DIIS Reports, Danish Institute for International Studies 2015:15
Preventing and countering violent extremism and radicalization is increasingly gaining momentum as a supplement to more traditional counterterrorism activities in the efforts to protect societies against terrorism. The Danish approach has attracted attention not least because of its gentler approach to returnees from Syria and Iraq and the fact that it has been developing for nearly a decade. In this report, Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen provides an introduction to the approach and pinpoints the challenges and dilemmas with which it is faced. The Danish approach to preventing and countering violent extremism and radicalization is based on extensive multi-agency collaboration between various social-service providers, the educational system, the health-care system, the police, municipalities, and the intelligence and security services. It benefits greatly from four decades´ experience with such collaboration in relation to crime-prevention and from existing structures. As could be expected, the approach is faced with dilemmas, challenges and criticisms. The biggest challenge remains the lack of clear definitions of radicalization and extremism, which leads to a lack of consensus on criteria, standards and procedures. The inherent difficulty of cooperation and the substantial task of coordinating the efforts also continue to represent practical challenges. The Danish approach focuses on the individual and many of the initiatives developed revolve around help to self-help through, for example, mentoring, counselling and exit programmes. The prevalent focus on the individual represents a risk of overlooking social and political aspects that might require and inspire other types of responses than those already included. To meet contemporary challenges, the approach is continuously being developed, both top-down and bottom-up, but it rests on a set of fundamental premises ranging from understandings of the welfare state to understandings of crime and of how behavior can be changed. In order for other countries to determine whether there are lessons to be learned from the Danish approach, knowledge is required about these understandings and the existing structures into which the efforts are incorporated.