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Radical Worlds of 2020 Imagining the Futures of Radicalisation 12-14 December 2007 — The Hague

This document was prepared by the US Global Futures Partnership with the support of the International Assessment Staff (IAS) of Canada's Privy Council Office, ShiftN's Philippe Vandenbroeck, and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations of the Netherlands. It captures some of the main insights and implications that a group of international experts discussed at a two-day workshop held under the Global Futures Forum (GFF), where they focussed on the possible futures of the phenomenon of radicalisation. This document does not constitute a consensus report of the discussions held amongst the government and non-government participants from North America and Europe. It is not an analytical document of the IAS, nor does it represent any formal position of the participating organisations. Rather, it is an effort to stimulate discussion and explore some of the strategic forces which could shape tomorrow's world. For more information: National co-ordinator Canada's participation in the Global Futures Forum Privy Council Office International Assessment Staff 80 Wellington Street Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A3 Canada Published March 2008 Front cover Š XcBiker

Radical Worlds of 2020 Imagining the Futures of Radicalisation 12-14 December 2007 Global Futures Forum workshop (The Hague) Highlights and elements for future discussion

Jointly organised by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations of the Netherlands, the US Global Futures Partnership and Canada’s Privy Council Office.

Printed in Canada

Table of contents

Why imagine the futures of radicalisation?……………………5

Key uncertainties ……………………………………………………9

The worlds of 2020…………………………………………………19

Lessons learned……………………………………………………45



Why imagine the futures of radicalisation? Radicalisation is increasingly seen as a significant international challenge to global order and a terrorist threat for many governments. Radicalisation as a concept, however, is not new. Indeed, throughout history, groups and individuals have become mobilised through various radical ideologies to challenge the prevailing social and political order. Writing about some similarities amongst German fascism, Russian Bolshevism, Japanese militarism, and now Islamist “jihadism,” Professor Michael Mazarr notes that previous violent forms of radicalism have arisen in a variety of places and societies, depending on the zeitgeist and particular stresses created by modernisation. Certainly, part of the current waves of violent Islamist radicalism is an outgrowth of what we now call globalisation, which might easily have been termed modernisation in the 1920s and 1930s1. Hence, violent Islamist extremism is only one of the most current forms of radicalisation and not likely to remain the dominant or sole form of radicalism that will challenge governments. The world remains an unpredictable place. Forecasting where the phenomenon of radicalisation might be in another decade is impossible for the best experts. We are reminded that even the most knowledgeable minds – both inside and outside governments – were surprised by the suddenness of the Iranian 1

Michael J. Mazarr, Unmodern Men in the Modern World: Radical Islam, Terrorism and the War on Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).


revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the remarkable resilience and ruthlessness of the Taliban; likewise, the Soviet Union’s demise, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the emergence of a global, religiously-motivated form of terrorism exemplified by al-Qaida. Each of these seemingly disconnected events formed part of a larger shift in the global system at the end of the 20th century. Iran’s revolution legitimised the notion of religiously driven ideology, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan provided the rationale and target for the rise of a religious movement aimed at toppling a state. With the collapse of the Soviet empire, there came new inspiration for religious movements to challenge state power, and emerging vacuums became battlefields on which to fight against the established order. Similarly, we see in the current Iraq conflict seeds of these earlier events and trends blending together to form a new challenge to the established order and loosely defined “Western” values. No expert in 1980 or 1985 or even 1990 could have foreseen how these separate factors, events, or trends would have combined to bring us to where we are today. This realisation might be reason enough to throw out the word “prediction” and focus only on the present. However, precisely because our predictions are so regularly off the mark – both our best hopes and worst fears – we should open our minds to alternative futures in order to better prepare for a world that is likely to be very different from the one in which we are currently operating. As some experts have pointed out, our worst fears,


such as nuclear terrorism, have been regularly forecast as far back in the late 1980s but have not yet materialised. However, we are more prepared for those events, having imagined what such futures might be like, should they emerge. Governments by their very nature tend to focus on the present, developing what might be called an “official future� of what seems most likely to occur within the near term. So-called strategic planning uses such visions of the present to extrapolate into the near and mid term and develop policies that will address what we currently understand to be the most likely outcome. This projection from what we know about the present to what we do not know about the future tends to be linear, and it seldom postulates major discontinuities or unexpected shocks to the current global system. However, we know that discontinuities and shocks have occurred and will occur again. Hence, a better approach is to examine how different the future might be, then work backwards to imagine how the world could lead to such a future.


Key uncertainties


Key uncertainties As in the past, radicalisation is likely to result from the interaction of a variety of broad forces rather than the specific response of a single event, policy, or trend. If the past is any guide, an individual’s or a group’s tendency to become radical and resort to violence may result from the perceived inadequacy or injustice of the prevailing political, economic and social order. Exactly how this future world order will appear depends on a wide range of factors, including the following: the role of the state, the evolution of technology and new media, demographic trends, the prevailing socio-economic order, and the interplay of religion and politics. These factors informed the development of the alternative futures for radicalisation detailed further in this document.

The role of the state According to some experts, the nature of the state as well as the quality of democratic societies’ response to radicalisation will be important drivers shaping the world of 2020. This question transcends the current concern about the importance of Islam or the role of any religion in politics, which tend to shape many governments’ current views on radicalisation. If the nature of the state were to change dramatically, it would alter the manner in which potential radicalisms would manifest themselves. We may be entering a period when a variety of state forms could emerge as a result of further globalisation and the many pressures 11

brought to bear on different governments’ efforts to preserve their power and authority in the international system. For example, one could imagine states becoming more entrepreneurial, or business-like, in dealings with others to cope with the increasingly open borders, transparency and ubiquitous information available; other states, however, might find these globalisation pressures more easily controlled if they group together and form “managerial” blocs based on history, culture, or economic ties; finally, some states might chose more “mercantile” approaches, which seek to insulate themselves from globalisation and practice self-sufficiency (e.g., autarchy) in an attempt to control fully their internal policies. Each approach would create opportunities for groups within and amongst states to find reasons to oppose such arrangements. Their form and rationales would be heavily dependent on how the entrepreneurial, managerial, or mercantile state “orders” impinged on individual and group interests.

