The conference brought together experts and practitioners to discuss the contextual relevance and nuances along with national and regional perspectives. Due to Covid-19 restrictions and rising number of cases in the Colombo district, the conference was conducted as a virtual learning engagement.
On the first day Patrick Burgess, an international human rights expert and co-founder and President of Asia Justice and Rights, presented an introduction to PVE focussing on a simplified approach by looking at the three elements – supply, demand and the context. NPC Executive Director Dr. Jehan Perera discussed the root causes of Violent Extremism (VE) and Professor Shahab Enam Khan from Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh spoke on the role of religion and PVE. Professor Oliver Richmond, a peace building expert, discussed the interaction of peace processes and PVE.
Professor Gamini Keerawella, Executive Director of the Regional Centre For Strategic Studies, shared his insights on the prevention of VE in South Asia. Dr. Barbara Perry, from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, spoke on hate speech.
Participants were able to learn the fundamentals of VE and what leads to people becoming not just radicalised but violent as well.
The second day began with a panel discussion on the role of the state in PVE. Panellists included former Governor of Eastern Province and former Secretary of Defense Austin Fernando, Director General of the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) Asanga Abeyagoonasekera and Deputy Commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Abdul Mannan.
This was followed by a session on PVE in the digital age by Asela Waidyalankara, an expert in technology and cybersecurity. Dr. Kazi Maruful Islam from the University of Dhaka discussed engaging and empowering youth for PVE and Dr. Sandra Pogodda from University of Manchester talked about radicalisation and countermeasures.
The conference ended with a presentation by Dr. Rashmi Singh, Associate Professor at PUC Minas in Brazil, who explained the key drivers and dynamics of VE by using examples from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The second day of the conference concentrated on the specific areas of VE, how the state addresses it, how VE uses digital technology to approach different groups and how civil society can be a positive influence in addressing PVE.
Lessons from the conference will feed into future activities of the project, especially the Training of Trainers workshop to set up a cadre of PVE trainers in Sri Lanka.