The Global Center and the Institute of South Asian Studies, with support from Norway, organized a workshop to provide subregional civil society actors, experts, and practitioners with the opportunity to exchange information on supporting and facilitating the disengagement, rehabilitation, and reintegration of violent extremist offenders. The multi-stakeholder discussions focused on the contribution of civil society actors to such efforts, reflecting regional experiences as well as examples from Southeast Asia and Europe to foster both an intra- and interregional perspective.
The Global Counterterrorism Forum Rome Memorandum, the follow-on action agenda from the White House Summit on Counter Violent Extremism, and UN Security Council Resolution 2178 on foreign terrorist fighters were considered examples of international efforts to advance rehabilitation and reintegration efforts that build on lessons learned and good practices. The need for a multisector approach that includes civil society actors, the private sector, former violent extremist offenders, and victims of terrorism was underscored. The particular social, political, and economic dynamics of the subregion were noted, and it was agreed that such efforts must be tailored to the context in which they are taking place, and that this may vary within a national context.
Participants described a number of past and current rehabilitation and reintegration efforts in South Asia, noting that attention to this topic in the region has been limited, particularly in comparison with others. The transforming threat environment and increasing concerns about the transnational dimension of violent extremism today have prompted nascent recognition among practitioners about the need to explore options beyond traditional law enforcement responses.
Civil society actors placed to help with exit and reintegration efforts, face a number of challenges, such as a lack of adequate resources and expertise to develop and sustain programs in the long term and a lack of political will on the part of governments to involve civil society in these efforts. The difficulty of implementation in unresolved or unstable conflict-affected areas or within weak detention environments was a topic of conversation. It was recognized that many opportunities exist for civil society engagement, for instance, exit and reintegration programs can draw on civil society organizations for much needed expertise and services (psychologists, religious counselors, etc.), as facilitators in the re-entry process and as providers of aftercare programs.
The workshop is the final in a series of workshops as part of a broader project developed to support and inform ongoing initiatives undertaken by the United Nations, particularly the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). They complement a series of workshops for regional law enforcement officials in South Asia organized by the Global Center and CTED. A final report will consolidate the key takeaways from the process and offer policymakers and practitioners a set of ideas for action that reflect the inputs from partners on preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism going forward.