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Learning from the Past - Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism

Salzburg Global Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program continues building strategies for countering violent extremism

Candles brought to the market square in Turku, Finland, following the knife attack in August 2017. Photo: Sullay/Wikimedia commons

Candles brought to the market square in Turku, Finland, following the knife attack in August 2017. Photo: Sullay/Wikimedia commons

Mirva Villa | 15.11.2017

Ensuring the next generation can grow up in more resilient, open, and pluralist communities in the face of rising extremism challenges countries across the globe. Faced with a rise in violent extremism, policymakers are under pressure to invest in prevention and to show that it works. Structured efforts to reduce extremist mindsets and behaviors have existed for some time, but evidence of effectiveness is often not widely known or utilized. Many interventions require considerable time to affect change, making rigorous measurement of their success over the long term resource-intensive and in need of sustained political will around an often-unpopular topic. What works? How do we know? And will it work in different geographic, cultural and political contexts?

By providing a platform for cross-border and cross-sector collaborations, the session to be held this week in Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria – Learning from the Past: Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism – aims to support those individuals and institutions who have taken up the challenge of promoting peace in their own communities.

Salzburg Global Seminar’s long-running Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention (HEGP) Program works across cultures and contexts, including where perceptions and definitions of “extremism” differ widely. The 2017 session in the Program will build on work from previous years, particularly the projects launched at the December 2016 session, Learning from the Past: Promoting Pluralism and Countering Extremism. One of these projects, The Change Makers Leadership Program, created by Salzburg Global Fellows Tali Nates and Richard Freedman from South Africa, and Freddy Mutanguha and Aloys Mahwa from Rwanda, helps students between the ages of 15 and 18 in both countries understand their countries’ troubled pasts in an effort to promote peaceful coexistence and counter extremism. The first class of students graduated this summer, and it is intended that the program will expand to other African countries in 2018.

Over 40 participants from 20 countries, mostly from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, will convene in Schloss Leopoldskron for this year’s session on November 16-20. They come from many professional backgrounds including academia, museums and memorial sites, civil society organizations, government officials, and public communications experts. Many of the participants are returning Fellows from other Salzburg Global sessions, including its multi-year series on Culture, Arts and Society, the Salzburg Global Media Academy and Reform and Transformation in the Middle East and North Africa.

The session will mix interactive methodologies, plenary and small group discussions, and thematic and regionally focused working groups to explore and debate the most effective ways to combat rising intolerance and extremism. Participants will deepen and extend their collaborative work in order to identify cross-regional strategies to empower institutions and individuals with tools for ethical education, peaceful conflict resolution, and pluralist societies.

Program Director Charles Ehrlich says that “we are thrilled to have such truly remarkable people from across the world to join us in Salzburg. They share a commitment to overcoming the legacy or threat of mass atrocity, using tools developed for Holocaust education to address their countries’ own national tragedies or problematic histories in an appropriate and dignified way, so that they may provide hope for – and through – the next generation.”

The HEGP Program is held in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and this year is funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Zukunftsfonds der Republik Österreich. Additional support comes from Mr. Ronald Abramson; the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research, and Economy; the Robert Bosch Stiftung; the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation; the HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust; the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung; and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The HEGP Program’s emphasis on grassroots activity within existing institutional budgets anchors projects in their local communities and improves chances for longer-term sustainability. Activities depend on the partners and are demand-driven: The Program provides no financial support to activity implementation, but rather facilitates networks and exchange of experiences across borders to help in-country partners achieve their own institutional mandates, and to help external partners (government, academic, civil society, and other interested parties) to have access to practical feedback from on-the-ground actors within affected countries and communities.

Since 2010, the Program has sought to develop methods for combating extremism and promoting pluralism through education and research. The Program has a network of individuals and NGOs in more than 40 countries, offering ongoing support to its members. It promotes learning from the Global South – both South-to-South exchange but also importantly transmitting lessons from South to North, to inform and influence effective policy and strategies both in the participants’ countries and in Western countries striving to address the same issues, and to determine what methodologies or tools can be leveraged in different contexts.


The session, Learning from the Past: Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism is part of the multi-year series Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention (HEGP) Program, which is held partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and this year is funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Zukunftsfonds der Republik Österreich. Additional support comes from Mr. Ronald Abramson; the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research, and Economy; the Robert Bosch Stiftung; the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation; the HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust; the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung; and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

More information can be found on the session here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/589 and you can follow along via the hashtag #SGShol on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

15.11.2017 Category: GENOCIDE PREVENTION, JUSTICE, MENA, SALZBURG IN THE WORLD, SALZBURG UPDATES
Mirva Villa