An open society – that is the answer

November 19, 2015

Hivos is appalled at the events in Paris that claimed many lives of innocent civilians. IS claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out mostly by French citizens. Almost immediately after this horrific violence was wreaked particularly on places of entertainment, calls for drastic measures resounded from every corner, such as closing borders or wiping IS ‘off the face of the earth’. But Hivos CEO Edwin Huizing says, “Terror puts our freedom severely to the test time and again. That’s why we must stand up for an open and free society.”

Less than ten months ago, we stated in response to the attack on Charlie Hebdo: “The attack in Paris […] shows how vulnerable we are to enemies of democracy, to extremists who hate our values. But it is a vulnerability we must accept, however difficult that may be.” It is painfully ironic how these words ring true again today, and yet equally true that now, as then, the answer should not be sought in closing borders, Edwin Huizing says. “An attack on freedom and openness should never be countered with restricting freedom and imposing closure.”

Terrorists must be identified and prosecuted, but more generally, it is important to continue to instill solidarity and inclusiveness ??in our society. Every political statement that bolsters the ‘us and them’ divide – exactly what terrorists want to achieve – is as counterproductive as those who pretend as if Islam or the flow of refugees are the cause of all problems. Huizing: “It takes political courage to do everything we can to prevent new generations of terrorists.”

The fear that people now feel undermines confidence, whereas building confidence is exactly where we must invest our energies – both here in the Netherlands, in Europe and throughout the Middle East.

Hivos works with brave women and men who live in closed, repressive societies in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. These are people who, despite their environment, espouse values ??such as inclusiveness and the power of citizens to control their lives, people who continue to believe in the rule of law despite the daily reality of suicide vests and barrel bombs that make life a living hell.

The answer to extremism lies in the power of open societies. We therefore call on world leaders to do more to counter radicalisation and conflict here in the Netherlands and abroad.