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Out of India | Preventing violent extremism – the business case

September 25, 2016 | Nick Taylor

Out of India | Preventing violent extremism – the business case

A blog post by Foundation Chief Executive, Nick Taylor

Last week I visited New Delhi in India. I was representing the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace at a United Nations UNESCO event to consider how education can prevent violent extremism.

I was privileged to speak to Ministers and senior influencers from countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Korea and Syria – and hear from over 200 people from across the world.

I was very proud that the organisation I work for, the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace was held up as an example of a global best practice. Our advanced learning product, My Former Life, was shown at the conference as part of a UNESCO film.

You can view the film on YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79MTkVumCcQ&feature=youtu.be

Transnational groups such as al-Qa’ida, al-Shabaab, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and, of course, ISIS, are still making the headlines. Closer to home in Europe and on our streets, the extremes of the Far Right and Far Left are prevalent and spreading their hatred.

Violent extremism – the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals – including terrorism, and other forms of politically motivated violence – is arguably one of the biggest threats to national and international security today.

Preventing this violent extremism has become a priority for the international community.

It is not an understatement to suggest that such violence, and the motives that drive it, is a threat to peace, stability and society itself.

And yet, in my opinion, the response is muted. It is too little and too late. To use the analogy – it is like putting a sticking plaster on an open wound. And that is because it isn’t just a priority for the international community – it is one for us all.

Extremism isn’t new – the IRA murdered Johnathan and Tim through an act of extreme violence.

Twenty-one years ago, when Colin and Wendy Parry established our charity, their hope was that they could do something that is a common hope expressed by all those who have suffered at the hands of terrorism.

That is, that nobody would ever go through what they did in losing their son. That is a hope that still drives us – and, we have created a unique and inspirational charity based at the Peace Centre in Warrington, England, a building that is a living memorial to Tim and Johnathan, and an incredible asset from which we operate our organisation.

The number of terrorist incidents has increased every year since 9/11.

In the last few years there has been a deterioration of world peacefulness for the first time since the end of the second word war.

There is increased instability in the Middle East and parts of Africa, particularly through the rise of ISIS, creating a huge number of fatalities, injuries and societal consequences. The destabilisation of that region has created mass migration of those seeking refuge and the ramifications for Europe are far from clear.

Global conflict is a constant – from tensions between the two Koreas, between Pakistan and India, concerns over China’s growing military assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region, the potential further expansion of the Middle East conflicts across borders, and the interventions of the likes of Russia in the Ukraine and places like Syria meaning that geopolitics has never been so fragile.

And these are just the hotspots.

There is an upsurge in far right activity in parts of Europe, and here on our shores we face a heightened threat level and constant challenges as some are radicalised, travelling and returning from areas of conflict and others take their pernicious campaigns onto social media and onto the streets. The recent referendum was at times toxic, and the decision that has been taken has far reaching ramifications for our society and for all of us in business,

It may seem difficult to join up the dots in seeing how this has an impact on us all. However, when Parisian concert goers, airline passengers in Brussels, people at prayer in Nigeria and British holidaymakers on a beach are suddenly faced by someone with high-velocity weapons, or detonating a bomb, intent on taking their lives – when those who travel, live and work abroad are at high risk, when we face those who want to challenge democracy and our ways of lives, then we know we are all at risk.

And for many of you who work in commerce and business; I don’t need to reiterate that in a truly global economy, the price of peace and the cost of conflict is high.

In fact, violence costs 13.4% of world gross domestic product – GDP. Estimated at 14.3 trillion US dollars. This is equivalent to the combined economies of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom – and it is a figure that is increasing rapidly.

So, it is something that impacts everybody and your businesses at home and abroad and beyond.

Our charity is set up to provide a response to this position. We draw upon twenty-one years of experience first gained from engaging in the conflict here on our islands.

Now, our projects are national and international and what we do is unique. Whilst there are some Non-Governmental Organisations, academic institutions and think tanks occupying the space of peace building and conflict resolution – there is only our charity that is out there doing the work we do. That is the prevention, resolution and response to violent conflict and by that I mean terrorism, political violence and war.

Our work is delivered through a portfolio of projects that match contemporary challenges. What we do focuses on young people, from offering leadership development to working with those who may be vulnerable or at risk of using violence or being influenced or radicalised by extremism.

We work with women to enhance their conflict resolution skills and recognise their unique ability to influence within families and the community.

We assist British citizens and other people domiciled here that may have been a victim, survivor or affected by serious violent conflict. And, we are the only British-based organisation working with the Irish Government to promote peace and reconciliation both east and west of the Irish Sea.

Our work is carried out across the UK and further afield into Europe and internationally. Our latest education resource, the website and teaching resource, Extreme Dialogue, was launched in Canada, and has just been made available in the UK, and in October will be launched in Hungary and Germany.

The projects to resolve conflict takes us into towns and cities across the country and this year we are concentrating our efforts along the northern powerhouse corridors into Liverpool, Manchester, Calderdale, Kirklees, Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield, Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley.

And it is that sort of work that brings us together as a movement for change, to challenge violent conflict. A movement that can promote the freedoms, democracy and violence-free society we all need.

Of course, Governments cannot do this on their own, and here is where you come in. Because it is our belief that many of the solutions to these huge societal challenges lie within the commercial and business sector, and that it is time for us to galvanise business to provide the knowledge, investment and solutions to take on what is arguably the biggest risk you face.

How many of you in assessing the risk to your business have identified the threat of violent extremism on your organisation, services, products, supply chain, employees or your clients? Some of you may have – but I guess it is something you might want to look at very closely given the risk profile and fiscal picture I painted a few moments ago about the cost to us all.

The sort of investment we need is not large. Many of our projects are inexpensive.

It is a sobering thought that the entire cost of running the Peace Centre for a year is less than the cost of one missile – and, every plane we send into Syria carries four of those missiles. Makes you think doesn’t it – my view is the old saying….prevention is better than cure…just something to think about.

And we need help with the challenges ahead – the sort of help many of you and your companies and contacts can bring.

Because our charity will be at the forefront of dealing with the many refugees coming to our country, some of whom will be highly traumatised, and also the returning so-called ‘foreign fighters.’ We will be delivering projects in de-radicalisation, or perhaps better put, resettlement and rehabilitation. And we need to enhance our physical asset, our ‘home’, the Peace Centre, to do this.

So for investors and business; there are great opportunities to engage and make a real difference that will have huge social impact and will be good for us, good for society but also great for business as well.

My trip to India was a very special visit and I spoke to a lot of adults, but, most importantly, I spoke to young people from many cultures and backgrounds. We all agreed that we don’t live in a vacuum.

I spoke to someone from the Mahatama Ghandi Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development in New Delhi. He told me that young people, under the age of 30, make up half of the world’s population. The average age of parliamentarians around the world is 53 and he considers that they don’t represent or understand the issues faced by the younger generation.

I reflected about his on my journey back. It is the ability for us to offer such young people, who are truly the future, the opportunity to create a brighter world in which global citizenship is the way, and in which violent extremism is not part of their lives. We can do that. You can do that.