Globally, approximately 100 deaths a day are attributed to violent extremism. Between 2011 and 2016, over 33,000 fatalities in Africa are said to be caused by extremism. This figure does not even include the displacement and economic devastation contributing to humanitarian catastrophes we see around us.
This is of grave concern to all of us as the number of violent extremism attacks is posing a direct challenge to the development gains that many countries in Africa have started to enjoy. And if left unchecked violent extremism threatens to stunt development outcomes for generations to come.
Back in 2015, the United Nation’s Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism urged the global community to pay closer attention to the root causes and drivers of violent extremism. This is a call for a shift in focus from decades of overconcentration on militarized approaches.
We are beginning to appreciate that there are a multitude of reasons why people decide to join violent extremist groups. This means that when we tackle radicalization it must be in a manner that is well informed and multi-dimensional. Let me take a moment to highlight a few key points:
First - Through UNDP’s perception studies we have learned that the greatest threat to violent extremist groups are credible and legitimate states which guarantee security, inclusive development, protection for the vulnerable and offer meaningful opportunities for their citizens, especially the youth.
The report we have before us clearly illustrates that the road to violent extremism is fundamentally paved with deprivation, marginalisation and poverty. Where the social contract is weak, where citizens’ confidence in government and institutions is limited, where relations within and between communities are fractured, then the resilience to violent extremism is low. This calls for setting up a form of governance that is inclusive and participatory, particularly, and I underline, at the community level and at the periphery and borders areas, which very often are ungoverned spaces neglected in terms of development investments.
Second - The vast body of current research on Violent Extremism, and particularly UNDP’s recent report “Journey to Extremism in Africa” all emphasize that a comprehensive model should integrate responses across the security and development pillars of governments. This calls for us to engage security actors and communities together.
Third - In line with the Sustainable Development Goal and broader Agenda 2030 we must place partnership at the centre of our response to violent extremism. This partnership is with stakeholders in the country as well as between states, regions and organisations.
In line with this approach, we are working extensively with partners within and outside the UN system including civil society organizations. And we have strong partnerships with many member states including our host Government here Ethiopia, as well as Sweden, Netherlands, and Japan, among others, who provide us with the support and resources that help us deliver comprehensive development approaches at country, regional and global level.
Many partners have now joined forces to implement new PVE programmes. So far, UNDP has undertaken more than 63 PVE related programmes at country, regional and global levels; UNDP is also implementing a regional programme here in Africa.
UNDP intends to use the new study “Journey to extremism in Africa: Drivers, incentives and the tipping point for recruitment” to assist governments formulate and implement national plans of action that are evidence-based, inclusive and effective.
The Journey to Extremism study assesses and suggests a reframing of some key aspects of existing responses, while confirming the relevance and need for expansion and deepening in other areas. I am delighted to invite you to hear some of our key findings here today, and to urge our collective focus and efforts to stem and transform violent extremism in Africa and globally, towards sustainable development and peace. We look forward to your feedback on this important work, and to an engaging and stimulating discussion.
By Ahunna Eziakonwa
Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).