Alexander Avanesov: “Tajikistan has a good expert base - a lot of knowledge and experience in the field of countering radicalization, extremism and terrorism”

July 1, 2024

Alexander Avanesov, UNDP expert and former UNDP Global Programme Manager on Preventing Extremism

Nigora Fazliddin/ UNDP Tajikistan

The 10-day advisory mission of Alexander Avanesov, UNDP expert and former UNDP Global Programme Manager on Preventing Extremism, to Tajikistan was a continuation of his two previous missions to the republic in 2018 and 2022, aimed at assisting UNDP in the implementation of the Strategy on Countering Extremism and Terrorism in the Republic of Tajikistan for 2021-2025, and focused on discussing with national counterparts issues related to the development of the new strategy for 2026-2030.

Prevention of radicalization and extremism is one of the many areas of cooperation between UNDP and the Government of Tajikistan. UNDP's role in this area is significant - ranging from the activities on supporting the development of the Strategy on Countering Extremism and Terrorism for 2021-2025 to supporting its implementation.

This support includes expertise, establishment of advisory regional groups, facilitation of the Secretariat's activities to coordinate the national strategy, involvement of young women and men in these processes, organization of meetings, seminars, conferences, and activities to develop critical and analytical thinking skills, as well as media literacy.

Speaking about the implementation of the current strategy for countering extremism and terrorism, Avanesov noted that one of the ways in which UNDP is helping to implement the strategy is to strengthen community engagement by establishing Advisory Groups to prevent extremism and radicalization in eight targeted districts - Rudaki, Shahrinav, Nurobod, Kulob, Isfara, Bokhtar, Baljuvan, and Balkhi. This innovative work was the result of fruitful collaboration between the Prosecutor General's Office, local administrations, civil society organizations (such as Tahlil), local activists, and a team of national experts.

“The General Prosecutor’s Office in Tajikistan, in turn, plans to further intensify the work of administrations in many districts, and, as I understand it, will strengthen this area through the work of a specifically designated representative in each district who is solely responsible for this topic,” he shared.

According to Avanesov, the successful implementation of the strategy requires close cooperation of the relevant agencies and administrations involved in it, with public organizations and society, with the professional expert community, and better awareness of the essence of the strategy, where much attention is paid to the prevention of radicalization, extremism, including its violent forms, and terrorism.

“Resources - both human and financial - are needed here. It is important to focus them on priority areas (for example, addressing the propaganda of radical and extremist ideas in social networks, including with the use of artificial intelligence, assisting families-returnees from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, etc.) to ensure maximum effect from the use of available capacity, including donor assistance, as well as to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the results of the Strategy to assess its impact and to learn from it for future strategies” - said Avanesov.

Meanwhile, Avanesov noted that due to the availability of expertise in the country, the situation with expert resources is good, and although there is still a need for international experts, it is not as critical as it was before. This is largely due to the “Dushanbe Process” launched in May 2018 by the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan together with the UN, the OSCE, and the European Union during the first International High-Level Conference on “Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE)”.

“During this time,  a roster of experts has already been formed, a lot of knowledge, literature, and reports have been prepared, and here, of course, donors have also played their positive role: UNDP and other UN agencies, GIZ, USAID, EU, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Russian Federation, both through bilateral cooperation and regional counter-terrorism structures of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), etc.” – emphasized Avanesov.

Avanesov emphasized that the objective of his mission was to understand where UNDP and other international partners can focus their cooperation in this area with Tajikistan, citing the regional project on the role of youth in strengthening their resilience to violent extremism (funded by the Government of Japan), Youth Empowerment for Resilient Communities project (funded by UNDP Funding Windows for Governance, Peacebuilding, Crisis, and Resilience) and the recently completed EU-UN STRIVE regional project. He also highlighted an ongoing project funded by the Government of Canada on social cohesion and youth engagement to prevent radicalization, which confirmed the importance of working with communities, religious and community leaders, the importance of rehabilitation and integration of returnees, including women and children, and psychosocial support, noting at this stage project’s successful collaboration with local organizations such as the Centre for Human Rights, the Centre for Islamic Studies, the Tahlil organization, and the group of national experts.

“This project, which started in 2022, is helping to improve the interaction of the PVE Advisory Groups, to prepare three important methodological and practical documents - one on the communication strategy for preventing extremism; the second is recommendations on legislation in this area for the government, and the third is on monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the strategy. And this last document is particularly important in terms of evaluating the process and results of the implementation of this strategy, and what needs to be considered in this work when preparing a new strategy.”

In conclusion, Alexander Avanesov drew the attention of the national partners in preventing radicalization and extremism to avoid stigmatization and to be as attentive as possible when working in this area, considering human rights, religion, gender, and cultural aspects of life in the country.