New media and technology The information and media world of 2020 is almost inconceivable given the rate of change expected over the next decade. The information technology (IT) capabilities of individuals, small and large organisations and states will grow well beyond what we can imagine today. This is likely to be a world where individuals are permanently surrounded by or bathed in data and stimulations, making it all the harder for people to filter through the messages and images inundating them. The Web is 12

already advancing beyond “version 2.0,” with many more people competing with recognised journalists and accredited news outlets – triggering, for example, what is referred to as the democratisation of media. While that would be challenge enough, we are likely to see “Web 3.0” emerge as a technology of affect which can engage people’s emotions through the use of images, sounds, words, expressions, gestures – even at a subliminal level – to affect the audience. Such emotional power and potential manipulation could easily spread to geopolitics and radicalisation in particular, where emotion-laden messages regarding perceived grievances or injustices could move people and drive them towards violence. If one believes in the notion that “information is power,” then the spread of greater information to the many “have-nots” in the developing world begs the question of how such informationempowered individuals and groups will choose to regard it or use it. Who will be the authoritative voices who are trusted purveyors or interpreters of this information? Already in the current information environment, young Muslims are inundated with information on their cell phones and other personal data devices of beheadings, bombings, brutal attacks, radical blogging, and all manner of images that fosters fatalism about their futures. However, can these powerful technologies also be harnessed to pacify those who might consider violence, or otherwise mobilise more positive forces to counteract the negative images often employed by radical groups to inspire violence or attract new converts? 13

Changing demographics A key driver for changing politics in Europe and the Middle East, especially, is the significant demographic change expected in the next decades. How this will impact on radicalisation will depend heavily on whether these trends persist and how governments and societies react and fashion policies that can absorb new immigration waves. However, the scale of immigration promises to be a major challenge to most European states. As some demographers point out, the European Muslim population is “young and fast growing in a continent of aging people” (Peach 2007). Despite the fact that these Muslim populations are very different from each other, some Europeans have formed a rather uniform, stereotypical fear of Muslim immigrants in the wake of 9/11 and bomb attacks and plots in Europe. Although data on these trends remains problematic, predictions of the growth of Muslim populations are easy to find. According to one such prediction: “Muslim communities in Europe are significantly younger than the non-Muslim population and Europe’s Generation X and Millennium Generation include considerably more Muslims than does the continent’s population as a whole (…) By 2015 Europe’s Muslim population is expected to double, whereas Europe’s non-Muslim population is projected to fall by at least 3.5 percent. Looking ahead, conservative projections estimate that, compared to 14

today’s 5 percent, Muslims will comprise at least 20 percent of Europe’s population by 2050.� (Savage 2004) Other projections are not nearly so high, and much depends on assumptions regarding rates of immigration and birth rates, which are themselves subject to change. Even so, these lower projections would nevertheless constitute a doubling of the Muslim population by 2050, not an insignificant change. Moreover, migrant populations tend to concentrate in urban areas and could pose the challenge of festering enclaves, where poverty, discrimination, and alienation can feed the radicalisation process.

Socio-economic stresses Immigration from Muslim-majority countries is not likely to be the only challenging factor shaping the radicalisation phenomenon. The notion of globalisation often subsumes the underlying reality of rapid socio-economic changes. More porous borders, faster communication and financial transactions globally, as well as the shift of economic and commercial operations can disorient people as well as social groups. Such socio-economic stresses and strains can create the conditions for alienation and opposition to the social and economic order. These challenges are not limited to Muslim populations. Indeed, some experts argue it is hard to understand Islamist radicalisation without also considering other violent forms of radicalism, especially far-right 15

extremism, both forms of radicalism fuelling each other. Such groups feel equally distressed by the disenfranchisement they experience by worsening economic conditions and competition for jobs, housing and other services with other domestic groups. All of these stresses tend to divide or fragment a domestic society into groups, which in turn can radicalise them against each other. This is a trend partly driven by the demographic youth bulge globally. Most criminologists agree that violence is largely a youth phenomenon, which exacerbates any radicalisation process towards a militant form. In the Middle East alone, some estimates show that the 0-14 age population will roughly double by 2025. The presence of millions of unemployed or underemployed young men in a society is a potential trigger for radicalisation. Some estimates show that the number of urban dwellers in Muslim-majority countries, where the youth bulge is most present, will rise from 135 million to over 350 million by 2025. Presuming that Islamist types of violent extremisms will be the most prominent feature of radicalisation into the foreseeable future also misses the important impact that globalisation, socioeconomic stresses, and demographics may have on the further fragmentation of populations into distinct groups. While some experts argue globalisation is knitting people together by bridging separate realities together, other aspects of globalisation will tend to drive people towards micro niches of identity politics, leading them to protect old or newly acquired identities 16

at all costs. An increasingly weakened middle class and a growing resentment amongst the native populations of Europe towards recent immigrants are fostering greater xenophobia in some countries already. In some cases, one observes the clash of the poor (the low-paid resident population) against the poorer (the recent immigrants).

