The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly increased digitalization across the world. In South and South-East Asia, 46 and 73 per cent of their respective population are Internet users with young adults in the latter region spending about 60 per cent of their waking lives online. This trend highlights the exposure of vulnerable populations to the risks of online radicalization as violent extremist groups have also capitalized on the pandemic by increasing recruitment efforts and strengthening their networks via virtual platforms.
In response to some of these challenges, UNODC partnered with the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia to deliver tailored cross-regional training on the effective prevention of ideological exploitation for terrorist purposes on 22-23 June 2022. Held in a hybrid format, the activity enhanced the capacities of over 100 government and civil society representatives of South and South-East Asia working in the field of preventing violent extremism (PVE).
In particular, the training served as a platform for the exchange of national and regional experiences, good practices and lessons learned in preventing and countering radicalization to violent extremism. Participants also learned about prevention practices that promote critical learning and increase digital literacy to resist violent extremist ideologies. Additionally, they discussed the most effective approaches to, and recommendations for, preventing violent extremists’ increasing use of gaming platforms for incitement and recruitment purposes.
Underscoring the importance of the whole-of-society approach to PVE, the training further strengthened participants’ knowledge and skills to develop and sustain collaborative public-private partnerships to counter online radicalization and build communities’ resilience to the risks of violent extremist exploitation.
Following a two-day long discussion, the participants highlighted the need for, and the benefits of, working together by adopting a comprehensive and inclusive approach that involves all parts of society and recognizes communities as key partners of PVE efforts.
The activity was funded by the Government of Japan.