NORWAY’S ‘Action Plan against Radicalisation and Violent Extremism’ epitomises its commitment to effectively counter violent extremism. This comprehensive strategy reflects Norway’s escalated efforts against radicalisation and violent extremism (VE), underlining its significance in safeguarding democracy, human rights, and security. The plan’s primary goal is to identify and support individuals at risk of radicalisation, seeking to intervene proactively.
Early prevention, a shared societal responsibility, involves a broad coalition. A dedicated working group, including representatives from the prime minister’s office, nine ministries, research institutions, local governments, and voluntary organisations, is led by the justice and public security ministry. This extensive collaboration highlights the complexity of combating VE and the need for a unified approach.
Norway has meticulously defined terms such as ‘radicalisation’, ‘violent extremism’, and hate crime to facilitate effective action and avoid misinterpretation. Radicalisation is seen as a process where individuals increasingly endorse violence to achieve political, ideological, or religious goals. VE involves the willingness to use violence for similar purposes, and hate crimes are driven by prejudice against specific identity groups.
Norway’s VE landscape evolved post-9/11, becoming more intricate than the 1990s’ simpler dynamics. The 2011 terror attacks by Anders Behring Breivik, resulting in 77 deaths, revealed that VE could be both imported and domestically grown, not solely from external ideologies or training. The rise of the internet and social media as platforms for radicalisation has introduced new challenges. Norway faces two main extremist ideologies: religiously inspired extremism and right-wing anti-religious extremism. These ideologies often provoke each other, escalating tensions and leading to violent outcomes.
To combat violent extremism, the plan focuses on five key areas.
Introduced in 2014 and revised in 2020, Norway’s action plan includes 30 measures across five priority areas. It emphasises expertise, cooperation, and coordination to inhibit extremist groups’ growth and promote reintegration. The plan advocates for collaboration between police and municipalities, enhanced through police councils and public liaison councils, to engage local politicians in crime prevention.
In 2014, Norway, along with Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, established a Nordic network for VE prevention, aiming to improve information-sharing and collective action. This initiative led to the development of individual action plans in these countries, advancing research and local preventive strategies.
The Norwegian plan’s measures focus on research, understanding the radicalisation process, addressing foreign fighters’ challenges, and developing competencies in the health sector to tackle VE and related mental health issues. It also emphasises organising youth dialogues, developing preventive literature in the field of countering violent extremism, and enhancing knowledge in the justice sector.
Other measures include increasing teachers’ capabilities in preventing radicalisation and holding annual national conferences on VE prevention. These conferences play a vital role in advancing field knowledge, sharing experiences, and building networks.
Preventing extremist group growth and recruitment is a key focus. Effective coordination between law-enforcement agencies is crucial. The plan also recognises the role of voluntary organisations in preventing VE, promoting interfaith dialogue to explore common values and deter radicalisation.
Norway’s approach to internet recruitment and the spread of militant ideologies online includes advocating for increased cyber policing. Six ministries are tasked with implementing this comprehensive plan.
Norway’s strategy sets a precedent for other nations. It represents a comprehensive, multipronged approach to combat radicalisation and violent extremism, emphasising collaborative efforts essential for protecting society from these pervasive threats.
The plan’s adaptability and continuous evaluation of its effectiveness in a rapidly changing global landscape are vital. By integrating local and international perspectives, Norway seeks to create a robust framework that addresses current VE challenges and anticipates future trends. This forward-thinking mindset is crucial in the global fight against radicalisation and VE. Additionally, the plan’s emphasis on involving local communities and stakeholders in preventive efforts highlights Norway’s recognition of the importance of grassroots initiatives in countering VE. This bottom-up approach ensures that the strategies are culturally sensitive and locally relevant, enhancing their effectiveness and sustainability.
The writer is author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.
Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2023