Religion and politics Radicalisation is not about Islam, or so many experts on religion would argue. Yet, Western societies’ focus on radical forms of Islam, to the near exclusion of regard for the far larger mainstream adherents to Islam, conveys a belief that Islam is producing violent radicalisation both in the Middle East and “the West.” The reality is far different, as many Muslims are comfortable with Islam existing alongside democratic norms. Indeed, a Gallup Worldwide Poll taken amongst 35 Muslimmajority countries shows that the three most admired qualities of the West are its technology, its values (defined as “hard work,” “fair play,” and “the rule of law”) and its fair political system (referring to democracy, free speech, and human rights). Muslims around the world, it can be argued, are therefore open to democratic forms, but not those imposed by Western governments and not those preventing Islamic law (shar’ia) to coexist with it. Too little attention has been given to the battle within Islam and its internal radicalisation challenge, which an extremist minority 17

has created by hijacking religion to serve its violent political agenda. According to this view, the solution lies in the actions of mainstream Islamists and not in the actions of Western governments, although the latter’s policies provide opportunities for extremists to exploit. Most Muslims tend to perceive a Western “disrespect for Islam,” as conveyed in the media and in some government actions or statements. This can cause mainstream Muslims to remain passive in the face of rising violence or even to condone some violence if it is cast as, or justified as, “defending Islam.” A sense of siege felt by many devout Muslims may reinforce their “identities” as Muslims first and as citizens only second; it may also accentuate their desire to remain separate or not fully integrated with the non-Muslim societies in which they live. A solution to this challenge, say many experts, is to ensure that Muslims participate in politics rather than dismiss it. Having active Muslim citizens in politics, the media, and other key civic institutions to represent a wide variety of views from religious communities would promote more constructive forms of political action. A key indicator of further radicalisation potential will be whether this type of political engagement is on the rise or continues to lack proportionality.


The worlds of 2020


What some radical futures might look like How these major drivers change and interact will shape the global, regional, and local conditions in which present and new forms of radicalism are likely to thrive. It is impossible to predict a specific future, but governments must be prepared to anticipate the emergence of many different worlds that might challenge our present policies and concerns. No one knows how social cohesion, economic prosperity, globalisation, technological advancements, or political violence might alter our present preoccupation with religiously driven radicalism. Yet it is useful to imagine some alternative worlds in order to test our present thinking and to ask ourselves whether we would notice the early signs of such worlds coming about, given that experts may be consciously or unconsciously filtering out signals of discontinuity in world affairs. In the spirit of imagining how the world might be different, we offer four challenging and disturbing views of the future, shaped by some of the previously discussed factors and other events that many participants postulated as plausible, if not highly likely. A deliberate effort was made to push to their limits potential trends in order to visualise significantly worse situations. In no particular order, we offer the worlds of the “National Eroders,” the “Global Liberation Front,” “Fragmented Fury” and “Radicalisms R Us.” Keeping in mind that no one is predicting any of these outcomes but rather imagining how they might arise, we invite other experts to enter these worlds and consider 21

what other factors might influence alternative definitions of tomorrow’s extremism.

NATIONAL ERODERS In 2020, the World Economic Forum (Davos) meeting was headlined by a group of non-government organisations and interest groups announcing their plans for containing the global effects of climate change. With government representatives in the audience, leading CEOs, global philanthropists, and technologists laid out their New Environmental Charter. In a rush of events that preceded this meeting, nation-states proved incapable of forging any consensus and were pushed aside by global special interest groups, which had instituted individual remediation plans almost a decade ago and now were forming global coalitions to reverse the destruction that rapid warming of the planet and severe natural disasters had


produced since 2008, when the IPCC2 issued its latest findings on climate change. The preceding decade had not been a good one for Western governments in general. Warnings of an “Asian” century heard at the end of the second Bush administration had largely been borne out. The economic power shifts since 2008 also had magnified the political and military influence of countries like China and India. China’s economy was about to dwarf the EU’s and exceed that of the United States. India had pulled itself out of the so-called second tier and had become a regular player on the international scene. Global economic discussions no longer were driven by the G-8 meetings, as new major economic players found these discussions too parochial and Westernoriented. ASEAN meetings now regularly outpaced the moribund NATO/EU summits for media headlines. Much of this discounting of Western states began with the collapse of effective negotiations over the follow-on Kyoto Protocol. In 2009, international negotiations essentially ended without a consensus. Simultaneously, the slowdown of Western economies, seen to begin in the 2008 US recession, put North American and European governments in a weak position to take courageous and costly steps towards energy efficiencies and other conservation measures. Stamping out the remaining conflicts in the Middle East had so preoccupied the United 2

United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


States and NATO that there was little energy left for pursuing broader strategic policies aimed at the new security agenda of the environment and global survival. The initiative was left largely to regional or sub-national entities, non-government organisations and special interest groups. A whole host of domestic problems also tormented these governments as immigration from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America challenged border controls as well as educational, social welfare and legal systems. In a sign of resignation, most governments accepted the inevitability of dislocated societies in which many cultural and religious communities saw no need to adhere to the traditional norms and legal procedures that had long governed those polities. Parallel, enclave-style communities based on political, cultural and religion emerged. These groups remained largely non-violent as they had become satisfied living apart. Indeed, as their lives were now governed by their own schools, social services, and even legal systems, they had few complaints about the central governments whose authorities were vastly less intrusive than only a decade earlier. Young Muslims were happy to co-exist, and technology now permitted them to live virtually inside the ummah and have very little contact with outside groups or individuals. Likewise, Davidian-style Christian communes had formed, with their own “home-schooling,� selfrule and internally rigid set of moral codes that stood apart from the American materialist mainstream. In spite of the lack of


