Within the framework of the project Mali (Dis-) Engagement and Re-Integration related to Terrorism (MERIT), UNICRI and the International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT-The Hague) have organized a closing event to present the results achieved and discuss the way forward.
The event will take place on the 31st of March in Bamako (Mali) and will be conducted simultaneously online with the presence of representatives from the partner organizations.
The MERIT project was a multi-year project, spearheaded by ICCT and UNICRI with the support of the Royal Danish Embassy in Bamako. The project was implemented in close collaboration with local, national and international actors including MINUSMA, the Malian Prison Administration, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and civil society organisations and in partnership with various members of the international community. The Project had two main objectives. The first one was to improve rehabilitation and reintegration of Malian violent extremist offenders in and after detention through capacity building and the design of a risk assessment procedure. This led to the development of a risk assessment tool for Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs) and organisation of several trainings to support prison staff implementing the tool in Malian prisons hosting the VEOs. The second objective was to prevent violent extremism outside the prison context, by promoting alternatives to violence. In this regard, UNICRI and ICCT organized tailored training, mentoring and empowerment activities for young Malians to foster resilience, to develop alternative narratives and to enhance their role as drivers of change.
A key component of the project was the development of research activities. Considering the crucial need to build upon evidence-based research in order to maximise the effectiveness of the efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism, UNICRI and ICCT delivered a comprehensive analysis of the reasons behind the spread of extremist violence in Mali.
Through field research and primary data analysis, UNICRI and ICCT aimed to advance knowledge and awareness on the issue of violent extremism in Mali through the lenses and voices of the country’s youth. The research conducted focused on the impact that the longstanding presence of terrorist groups has produced on the daily lives of young people in Mali; and understanding the impact of various factors on the support and propensity of young people to resort to violence.
Tackling the challenge of violent extremism, not only in Mali but across the globe, requires a comprehensive, whole-of-society approach grounded in supporting local actors and communities to address not only the effects of violent extremism, but also its root causes. Youth can and must play a vital role in this process.
Leif Villadsen, Deputy Director of UNICRI says that “Despite the event will mark the conclusion of an extremely interesting and intense 2-years journey, UNICRI would like to see this as a starting point for a further expansion of its partnerships and cooperation to support Mali in preventing and countering violent extremism.”