London/Bangkok: The International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) has recently co-organised two parallel events respectively in London and Bangkok on the use of sport and its values to prevent violent extremism (PVE).
Co-hosted by the Sports Diplomacy and Governance Hub & Sport, Human Rights & Safeguarding Research Group at the SOAS University of London, the Europe-focused transnational meeting brought together 20 experts from Spain, Belgium, Greece, Italy and the UK, and was organised within the framework of the two-years project “Network for the Exchange of Good Practices on the Integration of Youngsters at Risk of Radicalisation through Sport dubbed as Radical (Ex)Change. Funded by the EU’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture, the project was designed by ICSS, within the framework of its Save the Dream initiative, jointly with the International Olympic Truce Centre (IOTC) as the project lead, the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) and European Multisport Club Association (EMCA).
During the meeting, the project partners and experts discussed a new Handbook to assist local organisations, grassroots associations, NGOs, counselling boards, municipalities, academic institutions, and experts to address marginalisation and radicalisation through sport.
Katerina Salta, Sport for Protection Programme Manager at the IOTC said: “Europe is facing unbalanced situations for young people: lack of opportunities and real cultural interaction, economical disadvantages, religious confrontation, gender discrimination, political changes, leading to the arising of extremist positions that can lead to radicalization. Sport has been proven to be an impactful tool to combat radicalisation of communities at risk, which can be used as a means towards inclusion of refugees in the host society, integration of disadvantaged youngsters on the labour market, or reconciliation of populations torn by war. By equipping the sporting community and front-line workers fighting radicalisation with concrete and efficient tools based on sport practices that can concretely develop skills and foster resilience of youth at risk, the European society will indeed become more inclusive, peaceful and overall resilient to negative streams.”
Representing the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), Andrea Rodriguez, said: “Sport has been proven to have the capacity to appeal to youth, making it a very efficient tool in promoting positive values targeted at vulnerable members of society. Jointly with partners like the ICSS we aim to both promote sport and its values to build resilience to violent extremism, especially among youth, and to support and guide Members States to integrate sport values-based initiatives within action plans for the Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE).”
Carol Jimenez, Senior Manager, Multi-dimensional Security at the ICSS, said: “At all latitudes, our societies are exposed to a virulent spread of violent extremism, with many of these threats coming from groups that seek to devaluate other groups and individuals, destabilize communities and radicalize youth. The prevention of violent extremism through sport builds on the unique ability of sport to engage youth actively and meaningfully, and to gain access to those young people who are often hard to reach through more formal interventions.”
The ICSS has also opened the National Focal Points (NFPs) Regional Forum for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand, organised within the framework of the Global Programme on Security of Major Sporting Events, and Promotion of Sport and Its Values as a Tool to Prevent Violent Extremism, an initiative led by UNOCT and implemented in partnership with the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the ICSS.
The event in Bangkok followed a first European NFPs Regional Forum held in Malaga, Spain, in December 2021 and provided governmental NFPs with a platform to share lessons learned and best practices both on the use of sport to prevent violent extremism, and on the security of major sporting events.
In his opening remarks, the CEO of the ICSS, Massimiliano Montanari, said: “The Global Programme could not have been possible without the generous support of Asian countries, donors of the initiative, particularly the State of Qatar, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea.”
He also recalled a study published by Standford University on The Effect of Mohamed Salah on Islamophobic Behaviors and Attitudes, which found that the number of hate crimes in the Merseyside area had fallen of over the 18 per cent over the two first years when he joined Liverpool, associated with a 53 per cent fall in anti-Muslim tweets among Liverpool fans.
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