violence, there was intense competition amongst and within those groups, some of which imposed strict rules of conduct or habits to their followers. This decentralisation process was also occurring in other parts of the world as central governments delegated more legal and social control to respected councils and courts within communities in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Technology was also empowering other interest groups and organisations so they were able to network across continents and countries in their efforts to forge global, “First Community Standards” to guide social, educational and security policies. What had begun as amateur, grassroots networking to challenge globalisation and government indifference to ecological and social issues had now become fully professional, special interest-group lobbying amongst key players. In 2014, a transnational group of “Charter Communities” issued its manifesto of new principles to govern the global citizen, that allowed for more local control over one’s life – apart from the central governments – so long as certain global principles of “ecological justice and coexistence” prevailed. This movement had begun as a type of far-right environmental group, insisting that the state had trampled the individual’s natural rights to live at peace with the environment. Both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists signed onto an agenda that called upon belie vers to be good stewards of the physical world and to protect “God’s creation.” As global climate change accelerated and 25

greater ecological damage was seen, these groups initiated political action to halt central government interference with non-government and interest group actions to raise energy efficiency standards, cut emissions, prevent environmentally destructive technological advances, and restrict use of toxic materials. “State failure” took on the meaning that most central governments were increasingly irrelevant to the planet’s survival. Large majorities within major Western demo-cracies were successful in electing ecological democrats to office, who were committed to weakening the dysfunctional role of the nation-state and allow for much more local control. The growing disengagement of North American and European citizens permitted “lives” without much attention to central authorities. Fewer saw any point in engaging with political institutions which had largely failed to provide economic and environmental security. The devolution of power had so weakened central governments – by their own recognition – that the citizen was employing readily available technologies to satisfy social, political and economic needs. iGov and iCourt technologies were being employed to seek restitution or solve grievances. Writing about the decline of the state, a well-known journalist came to remark in 2020 that his vision of a “flat world” in 2005 had never imagined that it would flatten governments in the process.


THE GLOBAL LIBERATION FRONT In 2020, the United Nations convened a special session to deal with the frightening ultimatum of the Global Liberation Front (GLF) movement. Its recent attacks on the UN itself, as well as major world powers, had underlined the gravity of the situation facing the world community. The GLF’s manifesto aimed at the radical redistribution of resources globally, the freeing of all political and religious prisoners held in the G-8’s jails and a withdrawal of all military forces of any UN member to its own territory. Otherwise, the GLF threatened to continue its attack on Western economic and political institutions and bring the international system to a standstill. North America and Europe had been subjected to a series of bombings and cyber attacks aimed at weakening their internal security. The movement, which had its origins in the old al-Qaida network, had now metastasised, and grown into a broad network of radical


“jihadists,” super-environmentalists, anti-globalisationists, and ultranationalists who were equally prepared to overthrow the current “unjust” order. Looking back to 2008, some historians noted that the era of an effective international system had ended. National governments had become very egocentric, concerned more about their own security, less interested in global solutions, and somewhat autarchic in terms of husbanding scarce resources in a world where rising energy demands and spreading global, climaterelated damage had put a strain on the planet’s ability to support a growing human population. Global powers were much more openly competitive than at any time since the Great Game of the late 19th century. The media heavily criticised the failure of “Stalinised” Western domestic security policies for proving ineffective in quelling rising violence. Protests against energy shortages, immigration pressures and declining living standards sparked violence from all quarters, including radicalised groups ranging from disenfranchised immigrant minorities, militant environmentalists, and far-right xenophobes. Rising youth disenchantment and violence only tended to accentuate further polarisation of societies and hinder the development of national and international solutions to global energy scarcities and unemployment. Experts agreed that the GLF was born out of the steadily rising violence set off by a dramatic series of tit-for-tat attacks on


schools in Britain in 2012. Self-styled “Muslim hooligans” had been charged with attacking primary and secondary schools where their classmates felt they were discriminated against. In a dramatic xenophobic backlash, anti-immigrant skinheads firebombed an Islamic school in Bradford that led to widespread rioting amongst local communities. Al-Qaida then reciprocated with a successful mass-casualty attack at the London Olympics. The sensationalist media played up the alleged slow response of the British government as a symptom of growing racism and indifference to the Muslim communities’ situation. Propelled by the global media outlets, similar events were occurring in the Netherlands, France, and Belgium. Urban curfews were necessary to prevent the spread of violence from city streets to suburban neighbourhoods. Despite the end of the American occupation of Iraq in 2012, the Middle East remained very unstable. The Iraqi and Afghani “wars of resistance” – as seen by those in the region – had unleashed anti-Western views throughout the region and helped foster the rise of openly religious regimes in several formerly secular-run countries. Governments throughout the Middle East struggled against local terrorist and radical groups by instituting more repressive measures. Nonetheless, in 2015 there was a successful coup in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the latest in a series of oil disruptions and a new global energy crisis. Environmentalists in the West, naturally, welcomed these disruptions as helpful to their cause of slowing further damage to the


environment and sought to disrupt other sources of “dangerous� energy, such as nuclear power plants in Europe and North America. A cycle of government repression and radical rebellion continued over the next several years. As pressure within moderate governments in the Middle East mounted, another government fell to radical Islamists. This time, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was the victim, which became the new safe haven for anti-Israel terrorism and produced pressure on Israel to mount military offensives to ward off an expanding group of radical, front-line enemy regimes. A new Arab-Israeli war threatened, with the UN fairly moribund and Western powers in disagreement about how to proceed to lower tensions in the region. They had welcomed Israel’s acceptance of a separate Palestinian state in 2012 and had generously supported that state. The rise of other Islamist regimes in the region, however, undercut Western opposition to accepting a Hamas-led Palestinian state and Israel remained at odds with its Western allies in how to deal with this new oppositionist state on its borders. Unlike earlier periods, Turkey no longer provided a favourable strategic ally to assist in influencing the region. Its final rejection from the EU in 2014 had provoked widespread anti-Western sentiments and a severing of its Western ties. In short order, it also brought to power an openly conservative religious government, unexpectedly headed by a former general. He openly called for Turkish nationals in Germany and elsewhere to return to Turkey, where they would be welcomed with open arms. 30

