MANILA, Philippines – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) highlighted the need for good rehabilitation and reintegration programs for radicalized individuals to effectively counter terrorism in the region.
ASEAN member-countries “placed strong emphasis on the aspect of deradicalization in rehabilitation and reintegration programs as part of comprehensive measures in countering terrorism,” said the “Manila Declaration To Counter The Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism” released on Tuesday, November 14.
Doing so would “ensure that radicalized or extremist individuals are ready to reintegrate into society as well as to prevent ‘relapse’ or their return to militant/terrorist activities,” ASEAN said.
European Council President Donald Tusk also said on Tuesday during the ASEAN-EU Summit that he needs the cooperation of the regional bloc to fight radicalization through strengthened information sharing.
The ASEAN declaration tackled mainly values-based solutions for counter-terrorism.
They committed to sustain long-term efforts to propagate moderation in conflict areas, especially among the youth. This would be done through dialogue, education, community engagement, and strategic messaging on social media.
ASEAN also said that good governance, and respect for human rights and rule of law will address the “threats of the rise” of radicalization and violent extremism.
The regional group said they will develop a “comprehensive regional communications campaign plan to counter radical narratives.” (READ: UN vows to help ASEAN in counter-terrorism efforts)
They stressed the need for an “evidence-based” approach to do all these things. There would be an ad-hoc experts working group under the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) to carry out the plans.
ASEAN said skills development and providing employment would also be one of the key features of the program.
A values-based, and jobs-based solution addressing grassroots causes has been the call of peace advocates in the Philippines.
Counterinsurgency expert Justin Richmond said that radicalization is born through vulnerabilities in communities that grapple with the lack of economic opportunities or “just general hopelessness”. Richmond said this with the Marawi war as backdrop.
In the Philippine context, it goes both ways. If development leads to peace, peace leads to development.
The World Bank said in a report in October that the development of strife-torn Mindanao is key to the country’s long-term economic goals.
ASEAN also recommended that communities be trained to police themselves.
“Develop programs to counter violent extremism that build trust and strengthen cooperation between communities vulnerable to radicalization,” the regional bloc declared.
ASEAN member-states were also called to assist each other in extradition, but cautioned against violating the domestic laws of each country.
The “build community” approach to counterinsurgency is something widely shared by experts and world leaders.
Even US President Barack Obama said this in past policy speeches. “We have to ensure that our diverse societies truly welcome and respect people of all faiths and backgrounds, and leaders set the tone on this issue,” Obama said in 2015.
Read the Manila declaration in full here: