Helen Clark: Speech at the Countering Radicalization, Recovering from Crisis and Fostering Stability in the Sahel: Mali’s case side event

May 23, 2016

A young woman learns sewing at Soufouroulaye youth camp. The training is part of a regional programme to strengthen human security and resilience in the Sahel. Photo: UNDP Mali

I am delighted to join this important meeting on countering radicalization, recovering from crisis, and fostering stability in the Sahel.

Acting to thwart radicalization and violent extremism is essential for countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), meet their full development potential, and reduce the need for future humanitarian interventions. 

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 promotes peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice, inter-cultural understanding, and an ethic of global citizenship. This requires tolerance, and respect for human rights and diversity. That is vital for building harmonious societies, and especially for dealing with some of the root causes of violent extremism.

In February I visited Mali, which as we have heard continues to suffer serious attacks by violent extremists. It is said that there are too few positive opportunities for youth there – and plenty of negative opportunities. Yet, speaking to youth in Mali, it is clear that they want positive choices – such as in work and civic engagement. Violent extremists in Mali feed on what I call the three “I”s: lack of income; ignorance; and perceived injustice. So jobs, education, and engagement, are vital. Youth unemployment is a critical issue from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, and from the Maghreb, across the Arab States region to Afghanistan and beyond.

In order to better understand the process of radicalization and the drivers of violent extremism, UNDP over the last two years held consultations, conducted studies, and commissioned research on these issues. We found that around the world the main drivers of these phenomena are a combination of:

•    poverty and low human development; 
•    economic and political exclusion and marginalization; and 
•    weak social contracts and high levels of societal divisions along ethnic or religious lines. 

Yet while there are a number of common factors driving radicalization, there are also some important differences between countries. For example, socio-economic factors tend to emerge as prominent drivers in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, Somalia and Nigeria, while political grievances are a more prominent factor in some other places. 
The most fertile grounds for radicalization are often in border areas where there is a perception and/or the reality of neglect from capitals. 

How can development actors respond to violent extremism in Africa?

UNDP believes that the prevention of violent extremism is best pursued through comprehensive, integrated, and long-term development approaches. This calls for co-ordinated and collaborative partnerships between governments, development partners, and civic groups.

In November 2015, UNDP launched a four-year regional initiative on “Preventing and responding to violent extremism in Africa”. The initiative aims to support regional institutions, governments, communities, and at-risk individuals themselves to address the drivers of extremism. The activities focus on countries which are directly affected by conflicts driven by violent extremists, countries affected by the spill-over of those conflicts, and those countries at risk of seeing a risk in violent extremism. 

Together with partners, UNDP is:

•    developing and implementing integrated regional and national policies and strategies on the rule of law and on peer-to-peer, community and faith-based interventions to prevent youth radicalization and to de-escalate local conflicts;
•    supporting job creation schemes and other means to give more opportunity and purpose to young people and excluded communities in order to protect communities against radicalization; and
•    working with local governments to strengthen public administration and the extension of state authority, encourage participatory governance, and sustain efforts to address inequality.

In Mali, for example, since 2013 UNDP has supported the “Social Cohesion and National Reconciliation” project, which is implemented in collaboration with local NGOs in the North of Mali covering the regions of Mopti, Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal, working closely across communities there; and the “Youth and Resilience Project” to train young people in labour-intensive activities related to the rehabilitation of basic infrastructure and sanitation in the regions of Mopti, Timbuktu, and in parts of Bamako. 

Through the Global Environment Facility and in support of environmental protection and adaptation to climate change in the Faguibine Ecosystem in the Timbuktu region of Mali, some 7,000 jobs have been created for youth and women. The project benefits 218,000 people in twenty rural communes and supports 6,786 producers, including 1,516 women. Revenue-generating activities were created for more than 2,500 women, and over 90,000 people benefit from rehabilitated drinking water points.

To conclude:

Radicalization and violent extremism threaten Africa’s hard-won development gains and pose a serious threat to all countries.

Jobs, education, better governance, rule of law, and improving inclusion and tolerance in communities are key components in building more peaceful societies. Approaches are needed which balance development and security, and which address the root causes pushing individuals onto a path of radicalization. 

UNDP is committed to playing its part in building harmonious societies, and in helping deal with the root causes of violent extremism in the Sahel and around the world.

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