Turkey began to build back its historic ties to Arab and Persian states, develop a nuclear industry, and negotiate with Iran on joint pipeline deals that would remove Western companies as intermediaries. As religious political groups seemed to be gaining the upper hand through their violent tactics in the Middle East and in Europe, it dawned on many Western radicals that non-violence and playing by the rules had not prevented globalisation policies from damaging the environment, impoverishing the developing world, and protecting the planetary plutocracy’s economic selfinterests. Hence, intelligence agencies began to detect growing ties – quite contrary to their own initial thinking – between violent “jihadists” and far-left anti-globalisation and environmental activists. New Web sites appeared showing militant environmentalists how to mimic the tactics of violent Islamist groups. The rhetoric of “global resistance” could be seen in both far-left and Islamist chat rooms, with the suggestion that the groups might be collaborating for combined attacks. Arrests of several groups which seemed to be plotting attacks against oil refineries in Texas, nuclear power plants in Germany and France, chemical plants in Switzerland and bio-tech firms in California seemed aimed at producing a sensational act of terrorism that would hobble Western economies for political, moral and environmental reasons. Western societies’ responses to these many challenges remained very ineffective, as they were not well co-ordinated, 31

nor did they target more than the symptoms of the problems. As the Global Liberation Front became the new world actor – led by a secretive politburo of Islamists, environmentalists, and antigovernment xenophobes – “law and order” politics took precedence throughout Europe and North America. Even harsher criminal and surveillance policies were approved to suspend some individual civil liberties at the insistence of domestic security agencies. This only incited more antigovernment behaviour on the part of radical groups. Speaking to an anti-immigration rally in Utah in 2018, a leading US congressional figure who authored anti-terrorism and immigration legislation was assassinated by a young immigrant from Pakistan, whose brother had been attacked in Britain back when the family had first immigrated there from Lahore. As the investigations began, the President of the United States called for a moment of reflection and reconciliation. He announced that he would establish a national commission to address the underlying sources of the latest violence as well as refocus law enforcement priorities towards the most violent groups and also target anti-immigrant groups which had been threatening attacks on new immigrant communities.




As the United States entered its pre-election period for the 2020 national elections, the candidates highlighted their promises to restore trust in government and a real commitment – not just promises – to reversing the massive climate changes that had occurred during the past two administrations. Projections of the rate of climate change in 2008 had proven much too conservative, so that by 2015, the polar ice caps were essentially gone and sea-level rises had produced massive population shifts from low-lying areas in South Asia, Latin America and the Pacific islands. International agreements to formulate global plans had been reached in post-Kyoto rounds held in New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur, but they proved to be half-measures or simply too little too late. The combination of accelerating climate change and a general slowdown in the global economy had combined to produce a generation of angry, unemployed youth worldwide. The unequal effects of continuing globalisation, with its unpredictable socio-economic ramifications, had created a greater schism 33

between the richer countries, which had been able to shield their populations from the worse effects of the global climate change and economic slowdown, and the rest of the world, which was mired in stagnating and polluted socio-economic conditions. Outbreaks of malaria, typhoid, and other naturally occurring diseases in these depressed areas outstripped limited UN resources. World health officials warned of a general collapse of public health systems and the spread of disease through migrating populations and tainted water and food supplies. Sadly, the international regimes of the 20th century had proven unable to transcend the parochial interests of the major powers. Declining US participation in the UN, World Bank, and related organisations had reduced an already declining American influence in fashioning global solutions. As the US share of resource commitments declined relatively, the newly industrialised giants of India and China failed to fill the leadership void either morally or financially. No strong global consensus towards reversing climate change had emerged, nor had any new world trade rounds succeeded in restarting the economic growth. This world proved to be highly fragmented, as major powers refocussed their energies on their regional opportunities and domestic responsibilities. A New Dollar zone had emerged across the Americas, as the euro and the yuan became the two other key currencies for Europe and the Asia-Pacific region respectively. Europeans had weathered the 2010s reasonably well, having made tougher choices on energy conservation than their North 34

American and Asian counterparts at the turn of the century. Also, more rigorous immigration-control policies, begun in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century, had stood Europe in good stead. However, self-radicalised terrorist groups continued to challenge EU governments, which faced new calls for deporting troublesome resident aliens to their ethnic homelands. More disturbing were grassroots movements of average citizens seeking to arm themselves in self-defence. Police authorities had largely conceded control of minority enclaves in major cities to the rule of local “warlords,” neighbourhood “bosses,” or “imams.” Violent crime became a given in major and even smaller cities. The “gated communities” philosophy of citizens banding together for personal security led to a huge expansion of private, personal security services. All of this served to reinforce a general disconnect from, and distrust of central government. Economic uncertainties had provoked a number of crises throughout the world to reflect the growing discontinuities. Globalisation, by some measures, had slowed since major governments and national economic institutions were increasingly working independently of each other to insulate themselves and their constituents from any economic risks. The general slowdown had stalled further EU expansion, and Turkey’s accession was unanimously and finally rejected by Europeans. Announcing an end to EU enlargement, the Union became far more insular and focussed primarily on internal security policies aimed at restoring social peace. Exporting joblessness by 35

deporting undocumented workers was only partially successful in reducing competition amongst the lowest-paid workers. Europe’s minorities continued to feel the economic discrimination of lower jobs, threats of deportations, and racial harassment on streets badly policed, owing to economically induced government budget cutbacks. This world of “angry young men” was by no means limited to Muslim communities. By 2015, a considerable extreme-right backlash was triggered by years of economic stagnation and perceived preferences offered to economic migrants and political refugees flooding into Europe and North America. European governments were now predominantly led by centre-right coalitions. Anti-immigrant laws were being added and made more stringent. Far-right militias had formed in many states, where even mainstream parties had backed gun-ownership laws and new immigration restrictions. The spike in gun-related violence came as no surprise, as well-armed and funded “self-defence” leagues roamed the streets. Hate crimes also had skyrocketed since the 2014 attack of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by Jewish radicals. Fundamentalist Christians and Jewish groups joined in the general call to arms. They had long since begun to emulate their Muslim counterparts by planning and executing “suicide bomb” attacks on abortion clinics, Islamic schools, and other symbols of government softness towards key social and economic issues.


