Statement by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye: PVE and the International Development Agenda: Putting Theory Into Practice

May 26, 2017

Preventing Violent Extremism and International Development Agenda:

Putting Theory into practice

A New York Roundtable Event — 26 May 2017

Assistant Administrator and Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to attend this Roundtable on “putting into practice, the theory behind the international development agenda on preventing violent extremism”.

It is quite fitting and most welcome that we are examining today the situation in Africa; as violent extremism is not only stunting or in some cases reversing economic growth and development, especially in what is now called the “arch of instability” spanning from the Sahel, to the Lake Chad Basin and all the way to the Horn of Africa; it is also seriously undermining the foundation of peace and security, and robbing the continent of its vital force, its youth.

The responses so far have been heavily, and sub-optimally tilted toward military and security operations; and ad-hoc development actions that are not set in a cohesive framework. Such an analytical and operative framework has been missing.

Today, we are better equipped to conceptualize such a complex phenomenon. For me, the most comprehensive and structured analysis, to date, is a series of studies by the RAND Corporation titled “Social Science for Counterterrorism: Putting the pieces together”, which eloquently shows that addressing such a complex issue will call for an interdisciplinary approach, going beyond the traditional and dualistic analysis focusing only on “pull and push factors”, with push factors denoting locally informed drivers, such as  marginalization, and pull factors referring to external parameters such as ideology. It is indeed essential that we look at more systemic and structural factors. The multifactor model suggested by the RAND Corporation seems cohesive. It looks not only at the root causes of extremism, including inadequacy and deficit in governance, weak or lack of social contract and persistence of economic deprivation, but it also factors in the multiple parameters that underline the willingness for individual to engage into violent extremism.

But to put theory into practice we need strong empiricism; a series of facts and data grounded in reality.

It is in this perspective that the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa has launched two seminal studies:


  1. A study, already completed, on the “factors of instability “in transboundary zones in the Sahel, covering 8 countries: Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon.
  2. A study on “journey to extremism”; currently being completed; and with interviews targeting individuals that belonged to extremist groups – currently imprisoned, in rehabilitation facilities or returnees.


It is in this spirit that we have framed our Regional Programme “Preventing and responding to violent extremism in Africa: A development approach”.


Four lessons of these studies, are relevant to our discussion today:


  1. The empirical validation of the RAND-inspired model that responses need to be multidimensional and interconnected. They must address root causes including horizontal inequalities, weak institutions, low human development, and human insecurity. They must counter norms that foster violence, the endemic sense of economic and political exclusion and marginalization, as well as weak social contracts. The responses must also constructively respond to societal divisions, demographic shifts, mobilizing structures, youth’s loss of identity and perceived grievances.


  1. The most fertile grounds for radicalization are the border areas, which are in many countries, the most neglected in terms of governance and socio-economic infrastructure.


  1. Context matters. While there are several commonalities which drive radicalization, there are also some important differences between countries. For example, socio-economic factors tend to be prominent drivers in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, Somalia and Nigeria; whereas political grievances are much more prominent factor in Kenya; and


  1. The public policy and programmatic responses, in general, are PVE-CVE blind or ineffective.

The UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism is not only a most appropriate framework for action; but it is also a poignant call-to-action for us all.

In that respect, we would like to salute the joint Netherlands -UNDP initiative to maximize the use of ODA in support of preventing violent extremism, by ensuring that ODA has a strong PVE footprint. This initiative is ground-breaking in contributing to translating theory into practice.

It is our deepest  expectation that this partnership will be expanded and replicated; and may further inform policy-making, budgeting, as well as programme design and implementation in preventing violent extremism, by ensuring that they are PVE-sensitive, conducive and relevant.

I thank you.


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