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"Promote Intercultural Dialogue to fight violent extremism", opening statement of ALF President Élisabeth Guigou at the 2016 "Security Jam"

Statement delivered by the President of the Anna Lindh Foundation Elisabeth Guigou on 26 April in a session on “Answers to radicalisation and violent extremism”. The discussion, with a special focus on the role of intercultural dialogue, civil society and youth in challenging extremist narratives, was organised in the framework of the 2016 "Security Jam" from 25 to 28 April 2016.


We are in the grip of an unprecedented challenge.

Violent extremism, the peddling of a death ideology by ISIS, the graphic spreading of barbaric executions through the Internet, the breeding of chaos, the sleek propaganda and recruitment policy through the social networks, the cult of martyrdom and the terror strategy, the deliberate assassinations of civilians and blood splattered all over the streets, concert halls, museum, stadiums, beaches, airports and train stations, be it in Paris, Brussels, Tunis or Istanbul are just a few of the heinous challenges we are to face up.

The Anna Lindh Foundation, based in Alexandria, Egypt, is a unique and global EuroMed forum, comprising of 42 member States, with more than 4500 affiliates, associations, NGOs, based on a thriving network of social activists. Our core mandate is to promote, defend intercultural dialogue on both sides of the Mediterranean. We do it through youth programs, debates and empowerment strategies as the one launched in 2011, Young Arab voices (YAV), meant to be soon transformed in a euromed scaled program.

Why does this matter to us, as an intercultural Foundation? Why do we feel that we are required to act? Why do we think that we cannot turn our back to this horror show? Why do we not let the States security apparatus, the police and security agencies, the judicial systems cope with this fight?

Because I do have a strong conviction: if States and governments must be at the forefront  they also must not be let on their own devices and policies to formulate, implement, lay out credible, durable, sustainable, long-term, top down answers to a global threat which aims at tearing asunder the very fabric of our societies.

My strong view is that we need to build on societies, we need to build on youth, we need to empower them to combat and deny the appeal that extremist ideologies have not only on the disillusioned, the marginalized, the cast away, but sometimes on the mainstream educated youth of our cities, both young men women, adolescents, teenage children.

We are not going to succeed only by preaching, lecturing, counter narrate. We are not going to succeed by opposing and preventing radicalization by counter radicalizing. There is unfortunately no counter-narrative silver bullet. We are there for the long haul. We must invent the means, nurture the skills, build the approaches, that the youth and the civil society itself needs to erect as a bulwark against political, religious and ideological violence that ISIS spread under the guise of the pseudo and murderous “caliphate”.

And we need to do this together. That is why I am pleased to open up this online discussion so as to blaze new paths, foster new ideas. Let’s debate now.