UNDP Africa launches initiative to help prevent and respond to violent extremism

Nov 23, 2015

A man prays at a site destroyed by violent extremists in early 2012,Timbuktu, Mali. UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Four-year programme provides a development approach response
to violent extremism. 

New York – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Africa today launched an initiative to support African countries to prevent and respond to the growth of violent extremism through a development lens.

“We must confront the issues that drive many African youths away from productive lives and draw them to mayhem and destruction,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP’s Africa Director at the high-level discussion and launch event of Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa: A Development Approach, co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the U.N.

“The risk we face is not just dramatic reversal of the recent development gains in Africa but a stunting of development prospects for decades to come.”

Violent extremism has had a devastating social and economic impact across the continent. Groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Shabaab in Somalia have forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, increasing instability in the region.

Estimates show that since 2011, more than 21,000 people have been killed in over 4000 terrorist attacks in Africa. The operations of Boko Haram, for example, have internally displaced 1.2 million people and forced more than 200,000 Nigerians to flee to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In Kenya, Al Shabaab activities have resulted in an estimated 25 percent drop in the tourism sector, a vital source of jobs and income for the country.

“No country is an island and violent extremism knows no borders. It is critical for countries to work together to prevent and respond to violent extremism,” said Ambassador Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the U.N.   

The four-year USD 45.7 million* UNDP initiative aims to address the root causes and enabling factors of violent extremism, and proposes actions across different types of countries – those directly affected by violent extremist acts such as Kenya, Mali and Nigeria; those suffering the spill over effects, such as Cameroon and Chad; and those that could be at risk.

The programme will work with regional and national institutions, including government, police and the criminal justice system; religious institutions; and communities to build trust, identify early warning signs of radicalisation and potential violent extremism, and design appropriate responses.

Together with partners, the programme will also support disengaged members of violent extremist groups and their reintegration into society, including through rehabilitation centres and community sensitization.

Research shows that in the African context, socio-economic factors are helping to drive young people towards violent radicalisation. As such, the regional initiative aims to work with private sector and other partners to provide young people skills training and livelihood opportunities, particularly in marginalised areas.

As the dynamics of violent extremism affect women and men differently, the programme also proposes specific interventions focused on empowering women to participate in early warning, and national and regional strategy planning.

The above areas of work will be underpinned by capacity building of regional institutions and coordination efforts to deal with the cross-border nature of violent extremism in the continent.
To ensure that regional and national policies and programmes are informed by the most recent analysis and data, UNDP has launched a USD 100,000 annual grant to encourage universities and think tanks to pursue research and analysis in this area of work.

The Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa: A Development Approach (PDF) initiative is a result of expert consultations with partners including the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), faith groups, civil society organisations, funding partners and other United Nations entities.

*The new programme budget as of January 2017 is USD 81.2 million

Contact information

Youssouf Diarra, UNDP Communications Officer; youssouf.diarra@undp.org
Sandra Macharia, UNDP Communications Advisor; sandra.macharia@undp.org

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