The world of science had not proven to be a problem-solver as much as a problem-shaper. When the first “cloned” human embryo was announced by a bio-tech firm operating in Beijing and San Francisco, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim fundamentalists alike promptly denounced it and threatened to defend the sanctity of life. Swiftly, these groups started to target science as much as government as a source of evil and human depravity. Technology readily available to the average user also placed the individual at the centre of a more violent, fragmented media world, where logging into any number of radical right, left, or religiously fundamentalist or secularist Web spaces connected young people to whichever grievance chat room they choose to enter. By 2020, the newspaper generation had long since retired, so the principal mode of communication and news reception was now a hand-held or implanted communication device. “Swarming” to their favourite meeting place, radical groups spontaneously appeared in London, New York, Jerusalem, and Beijing to battle police or their favourite ideological or religious rivals. Commenting on the 2020 US presidential campaign promises, one popular podcaster lampooned the scheduled debates, calling them “YouTube reruns of 2008” calls for change.


RADICALISMS R US In the first decade of the 21st century it became obvious that the planet’s resources would be insufficient to satisfy the demands of a rapidly expanding world economy. For a start, the huge appetite of China and India for raw materials was making itself dramatically felt in global commodities markets. As a result, prices of crude oil, of a variety of minerals and ores and a wide range of agricultural products (including wheat, corn and vegetable oils) were reaching record highs early in 2008. There were other, less predictable, factors fuelling turbulence in resource markets. Climate change started to have erratic effects on harvests with a string of particularly bad yields in China and South America in 2007-2010. Furthermore, with many of its traditional sourcing areas of fossil fuels (the Middle East, Venezuela, Russia) steering an increasingly confrontational course, energy security took centre stage in the US domestic and foreign policy. In the final months of the Bush presidency, 38

the US Congress voted a controversial energy bill that mandated the production of a massive 132 billion litres of ethanol primarily based on corn. The EU also integrated biofuels into its energy mix, albeit less vigorously and with somewhat more attention to sustainability issues. Obviously these policies, siphoning off stocks of food crops for energy use, exacerbated tensions in agrocommodities markets. They also helped to tip the global economy into a mild recession by 2009. All over the globe, the populace reacted with alarm: the “tortilla riots” in Mexico and the “pasta blockade” in Italy were iconic events that ushered in an age that would be dominated unequivocally by the spectre of global resource constraints. Psychologically this had a significant impact: citizens in Western societies intuited that their easy-going lifestyle was getting under pressure, perhaps to be irretrievably lost. This separation angst led to a paradoxical and extreme flare-up of individualism and a winner-take-all mentality. Countless small (or not-so-small) confrontations and manifestations of contempt between classes, age cohorts, sexes and ethnicities made daily life often a rather painful affair for all but the most abrasive characters. A deep, despairing sense of insecurity took root in the West. Many took refuge in the safer, more predictable and compartmentalised virtual worlds that make up the 3D-Internet (or Metaverse, as it is called; the oldest of these virtual worlds, Second Life, had over 700 million members and half a million square miles of real estate under management by 2013 already).


Also politically the implications of the perception that “the pie was getting smaller� made themselves quickly felt: self-interest became the thrust behind a general paradigm of not-so-subtle, fractious realpolitik. Relationships between communities, countries and regional blocks were increasingly dominated by an often radical win-lose thinking. One obvious exemplar of this development was the more assertive stance taken by nationalist and separatist movements all over the world. In Europe, a spat over federal resource distribution between Wallonia and Flanders created a deep rift between the two communities, setting in motion a process of devolution that would ultimately lead to the (peaceful) demise of the Kingdom of Belgium in 2018. This was just one eyecatching example of nationalists capitalising on the feelings of economic insecurity vocally to renew and expand their base of supporters. Also in Spain, the UK, Canada, Russia, Central Africa, Mexico and Australia, renewed cost-benefit calculations against the background of high oil prices and shrinking budgets significantly upset the relationships between minorities and majorities. Cultural separatism was another powerful driver behind clearly emerging fault lines in Western societies. The strains on the global economy brought about increasingly unmanageable migratory flows to affluent countries. The prevailing climate of distrust and zero-sum thinking made integration of these new


arrivals an even more difficult challenge. The result was the incrustation of (quite populous) pockets of cultural minorities, often still very much connected to their homeland cultures, in the fabric of industrialised societies. These communities did not in the first place resort to violence to sustain and safeguard their enclaves, but they used more subtle methods of inculcation, persuasion and intimidation to minimise contact with people who held different views. As a result there were cycles of polarisation where rightist activists clashed verbally with these closed diaspora communities. In the second decade, single issues continued to proliferate and drive wedges into the fabric of Western and emerging economies. Environmentalism went back a long time but regained considerable momentum as a result of faltering climate negotiations and the emergence of ever more ecological flashpoints in a stressed-out world. Numerous groups of ardent supporters retreated into self-styled ecological communes, from where they tried to influence public opinion with cassandric predictions of a withering planet. The more militant strains of environmental activists tried to upset daily life with more provocative actions such as damaging inefficient cars, sabotaging coal-fired power plants and buying up emission reduction credits to drive up artificially the price of carbon. Peer-to-peer (P2P) activism was a novel, rapidly expanding breed of resistance, particularly amongst youngsters, that sought to rebalance economic power in society (in that sense it 41

