16 January 2023
Dr Yosuke Nagai is the founder and CEO of Accept International, which works on de-radicalization and reintegration for defectors and prisoners formerly involved with violent extremist groups.
He just started as Visiting Fellow at the Geneva Academy and will stay with us until the end of March.
Throughout my work in de-radicalization and reintegration of defectors and prisoners formerly involved with violent extremist groups, such as Al-Shabaab, Houthis, and Jamaah Ansharut Daulah on the ground, I have identified a critical need for a legal framework or international norms to govern their defection.
If they are children, there are ample opportunities for them to receive care as victims due to the presence of robust international norms. Most of these individuals, however, are ‘youth’ between the ages of 18 and 29, even if they are currently combatants of non-state armed actors. While ‘youth’ in other parts of the world are typically expected and supported to become future leaders, those associated with such armed groups have been largely overlooked in both policy and practice, despite the fact that many of them were forced to join these groups in the past.
To initiate a serious examination of the necessary norms that must be established for these marginalized youths, I believe that the Geneva Academy is the best venue, owing to its highly advanced expertise in international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights.
My research question pertains to the identification of the specific forms of protection and empowerment that are crucial for youths currently involved with non-state armed groups, including terrorist organizations. This will be followed by subsequent research on the means by which such protection and empowerment can be realized.
In addition to the plethora of studies on child soldiers in non-state armed groups, including terrorist organizations, there has been a growing number of policy proposals in recent years regarding youths who have left such groups. However, research on youths currently involved in such groups remains significantly scarce. Additionally, while there have been efforts to advocate for compliance with IHL against these groups, as well as studies on the necessity and dilemmas involved in such compliance, there has been a lack of consideration given to the rights of these youths and the empowerment they require. To address the ongoing armed conflicts, particularly those involving violent extremist groups, new and innovative approaches toward these youths are urgently needed.
Given the fact that we, human beings, have yet to find a definitive solution to armed conflicts involving violent extremist organizations and global terrorism, I posit that creating a space for members of such groups to break free from the chains of hatred and take their life as ‘youth’ back is a crucial key to achieving a more peaceful world. This research will significantly contribute to the establishment of a foundation for the creation of new international norms that facilitate such actions.
I expect to have discussions with experts in Geneva to refine my ideas and determine the next steps necessary to realize my current thinking. Furthermore, I aim to share my research and thoughts with the broader community beyond Geneva in order to elicit further feedback and advice from experts in the world.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
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UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
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