“Disaffected youth” and radicalism

A committee set up to advise New Zealand’s security services – the Strategic Risk and Resilience Panel – says that “disaffected youth” in New Zealand are at risk of being radicalised and should be a key focus in combating terrorism.

Disaffected youth tend to be prominent in poor crime, mental health and suicide statistics too – which have much bigger impacts on our society than terrorism, which is mostly a threat and a fear rather than being real here.

NZH: Homegrown terrorism threat is angry young people adrift from society

New Zealand’s security risk remains at “low” after being heightened in 2014 with an assessment a domestic terrorism event is possible but not expected.

But intelligence sources have told the Weekend Herald that the possibility of an attack is constant and it is a matter of “when” and not “if” terrorism will appear in New Zealand.

Details of meetings of the panel, released through the Official Information Act, show the panel’s focus was developing a “risk register” which posed specific security threats to New Zealand.

It showed key issues included “the importance of continuing to focus on the threat of radicalisation of disaffected youth”.

Deliberate targeted radicilisation of disaffected youth is a problem overseas.

It also stated that there was a need for “a more forward looking approach in particular focused on community cohesion” and “more focus needed on the drivers of domestic extremism”.

Examples given to the panel were “those radicalised due to strong positions on ecological and technological issues” but the security services have previously expressed concerned over online targeting by Islamic extremists.

Massey University’s Terry Johanson – a lecturer at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies – said disenfranchisement was a significant factor in radicalisation and recruiting.

“It needs to be because they feel disenfranchised from their own society. That tends to be because these people don’t have the community framework around them.”

Johanson said closer communities were an element in fighting that dangerous disaffection because people didn’t tend to attack groups of which they were part.

But they do attack similar kinds of groups (gangs).

The key issue identified in the summary of the minutes was the need to create an overarching “risk register” for New Zealand which forecast dangers to our country and ways to meet the threats.

The development of a register would meet a gap in our security system identified by Johanson in the recently released New Zealand National Security book, which drew articles from a range of experts in the field.

The panel minutes show it would allow a specific risk to be assigned to public agencies which would be held accountable for dealing with it.

Examples of risk areas developed for the panel to consider included terrorism, corruption, large-scale people smuggling, biodiversity loss and price shocks which impact across the community.

Young people have always had greater tendencies towards radical behaviour, rebelling against the system. Some of this is just growing up.

Extreme and violent radicalism needs to be the biggest focus of concern.

We need to be wary of the possibility of terrorism, but most problems involving radicalised youth are more mundane and more pervasive – and far more damaging to young people and to society.