Analysis by Jaya Ramachandran
GENEVA (IDN) – Within days of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington that considered modes of averting nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists, possible ways of Preventing Violent Extremism drew the focus of a UN conference in Geneva.
The conference on April 7-8 was held against the backdrop that terrorist groups such as ISIL, Al-Qaida and Boko Haram have come to embody the image of violent extremism and the debate about how to address this threat.
An important element of a plan to counter all kinds of terrorism, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has to be full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), because fulfilment of these goals will address many of the socioeconomic drivers of violent extremism. The SDGs highlight women’s empowerment and youth engagement, because societies with higher equality and inclusion are less vulnerable to violent extremism.
The phenomenon of violent extremism conducive to terrorism is not rooted or confined to any religion, region, nationality or ethnic group. In fact, the vast majority of victims worldwide are Muslims, Ban said, hitting the nail on the head at the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism.
“The objective of violent extremists is not necessarily to turn on us. It is for us to turn on each other. Their biggest mission is not the action; it is the reaction. The aim is to divide communities. The goal is to let fear rule,” he added.
Calling for an “ultimate rebuke to that bankrupt strategy”, Ban declared: Violent extremists pose a direct threat to the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “They undermine our collective efforts to maintain peace and security, foster sustainable development, promote the respect for human rights and deliver much needed humanitarian aid,” he added, addressing a wide and interrelated spectrum of issues.
He pleaded for harnessing young people’s energy, which in his view is a key “building block” in the global quest to prevent violent extremism. “We will not be successful unless we can harness the idealism, creativity and energy of 1.8 billion young people around the world. They are looking to us to demonstrate vision, courage and leadership.”
Ban stressed that violent extremism is clearly a transnational threat that requires urgent international cooperation. Because the terrorist groups control territory, resources and populations. They are fuelling protracted conflicts. They have blurred borders between sovereign States. The spread of violent extremism, which can be conducive to terrorism, has further aggravated an already unprecedented humanitarian crisis which transcends any one region.
Local populations are paying the highest price. Millions are fleeing their homes in horror and fear, in a desperate search for safety for their families, the UN Chief declared.
This challenge is all the more imperative because of the growing threat that chemical, biological, radiological or even nuclear materials could be acquired and used by violent extremists. This is a clear and present danger and the UN is working to prevent such a complex emergency, Ban assured.
In this context, he referred to his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (A/RES/70/254), adopted by consensus on February 12, 2016. Member States, he had welcomed the initiative and stressed that it is essential to address the threat posed by violent extremism as and when conducive to terrorism. This recognized that violent extremism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.
The Plan of Action puts forward a comprehensive and balanced approach for concerted action at the global, regional and national levels. It is based on five interrelated points.
Number one: put prevention first. Evidence shows that security and military responses alone cannot defeat the scourge of terrorism. In fact, sometimes such responses have proven to be counterproductive. “For example, when efforts ignore the rule of law and violate fundamental rights, they not only betray the values they seek to uphold, but can also end up further fuelling violent extremism,” said Ban.
Policies that turn people against each another and alienate already marginalized groups play into the hands of the very violent extremists that we seek to counteract, he added.
While there is need to engage without delay and address the drivers of violent extremism, there is no single pathway and no complex algorithm that can unlock the secrets of who turns to violent extremism, Ban said.
“But, we know that violent extremism flourishes when aspirations for inclusion are frustrated, marginalized groups linger on the sidelines of societies, political space shrinks, human rights are abused and when too many people – especially young people – lack prospects and meaning in their lives.
The Secretary-General’s plan emphasizes conflict prevention, conflict resolution and political solutions that are based on listening and responding to the legitimate demands of people. Resolving longstanding conflicts and giving hope to those enduring oppression will help eradicate the breeding ground of violent extremism, leading to terrorism, he added.
Number two: national ownership. The Plan offers a menu of recommendations for Member States to forge their own national plans of action based on national ownership. These national plans of action should use an “all-of-government” approach and engage “all-of-society” to be effective.
Preventing violent extremism also requires support from religious and community leaders, women’s leaders, heads of youth groups and leaders in the arts, music and sports, as well as the media and private sector. “We must break down the silos between the peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian actors at the national, regional and global levels,” Ban said.
Number three: preventing violent extremism requires increased international cooperation. No country or region alone can address the threat of violent extremism. A dynamic, coherent and multidimensional response from the entire international community is required. “I pledge to leverage the universal membership and the convening power of the UN to further strengthen international cooperation at the national, regional and global levels,” the UN Chief added.
Number four: United Nations support. Under the framework of Pillars I and IV of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the UN stands ready to share expertise among Member States and support them in addressing the drivers of violent extremism through an “all-of-UN” system-wide approach. There is much that the UN is already doing to implement these Pillars at the global, regional and national levels.
The review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in June 2016, Ban said, would seek to effectively mainstream the concept of preventing violent extremism into the work of the UN with the support of Member States. “
“I plan to create a UN system-wide high-level PVE [prevention of violent extremism] action group to spearhead the implementation of the Plan at both the Headquarters and field levels, which will review these recommendations in June,” he added.
Number five: The Plan of Action is an urgent call to unity and action. Preventing violent extremism has many dimensions, but there is nothing more urgent than the need to protect and empower our young women and men. They are victims twice over. They are lured into the ranks of violent extremists and deliberately attacked by them in parks, schools and universities, the UN Chief added. [IDN-InDepthNews – 8 April 2016]
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Photo credit: UN