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Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) by Addressing the Situation of Prisons in Senegal

UNESCO Dakar Office organized a national consultation to reflect on the problems of prisons in Senegal and to propose viable solutions through education to absorb the potential violent shocks to the Senegalese society.

The UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office in Dakar organized, in partnership with the Senegalese National Commission for UNESCO and experts, “the National Consultation on the Situation of Prisons in Senegal: Improvement of the Condition of Detention, Social Integration, and Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education” in Dakar, Senegal from 23 to 24 May 2017. About fifty participants representing Senegalese government, civil society and research community as well as UN organizations took part in this consultation.

Regarding, radicalization in prisons, UNODC notes that the prison overcrowding rates in the Sahel are among the highest in the world, exceeding 230% according to its estimates. Detention conditions in the region raise a number of security and human rights concerns, as well as a concern often leading to the radicalization of prisoners, through violent extremists’ network in prisons, which radicalize other prisoners, gain access to potential recruits, and coordinate crimes outside prison.

The UN Plan of Action to PVE points also to the certain recurrent drivers, which may lead to radicalization and violent extremism, including such factors as: lack of socioeconomic opportunities, marginalization and discrimination, poor governance, violation of human rights and the rule of law, and prolonged and unsolved conflicts, and radicalization in prisons. It further shows that harsh treatment in detention facilities can play a role in the recruitment of people who have joined violent extremist groups and terrorist organizations.

The UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education 1960, as well as other international human rights treaties, prohibit any exclusion or restriction of access to Education on the basis of socially-ascribed or perceived differences. This means that we must include the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society, including prisoners. Furthermore, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) recommended in its resolution 1990/20, that "all prisoners should have access to education, including literacy programs basic education, vocational training, creative, religious and cultural activities, physical education and sports, social education, higher education and libraries." Education in prisons is a human right.

In this context, the national consultation on prisons aimed to: build a shared understanding of the prison problems in Senegal among different ministries and stakeholders, and reflect on the consequences if an urgent and adequate settlement measures are not taken; take stock of the provision of training during sentencing and the prospect of reintegration to the society by reviewing the current practices in prisons, as well as the legislative and institutional frameworks and policy gaps to better address the needs of the prison population; and propose an adequate framework of effective intervention for second chance activities better suited to the Senegalese context, linked to the Emergent Senegal Plan (PSE) and relevant regional and global frameworks to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that are needed to build just, peaceful, and sustainable societies.

The consultation first introduced the contextual issues from security and human rights perspectives, to enhance understanding and awareness of the issues in prisons in Senegal by referring to international conventions and commitments, as well as historical background of prisons in Senegal. Following this, good policies and practices in Senegal were presented, including effective policy frameworks and innovative practical solutions, social integration programme led by grassroots organizations, such as G Hip Hop and Tostan, as well as second chance school programme and prevention of religious extremism. The consultation also introduced international experiences, such as those of Canada, the US, and Latin America to learn about innovation practices and community engagements and to examine adaptability of these international practices to the Senegal context. The experts then discussed research needs in Senegal. At the end of the consultation, the participants proposed follow up strategies in the areas of: (1) improvement of policies and prison management, (2) social reintegration programmes, and (3) prevention of violent extremism through education (PVE-E).

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