was reminiscent of the student revolts of the late 1960s). P2P became shorthand for a desire to rewrite the rules underlying intellectual property rights and to provide universal access to digital production factors. Occasionally they formed alliances of convenience with environmentalists. In 2013 such an alliance staged a spectacularly successful hack of the IT infrastructure of a prominent biotech company that sent its share price in a tailspin and reduced the once mighty corporation to an easy target for a hostile takeover. Fractious, clamorous and often chaotic politics exemplified the early decades of the century. The media contributed in an important way to the sense of bewilderment that pervaded the world; they were omnipresent and saturated citizens with an unending stream of apocalyptic vignettes, false rumours and radical, populist messages. Society oscillated between frenzied overexcitement – amplifying small disturbances to major issues – and a fatalistic numbness – reducing the span of attention to just the close-at-hand and the immediately relevant. At first sight, democracies continued to function as expected. Apart from nationalist politics, relatively few of these societal fault lines led to constitutional gridlock or subverted mechanisms of popular representation. But shrewd observers understood that the very core of democracies had been undergoing a change. They became essentially a “democracy of opinions,” a “marketing politics” 42

fuelled by a media environment that passed on, amplified and even constructed, an unsettling flow of populist postures. Politicians reduced themselves from statesmen to consumption products. What was required was a permanent directness, a continuous persuasion. And this, paradoxically, in a world that became ever more complex and required subtler answers to systemic problems.


Lessons learned


Lessons learned Experts will never agree on whether such radical worlds could ever really emerge. However, the process of imagining such worlds did reveal some important assumptions about how experts tend to conceptualise the present. First, despite efforts to suspend judgment about the importance of current radicalisation processes on the future, most experts did believe that Islamist radicalism would still exist in 2020. Its nature and extent might change, but few scholars or government experts could imagine a world without radical Islam. It was far easier for participants to imagine new forms of religious radicalism joining those emerging from Islam rather than replacing Islam. But how confident should we be of this assumption? What is it based on? And how would we know if something were changing? Would we spot any signs of successful internal reform efforts taking shape within the religious and cultural worlds of Islam, with the promise of a reduced appeal of extremist views within this religion? Moreover, would the emergence of other Islamist states, as suggested in some of the scenarios, have a galvanising impact on other Muslims? Or, alternatively, would such events help mute the call for violent action if there existed shar'ia-run states in which Muslim communities could live comfortably according to a different definition of modernity? A second lesson is that the state of national and global governance seems to be a key factor in how violent or non-violent 47

some radical movements are likely to become. In scenarios where governance was effective in promoting the individual’s sense of identity and worth, there was less call to use violent methods to overturn the social order. Where governance was not effective and the rule of law was at risk, radical groups felt empowered and justified in using whatever means necessary to accomplish their ends. One indicator, then, of new emerging radicalisms will be the degree to which states and international institutions are seen to be effective in resolving social and economic grievances. A new factor might well be the rise of non-government organisations – both secular and religious – in replacing some of the functions of the state and dealing with issues where states have proven ineffective. How far this trend might go is unknown. Will large foundations, trade associations, special interest groups and corporations become parts of the solution to effective governance? Is the rise of multinational corporation “codes of conduct” an indicator of this already? As a related point, the workshop discussions stressed the growing tension between collectivism and individualism. The former became more pronounced in the National Eroders scenario, whereas the latter was more prevalent in Radicalisms R Us. This tension, triggered by globalisation, will need to be managed tomorrow as, beyond the state, newer forms of governance modes and mechanisms are experimented with.


A third lesson learned is that a society’s resilience will have direct consequences on its future security and stability. But how does a society become more resilient? One indicator can be the state of its education system, where many of today’s youth and tomorrow’s potential good citizens or violent radicals are being socialised. The youth factor was mentioned in a number of the scenarios as a key determinant of radicalisation. How various societies will address the younger generation’s sense of identity, worth, purpose, and future is uncertain. The key to resilience and youth problems ultimately may not be found in national governments (top-down), but rather within local communities (bottom-up). Community building may be as important as avoiding state failure or promoting stable governance. Finally, the scenario-development process also highlighted how rapidly the socio-economic order and other important factors can change and vary across different countries and continents. In contrast, government structures are slow moving and have a difficult time coping with rapidly changing phenomena. There is a certain degree of inertia in the way government institutions try to use old structures to deal with entirely new problems. Public-private partnerships (PPP) may typify one method for overcoming such inertia, but such efforts are still relatively few. New modes of organising, like the GFF or other multinational endeavours, may be experimented with to see if they can respond more quickly to new developments.


Next steps Based on the workshop in The Hague, it was suggested that countries under the GFF should discuss in greater depth other aspects of radicalisation which the above scenarios could not address in detail. Several ideas were raised, including the possibility of: •

developing a set of countermeasures for each scenario;

commissioning a GFF study of different countries’ strategies and policies towards radicalisation;

developing a list of factors and indicators which might increase or decrease future radicalisation;

exploring further the notion of resilience and what it requires;

focussing increasingly on the role of youth and teenagers and how they shape future social trends;

discussing the language and system of resistance; how could it become a binding agent amongst different radicalisms?;

developing scenarios of how radicalisation might decrease over time; and

testing creative techniques other than scenario development in thinking about radicalisation.




