Intelligence, Intent and capability – three words that align with assessing the national threat to the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) from terrorism. As we have seen from the recent events it is so hard to predict and the work of those working to protect us is unrelenting.
The Peace Foundation is a civil society organisation that works to try and stop people resorting to violence. Our belief is that it is possible to persuade human beings that we are, on the whole, altruistic by nature, and that we can live with each other, and that whilst conflicts are a normality, violence is not and there are other ways to resolve differences.
We have spoken to many people before deciding where to concentrate our efforts in 2020. We looked at the risks and threats both nationally and locally. Clearly, the local threats are emerging and changing all the time.
However, there are patterns and many of the threats we identified are familiar.
Our conversation started with counter terrorism policing and we were fortunate enough to be able to gain a visit from the Assistant Commissioner and Head of CT Policing, Neil Basu and a few weeks later, Chief Superintendent Nik Adams, the national coordinator for PREVENT.
Since then we have had meetings with a number of regional counter terrorism units and several other local units. We have met with the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism, attended briefings in London and Manchester and, of course, have been speaking to local authority coordinators.
The Peace Foundation has a wider interest, beyond counter terrorism safeguarding, working in preventing all violent extremism through to our programmes in cohesion and integration and terrorism victim support.
We have also undertaken a literature review of the publicly available data on channel referrals and types of ideologies.
Our headline finding is that risk is still predominantly around the core ideologies of Islamism and the Far Right. We have been testing this through a programme of mediated dialogue, working with the University of Manchester. For the last year, since autumn 2018, we have been working on a sensitive project bringing together protagonists from the different milieu. Our interim report is available on the gov.uk website called ‘Talking our way out of conflict.’
Whilst the overall threat risk from a security and intelligence perspective is reduced. We think there are some significant trends.
The rise in Far-Right ideology is worrying and referrals and security interventions are showing a much-increased level. Whilst the two ideologies still prevail, we are picking up huge issues at community and field operation level with neighbourhood conflicts with Roma, Somali, Libyan and others, including so-called white British, showing worrying concerns. The sense of ‘us and them’ and the creation of ‘the other’ is at a peak.
There is also evidence of opportunists that are promoting divisive language. We are all aware of the change in the way that political leaders use language. There has been an increasing rush to identify people as ‘islamophobic’ or ‘anti-semites’ at the slightest challenge or question being raised.
It is possible that this is an informal approach to undermine cohesion, creating an ‘us and them’ and leading us another notch up the staircase that leads to violent attacks.
The hostile use of language has increased out of all proportion, but we also have unearthed examples of reputable organisations joining in some questionable campaigning, even in one case goading the other party.
We use a model called Moghaddams’ staircase to terrorism. This model shows how those with a sense of unfairness or disaffection can move up through a series of steps to violent action. Our latest practice and fieldwork suggest the speed of acceleration is now increased.
At the same time, we think the Government’s counter terrorism strategy and PREVENT is in a far stronger position and the independent review is welcome. We think PREVENT rebuttal of critics is improving and we encourage all civil society organisations to join us in promoting activities to prevent violent extremism.
We know that the PURSUE strand activities are being successful with many incidents thwarted since 2017. Many recent events involved actors that have been restrained under mental health provisions. This is an important point as it means that an organisation like the Peace Foundation, with twenty years of experience, can deploy its trauma informed capabilities and awareness to support many others affected by violent conflict.
Those with a referral due to concerns that they were vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism are mainly coming from an education setting.
Most are in the age bracket over 13 and under 20 and many are male. We know the north, London and Wst Midlands remain the areas with high risk.
There is also an increase of data from elsewhere – the recent Home Office report into counter extremism activity, released in October, confirms the concerns about the Far-Right ideology growing.
The findings of our research into threats and risks means the Peace Foundation needs to work differently with PREVENT. There is also the challenge of the transfer of PREVENT delivery accountability from the Home Office to local authorities and how we can provide a distinctly local service.
Next year we will offer four training courses. They will all have the same attributes. They can be delivered in one day. Whilst one of them is new, three of them have been offered before, but are being refreshed and re-written to make them PREVENT focused. The delivery methods will be similar on each but will now come with some added extras.
Three of the courses are one-day training workshops for up to 30 young people, aged 13 to 19, in school, college or youth and community group settings. The fourth differs as it is for professionals working with young people and is for 20-25 people.
I am delighted to announce that this new programme will go live on 10th January 2020. It responds directly to the increased threat from the Far Right. Combat Hate aims to prevent young people from engaging with the far right and safeguard them from polarisation and extremism. It draws on the experiences of people who have engaged in extreme groups, professionals working to challenge the far right and people who have been impacted by far-right extremism. Combat Hate directly aligns to local authority and police identified risks posed by the far right and in protecting young people who are most vulnerable.
My Former Life
My Former Life is a training course using the experiences of people who have been involved in violent conflict to discourage others from engaging in violent extremism that can lead to terrorism. It is being refreshed for delivery to ensure it aligns directly to the contemporary threats and risks.
My Former Life is a multimedia education resource based on a documentary about four former extremists. The film and accompanying workshop explore the formers’ personal and political motivations for getting involved in violent conflict, the consequences of their actions, and their departure from a life of extremism. Young people are shown the causes and effects of violent extremism as the course combines the exploration of real-life stories with interactive and participatory exercises designed to raise self-awareness and critical thinking.
Extreme dialogue is a training course using short films and education resources featuring the stories of real people impacted by violent extremism, which aims to help young people develop essential critical thinking skills, in the face of the threat from violent extremist propaganda and recruitment. Extreme Dialogue enables young people to gain a better understanding of the ‘bigger picture’, placing ideas associated with extremism into a context where they can develop a more critically informed understanding of these issues. So, it is about promoting resilience.
Holding Difficult Conversations
This course is for anyone working with children, young people and vulnerable adults and seeks to raise awareness and understanding about signs of vulnerability to extremism, and it is for those who want to build confidence and experience in managing extreme behaviours as they arise.
It is a training course for those on the front line in safeguarding people from radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism, particularly teachers, educators and youth workers, but also suitable for others such as social and health workers. It relates directly to PREVENT in that it is a one-day training course that builds upon the Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP) and local safeguarding, going further to equip professionals with the advanced expertise they need, building confidence to tackle the most challenging issues.
We are now taking bookings for these courses and if you want further information or to find out more please contact our Programme Director, Ann Snagg – firstname.lastname@example.org