Opening Statement by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye at the Global Launch of Report on Journey to Extremism in Africa

Sep 7, 2017

UNDP Launch of Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment

Opening Statement by Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

 UN Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa, UNDP 

New York, 7th September 2017

(as delivered)

Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, Permanent Representative of Uganda,

Ambassador Lise Gregoire-van Haaren, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands,

Excellencies, Development Partners,

Heads of Regional Organizations and UN colleagues,

Esteemed Panellists (Ambassador Adonia Ayebare of Uganda, Mr. Mourad Wahba, Ilwad Elman, Dr. Jehangir Khan, Dr. Simon K. Nyambura, Ms. Mbaranga Gasarabwe),

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us this morning for the New York launch of this seminal study on Journey to Extremism in Africa, which examines the Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for recruiting Violent Extremists in the continent.

This report we are launching today is based on interviews with individuals that belonged to extremist groups, are currently imprisoned, or are in rehabilitation facilities, or are returnees. It follows a study, which we completed last year, on the “factors of instability” in transboundary zones in the Sahel region, covering 8 countries: Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon.

As development practitioners, we have seen the devastating impact of violent extremism, and the undue tax it puts on Africa’s development, with its destabilizing effects on peace and stability. We have also seen the limit of the policy responses so far. Most of them heavily tilted towards military and security operations;   or ad hoc development responses, not set in a cohesive framework.

Through our UNDP Africa Regional Programme on “Preventing   and responding to Violent Extremism, through a development approach”, which we launched two years ago, we embarked on an enquiry into the economics and the political economy of violent extremism in Africa, not only to understand the root causes of such a perverse phenomenon, but also to frame a structured model, grounded on empiricism, to guide policy and programmatic responses and gauge their effectiveness and impact.

The “journey to extremism” and the study of   the “factors of instability” are integral parts of the UNDP Africa Regional Programme.

I would like, here, to express our deepest gratitude to the governments of the Netherlands, Japan, and Sweden for their gracious financial support and for the confidence shown in our work on preventing violent extremism, and most especially in funding this study on the “Journey to Extremism”. We are also grateful to the governments of Cameroon, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan for their support in enabling the interviews that form the basis of this report.

As you will see in the presentation that will follow, the report illustrates  a series of findings with the central message being that “where there is injustice and desperation, violent extremism ideologies present themselves as a challenge to the status  quo and a form of escape”. This is then a validation of Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu’s assertion that "external circumstances such as poverty and a sense of grievance and injustice can fill people with resentment and despair to the point of desperation."

The report also debunks some myths. It shows that although religion may feature prominently in the factors that pull people to join violent extremist groups, the level of religious literacy is very low, almost nonexistent, amongst those most vulnerable to recruitment. This finding challenges the rising Islamophobia rhetoric that has intensified in the search for effective responses to violent extremism. It shows that fostering greater understanding of religion, may be a key resource for preventing violent extremism. This resonates loudly with Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel’s contention that “Education is the way to eliminate terrorism”. But he meant education largo-sensu, including developing and communicating a potent counter-narrative to the extremism rhetoric.

The report illustrates that 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.

The greatest innovation of this report, is to provide, for the first time, an algorithm depicting the trajectory of a potential or likely violent extremist, using an econometric model and descriptive analysis, grounded on surveys with real actors, and on empirical data, with a probability attached to each step of that journey, and with a determination of the possible point of bifurcation, “the Tipping Point”.  We have then a solid framework to guide responses.

In presenting the results of this study, we will also share the “stories of survivors to violent extremism in sub-Saharan Africa”. They are quite telling. They seek to shed light on, and amplify the voices of those who often suffer in silence. Theirs are stories of resilience, perseverance and the triumph of humanity, as they are rebuilding their lives. The survivors' diverse religious, ethnic and national backgrounds highlight that Violent Extremism is a shared burden, and one that humanity, as a whole, must respond to. Their stories also inspire the policy recommendations of this report. Here, let me thank Malin Fezehai, Jessica Benko, and Ahmed Farah. They have been phenomenal in producing such an anthology of masterpieces!

The “Journey Study”, along with its attendant report on the “Story of Survivors”, and completed by the “Sahel Perception Studies”, provide guidance on the set of policies and programmes that could address the scourge of violent extremism. They include: delivering on global human rights commitments, reinvigorating state legitimacy through improved governance and accountability, connecting PVE with peacebuilding and sustainable development frameworks, coordinating  national, regional and global responses to violent extremism, strengthening  the vertical and horizontal social contract, investing massively on education and youth employment, and ensuring that macroeconomic policies, the national budget, public expenditures and official development aid ( ODA) are PVE- sensitive.  

In the report we further develop these policies and program responses. It is our ambition to elaborate them into implementable action points.  We have already initiated, with the Netherlands, a framework for understanding the ODA/PVE relationships, and I invite you all to join us in the next journey… Defeating the allure and growth of Violent Extremism armed with the right policies and programmes.

I thank you.

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