Annex A Background The Global Futures Forum community of interest in radicalisation and the origins of the scenarios In early 2006, experts from a variety of sectors and backgrounds gathered at Meech Lake, near Ottawa, to address the impact of radicalisation, violence, and the power of networks. This event provided a first opportunity within the GFF to discuss radicalisation and created an early network of diverse expertise – or community of interest – to explore further the topic. Since then, various workshops have been held under the GFF to address different aspects of the radicalisation problem, as well as to make use of alternative analytical methods like scenario development. Building on exchanges held in Brussels and Ottawa3, GFF partners organised the 12-14 December 2007 workshop in The Hague, on which this document is based, to refine draft scenarios of the future of radicalisation. The meeting included 50 participants from eight countries drawn from 3

Reports of the October 2006 Brussels and March 2007 Ottawa workshops can be downloaded from the GFF Web site: For access to the site, new users should contact their national co-ordinator, the Privy Council Office’s International Assessment Staff (Canada), or the Global Futures Partnership (United States).


intelligence services, other government experts and academia. The initial draft scenarios resulted from the Brussels GFF workshop, where a comparably diverse group of experts worked through the scenario development process. First, they brainstormed over the potential driving forces behind radicalisation; these were clustered into a more coherent list of drivers, which the participants then prioritised according to criticality and uncertainty. At Brussels, the participants built an extensive list of key factors driving radicalisation. Those are categorised as follows4: •

Mass communication and propaganda

Western responses to radicalisation

Governance in target countries

Western dominance (both real and perceived)

State-to-state tensions

Religion (and its relationship to politics)

Government responsiveness (civil society)

Immigration and demographics

“Us-vs-Them” identity politics

New ideologies


A more detailed list will be found in the Brussels report aforementioned.



Resources (scarcities, conflicts over ~)


Violence (associated with extremism)

After reviewing these broad categories and prioritizing their criticality and the level of uncertainty, the experts then postula ted four possible radicalisation futures, illustrated in the matrix below.


These four futures – not necessarily the most likely and certainly not the only ones conceivable – provided a starting point for the scenario exercise in The Hague. As the matrix above indicates, they describe worlds in which very different factors are at work. This “Brussels model” postulates that two key uncertainties would be (a) the level of violence associated with rising radicalisms; and (b) the degree of cohesion found amongst different ideologies, movements, and causes. To stimulate further thinking about these scenarios, the organisers invited experts on religion, technology, demographics, and socio-economic trends to highlight the importance these forces might have in shaping the world of 2020. Through a facilitated conversation, the 50 participants at The Hague sketched out in further detail the features of these four worlds, in order to help imagine how different the world might be from what we focus on today.


Annex B Radicalisation Futures: 2020 Global Futures Forum workshop agenda The Hague – 12-14 December 2007 12 December Koninklijke Schouwburg, The Hague 12:00-13:00

Welcome, registration and lunch


Presentation on the Dutch approach: the current state


Back to where it all started: presentation on Mohammed B. and his ideological development


New insights following the Van Gogh murder: presentation on radicalisation in Amsterdam




A comprehensive local (Amsterdam) approach to counter-radicalisation


Interactive session on opportunities, strategies, obstacles, dilemmas and real-life problem-solving.


Reception at FAB, The Hague


13 December Carlton Beach Hotel, The Hague 09:30-10:00

Introduction of workshop


Keynote speaker and discussant




Introduction to the scenarios


Reactions about day one




Break-out session 1 – Where do we see trends happening today, based on each scenario?




A look at the environment: round-table issues Media, Technology and Radicalisation Socio-economic Factors and Far-right Extremism Religion and Politics Demographics and Immigration




Break-out session 2 – Revisit the drivers database: what’s missing?



Dinner at Escher in het Paleis, The Hague

14 December Carlton Beach Hotel, The Hague 9:30-9:45

Welcome and recap


A Dutch perspective on radicalisation


Break-out session 3 – Life-cycle, dynamics, bifurcation points, key events




Feedback from break-out groups


Visualising images of the future


Break-out session 4 – Looking ahead at 2020




Addressing radicalism: simple guiding principles


Feedback, conclusions and next steps


Annex C Participating organisations •

Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst – General Intelligence and Security Service (Netherlands)

Central Intelligence Agency’s Global Futures Partnership (US)

Council on Foreign Relations (US)

Defense Intelligence Agency (US)

Department of State (US)

Embassy of the United States of America in The Hague (US)

European Commission

Federal Bureau of Investigation (US)

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

Försvarshögskolan – National Defence College (Sweden)

Gemeente Rotterdam – Municipality of Rotterdam (Netherlands)

Integrated Threat Assessment Centre (Canada)

Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties – Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (Netherlands)

Ministry of Defence – Ministère de la défense (France)

Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding – National Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism (Netherlands)

National Counterterrorism Center (US)

National Intelligence Council (US)


Politiets Efterretningstjeneste – Security Intelligence Service (Denmark)

Privy Council Office (Canada)

Public Safety Canada

Serviço de Informações de Segurança – Security Intelligence Service (Portugal)

Staatsveiligheid / Sûreté de l’État – State Security Service (Belgium)

Universiteit Ghent – University of Ghent (Belgium)

University of Missouri-Kansas City (US)


Annex D Bibliography The Radical Dawa in Transition: the Rise of Islamic Neo-radicalism in the Netherlands, Algemene Veiligheids- en Inlichtingendiesnt (AIVD), from: (October 2007). Mazarr, Michael J. Unmodern Men in the Modern World: Radical Islam and the War on Modernity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Peach, Ceri. Muslim Population of Europe: A Brief Overview of Demographic Trends and Socio-economic Integration. Berlin: Center for Strategic and International Studies Transatlantic Dialogue on Terror, 9-20 February 2007. Richards, Alan. Socio-economic Roots of Radicalism? Toward Explaining the Appeal of Islamic Radicals. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, Army War College, July 2003. Savage, Timothy. “Europe and Islam: Crescent Waxing, Cultures Clashing.� Washington Quarterly 27, no. 3 (2004): 25-50.


GFF Radicalisation Scenarios  

A set of future scenarios elaborated by a multinational Community of Interest under tutelage of the Global Futures Forum (US). Interactive w...

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