netherlands and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism for the strategic and financial support.


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For more information or media inquiries, contact Vasilina Brazhko,

UNODC Criminal Justice Programme in Central Asia

at +996775987817 WHATS App or by

e-mail: vasilina.brazhko [at] un.org