4 ways young leaders are building a more resilient society

An Indonesian policeman inspects a bullet hole on a car window in front of a Starbucks cafe, the site of a militant attack, in Jakarta January 15, 2016. Indonesia must strengthen its defences against Islamic State and work with neighbouring countries to fight it, Jakarta's police chief said on Friday, a day after an attack by suicide bombers and gunmen in the heart of the Southeast Asian nation's capital. Just seven people were killed in the three-hour siege near a busy shopping despite multiple blasts and a gunfight, and five of them were the attackers themselves.

An Indonesian policeman inspects a bullet hole on a car window at the site of a militant attack, in Jakarta, January 15, 2016 Image: REUTERS/Beawiharta

John Dutton
Head, Uplink; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale

Recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon, France, Nigeria, Cameroon and Jakarta have shown that the battleground for extremism has globalized. It's also clear that the solutions to these challenges are not simple. They require sophisticated interventions cutting across every part of society.

The attacks have set off a wave of polarizing reactions against immigrants, minorities, refugees and people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. If a counter narrative isn’t created, such reactions could deepen the very divides that terrorist groups are looking to exploit.

This is why the Forum of Young Global Leaders, a diverse community of outstanding, next generation leaders, has a role to play in approaching such challenges in a collaborative spirit.

In the face of these threats, Young Global Leaders have identified four approaches that may not change the dynamic overnight, but are the start of a multi-stakeholder approach to confronting radical groups like ISIS.

1. A new social contract between European nations and their minority populations, especially Muslims

YGL Souad Mekhenet, a correspondent with the Washington Post and long-term reporter on conflict and terrorism related stories, has a unique understanding of the latest radical group to come to the fore, ISIS. Her reporting within the inner circles of ISIS leadership has led to a unique understanding of the motivations and strategy of ISIS and similar movements. Through this work, she has identified some of the factors behind the radicalisation of young people in Europe – ethnic profiling for security purposes; perceived hypocrisy of western human right appeals in the face of minority discrimination; and the lack of job opportunities for youth with minority backgrounds.

Souad believes there should be a new social contract between European nations and their populations, especially those who are of Muslim descent. This step encompasses a number of important elements that YGLs have outlined – admitting past mistakes in integration policy, addressing discrimination in the workplace, providing conditions for healthy dialogue, and giving Arabs a seat at the table for the important geo-political interventions in the Middle East.

2. Replicate promising holistic and embedded de-radicalisation programmes

Robyn Scott and Lisa Witter, YGLs who have co-founded the digital platform apolitical “to share and support what’s working in the public service globally”, feel passionately that innovative, holistic approaches to de-radicalisation exist and should be embraced by more countries. Nigeria, in particular, has developed programmes that look to embed creative curriculum in prisons, across ministries who enact policy, with NGOs, and across civil society (imams, teachers, mothers, policemen, local government, traditional rulers, etc.) and are using innovative outreach platforms – text, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – just as ISIS does, to train public servants.

Robyn and Lisa believe, “it is to our disadvantage that we thus tend to neglect the pockets of remarkable strength amidst the weakness. We can only effect change at the scale required to make our societies truly resilient by mobilising, connecting and supporting the state institutions and civil society bodies — and the dedicated public servants behind them — that already exist.”

3. Embrace constructive conflict methodologies that encourage diversity

What causes schisms in society along identity lines? What can we do to remedy them?

Lutfey Siddiqi, a Young Global Leader from Bangladesh and the UK, leverages his global background in the business world to approach these questions from the perspective of the workplace. He has concluded that embracing constructive conflict holds the key to addressing these challenges. In particular, Lutfey encourages all leaders to think about four factors: create the space for constructive conflict in your teams, move beyond tolerance and recognize the value of diversity in your surroundings, proactively consider your unconscious biases, and build room for compromise.

Concretely Lutfey has worked towards addressing this with two initiatives that YGLs have collaborated with: “Firstly, by adopting the rules of constructive conflict in our own interactions, we help make the terrain less incendiary... Secondly, by joining the initiative for constructive conflict and diversity, we can help immunize communities against prejudicial conflict. Interventions can take the form of diversity training in schools to affirmation workshops with adults, all the while emphasizing the need for cross-group integration. The use of cultural arts and entertainment is also a potent way to spread the word.”

4. Practical ways to switch from exclusion to inclusion in the workplace

Tinna Nielson, an anthropologist and founder of Move the Elephant for Inclusiveness, drills down deeper on the opportunity employers have to confront radicalisation. The statistics have shown that Muslim job seekers, men and women, are at least 65% less likely to be employed than their white, male British counterparts. Within this environment, it’s not enough to think about an organization’s biases: human resource departments need to change their hiring practices to reflect a diverse society.

Particularly, Tinna asks employers to consider anonymous CV screening, experiential training for line managers that reveals their biases, and tangible targets that cap the percentage of team members from the same background. Tinna is passionate about creating opportunities for companies to make a difference with in the fight against radicalisation and concludes her piece by highlighting, “The purpose of employers should be to make it increasingly better to live as a Muslim in Western societies thus making it more difficult for terror groups to recruit them.”


These changes alone won’t be enough to overcome the formidable challenge world leaders face in countering violent extremism, but it’s a start. These young leaders offer ways in which each one of us can help to create a more inclusive and resilient society.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum