BBC News

Network to combat extremism and gang culture launched

image captionSasha Havlicek: keen to "engage with young people at risk of being recruited by extremism"

A network to combat ideologically motivated extremists and criminal gangs has been launched in New York.

The Against Violent Extremism network aims to help groups who are trying to tackle gang culture and violence motivated by extremism.

It says organisations involved in the field tend to be small, cash-strapped and concentrate on one group or area.

It is hoped members of the AVE network will be able to collaborate, find investors, and widen their audiences.

"It's about making these organisations bigger than the sum of their parts," says Sasha Havlicek, whose Institute for Strategic Dialogue is helping to facilitate the network.

"We can use the unique voices of people all over the world who have been in direct contact with extremism to engage with the young people who are at risk of being recruited by extremism," she told the BBC.

She says the network will also assist with practical issues and funding, and believes that while the internet has been used very effectively by extremist groups and gangs, AVE's website will start to combat that.

"We want to present an alternative narrative, to help young people with identity issues - or with a sense of alienation - to realise that these groups do not have the answers they are looking for," she said.

Former extremists

Several former extremists and gang members are involved in the project.

Robert Orell was a member of a white supremacist movement in Sweden in the 1990s but was able to quit with the help of Exit Sweden, an NGO he now works for.

He says that while radical Islamic groups, far-right organisations or criminal gangs may appear to have widely divergent goals, there are inherent similarities between them.

"Yes, there are differences in ideology, but if you look at how these groups are organised, and who and how they recruit - actually, they are very similar."

He says groups working to prevent recruitment, or support those who want to leave these groups, can learn a lot from each other.

"You can transfer these skills across countries and across cultures," he says.

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