I am sincerely glad to be here today and to have the opportunity to host this meeting. I believe the topic of this meeting to be of utmost importance and I am happy to see so many faces of people who work directly in the field of radicalization prevention here today.
First of all I would like to thank the Women Federation for World Peace for asking me to organize this meeting and my colleagues Silvia Costa and Cecile Kyenge to be here today.
I will make some brief considerations. I believe that, especially in this period of increased violence and radicalization, we all have the duty to strengthen mutual respect and to address the complex realities of our societies and the coexistence of different cultural identities and beliefs. Achieving this objective is not only a task for public authorities and decision makers, but is a shared responsibility of society as a whole, including a broad range of stakeholders such as families, media, educators, businesses, community and faith leaders. In this regards a crucial role could be played by the civil society and by women.
It is a fact that an increase in women empowerment and gender equality has a positive effect on countering extremism, as it does similarly in peacebuilding. This is why a think that almost all extremist groups have in common is that they aim to place limits on women’s access to education and health services, restricting their participation in economic and political life, and enforcing the restrictions through terrifying violence. While extremists place the subordination of women at the forefront of their agenda, however, the promotion of gender equality has been only an afterthought in the international community’s response to extremism. For this reason, I believe that women should be at the core of counter violence and counter-extremism programs.
The international community must recognize, as the extremists do, that empowered women are the foundation of resilient and stable communities that can stand firm against radicalization. Women bring a new perspective to the discussion in this area and should therefore be involved in the full range of activities normally precluded to women, including community life, politics and law enforcement. Gender equality must be promoted in its own right and women should be empowered to participate fully in society. Empowered women are the best drivers of growth and the best hope for reconciliation. They are the best defence against the radicalization of youth and they can concretely oppose radicalism because as mothers, they can notice the emerging signals of juvenile radicalization and they can have a crucial role in resilience building during their youth.
The other key issue we will discuss today in this conference is the promotion of cultural diversity. Improving coexistence in today´s diverse societies and encouraging respect for cultural diversity should be one of the main purposes of European policy. Schools can contribute in this sense because of their potential in fostering greater mutual understanding or focusing on specific cultural heritage. For this reason, I believe that increasing public investment in inclusive, quality and accessible formal, non-formal and informal education is fundamental to provide equal access and opportunities for all. We need to ensure cultural and social diversity in classrooms and learning settings, including among educators, to reduce early school leaving and to foster the education of disadvantaged children in order to promote equity and foster social cohesion among future generations.
To conclude I would like to stress that intercultural dialogue is a precondition of peace, and an essential tool of conflict management, focusing on the dignity of the individual and on the need to uphold human rights around the world, with particular reference to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Violent extremism is most effectively countered through increased education, better critical thinking and enhanced opportunities.
I would like to thank you all again and I would like to pass the floor to the experts.
Author: Hon. Flavio Zanonato
European Parliamentarian (MEP)
Flavio Zanonato (born 24 July 1950 in Padua) is an Italian member of the European Parliament. He belongs to the Political Group of the progressive alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). Mr. Zanonato served four times as Mayor of Padua before being the minister of economic development in Enrico Letta’s Cabinet. In the European Parliament, Zanonato is a full member of the ITRE Committee and a substitute member of EMPL.