In February 2017, the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) alongside the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation (FDFA) announced the launch of its online platform on preventing violent extremism (PVE). GCSP works extensively with governmental and intergovernmental organisations and NGOs, including representatives of members and partners of PaRD.
The platform will function as an interactive tool designed to promote and enhance collaboration amongst practitioners, international organisations, civil society, local NGOs, governments, the private sector, academia, and media actors working on PVE in Africa and the Middle East.
Groups such as Boko Haram and, the so-called Islamic State (IS) have redefined the international threat of violent extremism in recent years. These groups have benefited from pre-existing regional instability to gain territory and have purposefully utilised violent tactics designed to provoke States, to further destabilise territories and undermine State authority. Unlike their predecessors, groups such as the IS are increasingly tech-savvy, extensively using online tools such as social media to spread a message of religious, social and cultural intolerance. Ideological messages spread online can reach a broad audience, and tap into pre-existing grievances such as actual or perceived injustice or the promise of empowerment to recruit new fighters from across the world. In areas where human rights are being violated, good governance ignored, and individual aspirations blocked, these messages have had strong resonance.
Effectively countering groups such as IS and Boko Haram requires the board mobilisation of international actors both online and offline, as well as improving the capacity to address the underlying causes that motivate individuals to join such groups. The last decade has seen methods of addressing violent extremism primarily within the context of security-based counter terrorism measures. Solely concentrating on these methods of combating terrorism is now widely regarded as insufficient to prevent its spread, and the focus is increasingly being placed on preventative measures that take into account a more comprehensive approach.
On 15 January 2016, the United Nations Secretary-General presented the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which focuses on the need for a preventative approach, encouraging “effective collective measures” to prevent “radicalization, recruitment and mobilization of individuals into terrorist groups and becoming foreign terrorist fighters”. The Action Plan was adopted by the General Assembly on 12 February 2016, and the importance of preventative measures was explicitly addressed in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy review in June of the same year.
Adopted in September 2006 as the roadmap of contemporary counter-terrorism activities, The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is based on four core pillars: (I) Addressing the conditions conductive to the spread of terrorism (II) Preventing and Combatting Terrorism (III) Building States’ capacity and strengthening the role of the United Nations and (IV) Ensuring human rights and the rule of law. The Action Plan aims towards a more comprehensive approach to these four pillars, reinvigorating measures that address Pillars I and IV.
New methods of capacity building and enriching academic research on PVE are flourishing, and these renewed efforts are needed to promote collaboration and communication amongst international actors to increase the efficiency of the global response.
To this end, the GCSP online platform for PVE, with an initial focus on Africa and the Middle East, intends to initiate a collaborative environment for PVE practitioners.
The platform follows the recommendations of the Action Plan and recognises that a specific focus on the prevention of violent extremism is needed to improve the capacity to address the causes that motivate individuals to undertake violent extremist actions.
By creating a virtual community, the GCSP platform will foster knowledge exchange, identify synergies, as well as provide an overview of relevant past and future events in the sector. The platform will be bilingual, French/English, and will include a discussion platform, a calendar outlining events, and a resource centre with tools, documents, action plans, as well as a database of initiatives and relevant links. Ultimately, the platform’s objective is to facilitate the creation of innovative, sustainable solutions to prevent violent extremism, and foster a more comprehensive approach to address the drivers of violent extremism.