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Developing counter-discourse

Developing counter-discourse and alternative narratives, and empowering young leaders

Bamako (Mali) -

Within the framework of the project Mali (Dis-) Engagement and Re-Integration related to Terrorism (MERIT), UNICRI and the International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT-The Hague), in close collaboration with Think Peace Sahel, Conseil National de la Jeunesse, International Alert, and SNV-ICCO-OXFAM, have developed a set of engagement and empowerment training sessions addressed to young people to promote alternatives to violence.

Building on the acquired knowledge from the previous workshop held in October, 28 young Malian leaders from various regions of the country have gathered in Bamako, from 9 to 11 December 2019, to attend the second training on "Developing counter-discourse and alternative narratives."

The training, conducted in collaboration with Search for Common Ground and Think Peace Sahel, included both theoretical and practical sessions and provided the participants with advanced skills to develop alternative narratives to violence, with a specific focus on countering the propaganda and ideology of violent extremist/terrorist groups. In particular, the training focused on the key elements of counter-narratives. It provided participants with in-depth information on the sources and construction of hate speech, techniques to deconstruct stereotypes and build counter-narratives, as well as best practices for an efficient on/off-line dissemination strategy and how to best communicate and inform in times of crises. Furthermore, the participants were informed about the risks related to the involvement in counter-narratives and were trained on how to overcome those risks.

A mentoring program started in parallel the same week. The programme aimed at enabling young leaders to grow and professionalize their leadership skills through the interactions with and the feedback from their mentors and thereby to increase the local impact of their efforts to build peace and resilience against violent extremism. A number of the mentees met with their mentor to jointly define the skills they want to reinforce and the goals they want to achieve towards the end of tailoring the mentoring program in mid-2020.

In 2020, the MERIT project will continue to build the capacity of the young leaders through new activities, starting with a course on “Training in communication and public speaking”, to be held in February 2020.