Accra- Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, on Thursday launched a new strategy to tackle violent extremism from the local communities.
Dr Ibn Chambas, who is also the head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS), said there was the need to build on local narratives grounded on context of communities to have any effects in tackling extremist narratives.
He was speaking at the launch of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) App for the tackling of violent extremist narratives in the African community context.
He said UN recognised that the growth of violent extremism posed one of the greatest threats to development in Africa, setting in motion a dramatic reversal of development gains, and threaten Social in to stunt prospects of development for decades.
The phenomenon, he said, showed every sign of escalation, unless urgent steps were taken to address the drivers and enablers of violent extremism.
Dr Ibn Chambas noted that the youth were increasingly being drawn to violent extremist groups in Africa driven by lack of economic opportunity, especially gainful employment, marginalised from political processes and suffering from increasing desperation.
The youth are easy targets for radicalised recruiters who lure or coerce boys and girls with diverse mix of religious narratives, financial incentives, a glimmer of hope and often violence, he added.
He said it had been estimated that 8,000 Africans had joined Daesh in Syria with up to 6,000 from Tunisia and others from Morocco, Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan, adding that, This poses a significant threat to peace and security in Africa as these individuals gain combat experience and networks with potentials to destabilise their own countries.
He said there was the need to strengthen institutional capacities, groups and communities to deal with all dimensions of the problem and counter the magnetic effect of violent extremism by promoting ideals of tolerance, human rights and respect for rule of law.
Dr Ibn Chambas said the battle against violent extremism needed to be won at the local level as most messaging of violent extremist was built on grievances found within communities.
He said there was the need to empower and enable communities to transform their losses and suffering into a constructive force for preventing violent extremism by providing them with online forums where they could tell their stories.
He said local actors were sometimes the first to know when an issue was been picked up by a violent extremist group and therefore must be adequately armed with knowledge to support efforts towards ensuring communities do not turn to violence as the only option.
He added that journalists, who play active role democratic societies needed to be protected, to ensure prompt and thorough investigation of threats to their safety, and encourage them to work together to voluntarily develop media training and industry codes of conduct of respect and tolerance.
On his part, Mr Lamin Manneh, the Director of UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa said the focus of UNDP’s preventive approach was to look at the relationship between peaceful societies and inclusive development, rule of law and human rights, anti-corruption good governance, civic engagement and political participation, and to address the horizontal inequalities that fuel radicalisation that could lead to violent extremism.
He said UNDP Africa, in an attempt to prevent violent extremism, is dictated the fact that violent extremism contributed to stunting growth and development in the continent after a brilliant economic renewal since the start of the millennium.
We have observed that the responses to violent extremism, so far, have been heavily tilted towards military and security operations; and with limited effectiveness.
We, like other development practitioners have seen our interventions lacking sharpness, due to an absence of a cohesive framework, to guide our responses, Mr Manneh added.
He said the new toolkit would assist non-governmental organisations involved in extremist narratives to develop effective communication strategies as it contained case studies collected from experiences in different countries to form basis for learning, adjusting and improving.
He said the toolkit would be disseminated through all UNDP country offices, regional hubs and its UN sister entities as well as other partners, including outside the UN system.
Source: Ghana News Agency