The role of education in Preventing Violent Extremism in Lebanon
“Because, more stability there, also means more safety here"
This quote from Sigrid Kaag (2020) – the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation – indicates that creating stability has become a focal point for the Dutch government. According to Kaag, the creation of stability is vital in securing and creating safety. The policy document ‘Investing in Global Prospects’ (MFA 2018, 13) states that the “focus of development cooperation is shifting to the unstable regions of West Africa / Sahel, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, to tackle root causes of poverty, migration, terror and climate change”. This focus of the Netherlands in Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (BHOS) is in line with a wider global shift, where terrorism and violent extremism have become regarded as significant threats to stability, peace and development. The objectives presented by the Ministry are thus in accordance with the wider global debate on PVE (Preventing Violent Extremism). A key part to securing stability and – in the wider debate – to preventing extremism from happening, is the provision of education, aiming to offer a ‘perspective’ on the future. By investing in education, employment and social cohesion, the Netherlands works on creating stability (MFA 2018).
The hypothesis of this research, funded by the Knowledge Management Fund, is that offering education to children at risk will eventually lead to a more stable situation in the Middle East, which will also trickle down to Europe and the Netherlands (Ibid). Education is paramount from this perspective, since more than 3.5 million refugee children between 5 and 17 years old cannot attend schooling, and they are in danger of becoming “a lost generation” (MFA 2018, 44). In order to fulfil these goals, more than half of the €200 million that has been allocated to Lebanon between 2019-2022, is invested in educational and protection projects (MCSL 2019). Next to this, regionally €30 million a year is allocated to improve education and another €10 million a year is assigned to ‘preventing violent extremism’, both envisioned here as combatting root causes of instability (MFA 2018, 102). The increasing focus on education, loosely related to the notion of preventing violent extremism, triggered us to find out how these policies lead to educational interventions in practice. With this in mind, the research focus lies on the role of education within the wider PVE debate, and subsequently aims to answer the question: what are the effects of educational interventions subsidized by the Dutch government on school-going children in Lebanon, in relation to preventing violent extremism?