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26th May 2017:  In the aftermath of the horrific Manchester attack, commentators are asking if Prevent has failed. Our view at ConnectFutures is pragmatic – the efficacy of proactive preventative approaches that safeguard vulnerable individuals at risk of radicalisation must be preferable to reactive measures.

As a training organisation that works in schools with teachers and students, building resilience to, and safeguarding against these dangers can only be a crucial and welcome action. However, violent extremism is a complex and sensitive area of work, and to effectively tackle it, policy and practice must take into account the experiences and perceptions of all communities, including addressing their grievances and fears. Without this trust the benefits of partnership will not happen.

Prevent as a policy – however well-funded – cannot succeed until it is viewed as a benefit to all. As has been observed and practiced during the many decades of terrorist violence the U.K. has faced, including the IRA bombings of Manchester during the Troubles, violent extremism is ultimately defeated by a united, strategic response from the grassroots and from government. This relies on trust, openness and democratic approaches to winning hearts and minds. A united response to violent extremism is crucial, but requires trust building between communities and state agencies.

Two suggestions for ministers to consider:

  1. Consistent engagement with all sides by ministers and civil servants to make Prevent more community led.
  2. Establish a small, independent panel composed of people across the spectrum conducting an impartial review of the Prevent strategy to examine what works and what doesn’t.

Notes:

*ConnectFutures: a UK social enterprise training schools and organisations to build resilience to extremism and exploitation. For more information visit www.connectfutures.org