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In August 2016, UNICRI conducted an assessment mission in Mali to present its programme on Rehabilitation & Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs), developed within the framework of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF). The presentation was addressed to key national and international stakeholders and aimed to ensure their engagement. From September 2016 onwards, ICCT and UNICRI joined their efforts in Mali on Reintegration and Rehabilitation (R&R) of violent extremists, providing training to the prison personnel as well as to other relevant actors. The topics addressed in the capacity building and training sessions included the psychological aspects related to violent extremism, the role that religious leaders could play to prevent and counter radicalisation as well as the development of a risk assessment process in the prison settings. 
The training workshops have been designed in close consultation with national authorities and international partners, such as the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the Justice and Correction Section of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA/JCS). 
Throughout the needs assessment mission and training workshops, and in consultation with different actors on the ground, ICCT and UNICRI have identified different target areas to be addressed by both national and international actors in order to enhance resilience and counter violent extremism in the Country. 

Download the document "Action Agenda on Violent Extremist Offenders in Prison in Mali ":

The Mali (Dis-) Engagement and Re-Integration related to Terrorism (MERIT) project builds on the experience of UNICRI in Mali and in the Sahel region.

Mali (Dis-) Engagement and Re-Integration related to Terrorism (MERIT)

Despite several efforts aimed at stabilizing the Country and ensuring peace, conflict and tensions in Mali continue. Several attacks from terrorist groups have been launched on civilians and (inter)national armed forces. Existing tensions and socio-economic frustrations have created a breeding ground for violent extremism and criminal activities, as well as for forms of collaboration between terrorist organisations and criminal groups. Local and regional terrorist organisations have engaged in various forms of illicit activities, especially in smuggling and drug trafficking, while criminal groups have been active alongside terror groups in the northern part of the country through trafficking of drugs, weapons and migrants to the Mediterranean. In addition to the dangers posed by these criminal actors, an escalation of intercommunal violence has led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of internally displaced persons. Collectively, these complex threats pose a significant risk to the stability of the Country.

The MERIT project is a multi-year project, spearheaded by ICCT and  UNICRI with the support of the Royal Danish Embassy in Bamako, Mali. This project is aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism in Mali bytargeting both the prison environment as well as communities outside to facilitate effective reintegration and to reduce the risk of radicalisation in the larger population, especially among youth. Young people play a key role, as they represent a majority of the Malian population (almost 70% are 24 years or younger) and therefore the future of the country. Their engagement in promoting alternatives to violence is therefore crucial for any counter-terrorism initiative to succeed.

The project is 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 has two main objectives. The first objective is to improve rehabilitation and reintegration of Malian VEOs in and after detention through the design of a risk assessment procedure. The second objective is to prevent violent extremism outside the prison context, by promoting alternatives to violence. In this regard, UNICRI and ICCT been organizing tailored training, mentoring and empowerment activities for young Malian leaders to foster resilience, to develop alternative narratives and to enhance their role as drivers of change.

The leaflet below provides an overview of the activities implemented in Mali since 2016 and includes a set of possible follow-up interventions in the field of preventing and countering violent extremism:

 

 

As acknowledged by the Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) “today’s generation of youth is the largest the world has ever known” and the international community shall “consider ways to increase inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict, including institutions and mechanisms to counter violent extremism.” UNICRI, in collaboration with ICCT, has conducted a series of interviews, consolidated in the video campaign "Voices from Mali", aimed at sharing the experiences of the Malian youth pursuing peace and justice in their communities.

 

Watch the complete video-series of "Voices from Mali"

Counter-messages and alternative narratives represent a valuable and powerful tool to prevent and counter violent extremism. The truthfulness of the contents, the ownership of the message and the style by which the narrative is conveyed are crucial elements for making an alternative narrative successful. The video below, designed in October 2019 by a group of young Malian leaders during a MERIT training on alternative/counter-narratives, can count on all these factors. It speaks directly to our hearts to reminds us that the Sahel does not boil down to terrorism, radicalisation, and extremism. On the contrary, the Sahel is beauty, colours, culture, values and hope.

As part of the monitoring and evaluation of the MERIT project and through missions on the ground, UNICRI and ICCT have been collecting primary data on various topics and aspects related to preventing radicalization and countering violent extremism. Based on the data, UNICRI and ICCT have been able to draft papers and reports that are of interest for the stakeholders active in the country and in the region as well as for the international community at large.    

 

 

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