In Germany, a national prevention strategy is supposed to help keep young people from joining terror groups. The criminologist Wiebke Steffen talks about the opportunities and obstacles with regard to a prevention plan.
DW: In the battle against terrorism, the prevention of radicalization will play a far greater role in the future than it has in the past. This subject was also important at this year's annual meeting of the Federal Criminal Police. Do you think Germany is prepared?
Wiebke Steffen: We've only just begun. We have great gaps in knowledge. This means that we need to find out more about the background and causes of radicalization before we can decide on how we want to prevent it. Although we have plausible indicators of causes, we still need to work a great deal to make sure our knowledge is sound.
Do we have to research for years before we develop a reasonably useful prevention strategy?
There is no time for years of research. But we do know quite a bit to start with. It is very important that we collect and pool existing knowledge. Our problem right now is that we have many participants and supporters in in the field of prevention. But cooperation, interaction and a networked approach are missing factors.
The German criminologist Wiebke Steffen is a member of the program advisory board for German Prevention Day
Is that the reason why the much-called-for national prevention plan does not yet exist?
National prevention plans are difficult in our federal system because the German states are mainly responsible for crime prevention policy - and, after them, municipalities are responsible. But that is no excuse. The problem we are confronted with is so urgent that we know we must find a national course of action. That is what president of the Federal Criminal Police has repeatedly asked for.
Without a national prevention strategy that sets the framework for individual participants, too many questions would arise: What does the federal government do? What do the states do? What do the local authorities do? What do the various civil society organizations and governmental institutions do? If we do not get together, develop a national plan and implement it, then we will have difficulties dealing with radicalization.
But now I have the impression that something is happening. There are many people who are very interested and are already very well-prepared. If we manage to bring these people together and connect them so that different areas of expertise can cooperate and combine their knowledge, we may be successful.