The threat of violent extremism on the basis of xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance, or in the name of religion or belief (XRIRB), or right-wing terrorism and violent right-wing extremism (VRWE) as the phenomenon is called by the European Union (EU), is a global threat.
A substantial increase in violent incidents perpetrated by individuals and groups driven by ideologies rooted in XRIRB, and the growing international collaboration between such violent extremist groups and individuals, has led to the need for further research on the phenomenon.
To advance understanding on this growing threat, UNODC and the EU built on their long-standing and productive partnership in the global fight against terrorism to jointly organize an expert roundtable discussion. The event, led by UNODC and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (EU-CTC), focused on “Prevention and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the Basis of Xenophobia, Racism and other forms of Intolerance, or in the Name of Religion or Belief: Perspectives beyond the West /Violent Right-Wing Extremism.”
The issue has been the subject of discussion within the EU, prompting the EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers to adopt four joint work streams in October 2019. These work streams, updated in June 2023, underline the need for a better overview of the threat, and its reach, within Europe. In addition, they highlight the need to promote the development and sharing of best practices, for example on exit and disengagement programmes for right-wing violent extremists, but also to tackle the spread of unlawful right-wing extremist content online. Finally, they emphasize the importance of cross-border cooperation with partners outside the EU.
The EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Mr Ilkka Salmi, underscored the need for a broader perspective in addressing the threat of right-wing extremism and terrorism, stating, “I strongly believe that we are leaving out important parts of the threat if we only discuss it as a European or “Western” issue. We can and should do even more. Listings of violent extremist groups as terrorist organisations are an important tool to fight terrorism. Listings have focused on Islamist terrorism so far.”
The roundtable was comprised of two sessions. The first was dedicated to presenting the UN and EU perspectives on XRIRB and their respective lines of work to tackle the phenomenon. This included the discussion of UNODC’s Manual on Prevention of and Responses to Terrorist Attacks on the Basis of XRIRB. The second focused on exploring XRIRB in non-Western contexts, specifically Brazil. The issue was outlined by representatives from academia, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice and Federal Police.
During the event, speakers highlighted the prominent role that social media platforms and other online tools play in helping violent extremist groups fundraise, influence and recruit people. Misogynistic language on online platforms was identified as a bridge between local contexts and a means to transmit extremism along different contexts.
Young people were identified as the most vulnerable to online recruitment. Over the past few years, there has been an increase of teenagers in Brazil recruited online and incited to attack schools. To address this issue, the Federal Government of Brazil developed a parental control programme to provide parents with the necessary tools to protect their children from online recruitment. Furthermore, the Government organized dialogues with representatives from social media platforms and tech companies to prevent the spread of violent material online.
Additional research on violent extremist groups in Brazil has shown that while local groups formulate their own ideological narratives, they often hold similar views and perspectives on gender roles. Ideological incoherence in violent extremist groups has also been detected, most likely due to lack of in-depth knowledge of ideologies and religions and limited language proficiency. Increasing contact, in the form of sharing of materials, with European and American violent extremist groups has been identified.
Among the many takeaways from the event was the need to combine and coordinate international and domestic responses and to adopt a networked, whole-of-society based response to tackle the threat of XRIRB globally.
This expert roundtable discussion was organized to help bring attention to the phenomenon of XRIRB, both at the regional and regional level.