Combating Extremism and Promoting Pluralism

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Jun 04, 2018
by Salzburg Global Seminar
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Combating Extremism and Promoting Pluralism

The Salzburg Global Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention series publishes new report 

Xenophobia, racism, and violent extremism are tearing at the fabric of societies across the globe. Although contexts and specifics differ, many shared human values do not: the wish to live in peace and security, and to ensure a positive future for the next generation. At the same time, where atrocities have occurred there is a need to commemorate victims and to confront perpetrators without perpetuating a cycle of violence or creating a climate overwhelmed by vengeance.

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 effect change, making rigorous measurement of their success over the long-term resource-intensive with 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?

These were the questions at the front mind for the educators, practitioners and museum curators invited to take part in a new phase of Salzburg Global Seminar’s Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention multi-year program series as they devised strategies to support cultures of prevention, with a specific focus on Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. 

Funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the two-year project saw Fellows collaborate within and across countries to develop locally-driven, culturally-sensitive and -specific responses to combat extremism and promote pluralism in the five focus countries: Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Rwanda, and South Africa.

The new report, Combating Extremism and Promoting Pluralism, presents the findings of the project from August 2016 to March 2018, starting with a workshop at Schloss Leopoldskron, culminating in several successful pilot projects that are now being scaled-up across their regions, and generating a series of concrete recommendations for others wishing to implement their own projects to combat extremism and promote pluralism. Interviews with several Fellows are also included.

Pilot Projects

Fellows from Rwanda and South Africa collaborated in launching the Change Makers Program, a leadership program for high school students. Using case studies on the Rwandan genocide, South African apartheid and the Holocaust, students develop critical thinking skills and are empowered to be agents of positive change. 

In Egypt, educators at the American University of Cairo (AUC) established the Civic Peace Education Initiative. This strives to integrate community-based learning, intergenerational dialogue and storytelling into the curriculum and prompts students and faculty to think about societal divides and adopt values of global citizenship. Similarly, Fellows at the International University of Rabat in Morocco developed a graduate degree program in Conflict Resolution and Peace Governance. 

In Pakistan, as part of its mission to protect youth against extremist recruitment efforts, the Renaissance Foundation for Social Innovation, Pakistan (RESIP) used this funding to conduct a study on the effect of socio-religious identities in shaping university students’ behavior. Elsewhere in the country, Fellows at Kohat University launched a study circle to connect students across the country’s northwestern provinces. 

“After the Holocaust, people have repeated the mantra ‘never again’ – but then mass atrocities keep happening,” explains Charles Ehrlich, Salzburg Global Program Director.  “In Salzburg, we’ve heard first-hand accounts of tragedies taking place right now afflicting the Rohingya and the Yazidis, among others. Many of our participants in this program have themselves witnessed or survived unspeakable horror.

“As an institution based in Austria, a country which itself continues to have difficulty addressing its own Nazi legacy, Salzburg Global Seminar has an especially important role in working with our colleagues from countries across the world to both address their own difficult histories and, through grassroots action, to seek to create a future where these tragedies do not repeat. The network has grown organically – mostly consisting of Fellows from countries in the Global South – as a way to break the isolation, so they have the opportunity to share experiences and ideas and to learn from each other how to develop initiatives appropriate for the circumstances of their own countries.”

All five of the pilot projects are now poised for expansion or replication over the course of 2018 and 2019. For its part, Salzburg Global intends to continue this series on Holocaust education and combating extremism through the convening of future sessions in Salzburg, as well as by supporting in-region gatherings of Fellows to aid in the execution of these initiatives.

Download the Report


Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention is a multi-year program series held in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It is funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with further support from Ronald D. Abramson, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung