Young people across the world are harnessing the power of social media and the internet to help their communities create a better world and promote human development.
For Beatriz Lopes Buarque the fight against extremism begins online and entails empowering younger generations to challenge hate on the internet. Her project, ‘Words Heal the World’ trains young people to deconstruct extremist messages on social media.
Beatriz is a Chevening Scholar from Brazil and her work has an impact in South Africa, the greater continent and around the world, helping raise awareness among young people on how to use the internet to promote peace and the local and global impact this can have.
Her work dovetails with efforts by South Africa as reflected in this country’s statement to at the United Nations High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter Terrorism agencies, which was held in New York on 28 June 2018.
South Africa stated that it leverages on its prominent role within BRICS to push for closer cooperation and sharing of expertise in countering the threat posed by extremists and terrorists.
Interventions include countering the use of the internet for terror related purposes, including radicalisation, recruitment, facilitation, and the financing of terror.
“At the national level, South Africa deals with Foreign Terrorist Fighters within the context of its National Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which constitutes a tailored and proportionate response to the threat. The strategy is aligned to the United Nation’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and takes cognisance of the relevant Resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council. The strategy is supported by South Africa’s national Counter-Terrorism Legislation, the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act, 33 of 2004, and other relevant legislation,” the position statement of South Africa reads.
“In order to effectively counter terrorism, the underlying conditions conducive to terrorism need to be addressed. Its causes and manifestations are varied and should be taken into account when elaborating counter measures, in accordance with international law, including Human Rights Law. Measures implemented should not result in marginalisation and the subsequent sense of alienation that exacerbates extremism, leading to further recruitment of terrorists.”
Meanwhile, Beatriz also holds workshops for young people to empower them with skills and raise awareness on how to use the internet to promote peace in their local communities and globally.
‘I set up Words Heal the World to promote projects that use words as a tool for tackling extremism. I realised many of the projects were invisible as organisations did not have the resources to widely publicise them on social media,” Beatriz said.
She studied towards a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Security at the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom (UK).
“The UK gave me the chance to expand ‘Words Heal the World’ in a way that I never thought would be possible. My idea that started off just as a website, soon had twenty-two partners and became the first large-scale project in the world to put students at the forefront of developing online messaging to tackle extremism,” she says.
Her word to young people is that among the greatest benefits of being a Chevening Scholar is the opportunity to network and collaborate with a wide range of people and countries.
“I believe that, through Chevening, I can connect with authorities from countries that have faced problems with extremism, and use Words Heal the World as a tool to tackle extremism and radicalisation around the world. When I think about Chevening, I think about the leaders of tomorrow. I think about empowerment. I think about inspiration. Those are the reasons why Chevening is so special. It really is a life-changing programme. It changes the life of the Chevening Scholar and also changes the lives of thousands of people who are in touch with him/her. It effectively prepares people to turn our world into a better place to live,” said Beatriz.