Authors: Kanerva Kuokkanen & Emilia Palonen, University of Helsinki 

Finnish de-radicalisation policies can be divided into ‘implicit’ and ‘explicit’ ones. While the broader welfare and education policies function as implicit de-redicalisation measures, Finland also conducts an explicit de-radicalisation policy, based on collaboration between public authorities and stakeholders. 

Finland is a unitary state, characterised by the Nordic welfare state model with a strong position for municipalities but with weak regional institutions. The Finnish Constitution highlights the role of basic rights. Legal positivism in the interpretation of the law and the principle of legality are typical features of Finnish legal practice, but the position of case law has become stronger since the 1990s. Many of the traditional political division lines and minority groups have been recognised in the Finnish political and party system and constitution. The welfare state and the free comprehensive school system are central in the Finnish implicit de-radicalisation policies promoting social inclusion. However, the existing socio-economic and geographical cleavages, the pluralisation of society, and the emergence of issues thus far not recognised in the Finnish socio-economic, political and cultural framework have set new demands for the legal and political system. 

Before the 2010s, the prevention of violent radicalisation could only be found embedded in other policy documents. Since then, the focus has moved from mere terrorism prevention to a comprehensive explicit de-radicalisation policy, formulated and implemented in multi-professional cooperation with stakeholders at both national and local levels. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for the coordination of the policy. Examples of Finnish de-radicalisation projects include exit work done by the Deaconess Foundation (HDL), a traditional third sector organisation, and the National Institute for Health and Welfare’s (THL) project that aims to develop knowledge and know-how on violent radicalisation and its detection among social and health care workers. The challenge of Finnish explicit grassroots-level de-radicalisation work is its reliance of project funding, which undermines its effectiveness and continuity. 

Our policy recommendations consist of securing the welfare services and recognising potential exclusion mechanisms and considering a combination of implicit and explicit de-radicalisation policies. Trust in public authorities, including the police and the judicial system, is a factor of high importance and is part of implicit de-radicalisation policy together with providing universal accessible education and social services. Multi-professional collaboration, the inclusion of stakeholders, the combination of national coordination and locally implemented prevention work, and a pragmatic approach towards de-radicalisation have been functioning elements in Finnish explicit de-radicalisation policy. 

Based on the Finnish experience, we argue that violent radicalisation should be seen as both a social and a security issue, and excessive securitisation of the policies should be avoided. While projects can be useful in developing models and tools, particularly exit work should be established and its funding arranged permanently to guarantee continuity. Third sector organisations can reach the grassroots level and individuals mistrusting public authorities, but their funding must be secured. Information about all kinds of violent radicalisation should be openly available and public authorities should be educated on the topic. Finally, our findings highlight the role of international cooperation and learning from international examples as central. 

For more insights, see the REPORT >>, that provides a conceptual account on existing policies and laws addressing radicalisation, to pinpoint their most critical aspects and best practices, and to develop evidence-based policy and guidelines.