Countering Violent Extremism in West Africa and the Sahel

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Violent extremism is fueled by factors including transnational drug trade, arms trade and human trafficking. H.E. Dr. Jerome Bougouma insisted that communities and civil society as a whole are indispensable to preventative measures against violent extremism. H.E. Dr. Bougouma recommended societies engage with religious leaders and traditional chiefs, who have local influence, to reach larger groups of people with messages of resilience and human rights. Rather than reacting to violent extremism the international community must approach terrorism with preventative initiatives to ensure the safety and security of every citizen. H.E. Ambassador Peterson agreed that the struggle against terrorism cannot be met simply through military means; it also requires understanding and dialogue between peoples, state actors and stakeholders.

Mr. Khan encouraged a focus on those socially and politically excluded within a community, particularly the youth, as inclusive governance transforms societies and unites them. Reaching out to the marginalized promotes dialogue amongst differing cultures and this communication eliminates the fog of hate and misunderstanding that leads to violence. Mr. Bombande expressed the dire need to close the generational gap surrounding misconceptions of extremist ideology amongst the youth. Mr. Bombande discussed the European role as aid providers to engage the attention of the youth in West Africa and the Sahel through activities such as the sports and arts. Mr. Millar criticized the international community for waiting as situations completely deteriorate before intervention and action; evidenced through the terrorist abduction of hundreds of girls in Nigeria. The lack of effective response demonstrated in Nigeria makes the region vulnerable to emerging criminal groups who have witnessed this weak governance in West Africa. Dr. Loada suggested that divisions amongst societies are due to powerful leaders surpassing their constitutional term limits. Leaders were encouraged to resist the power temptation for constitutional term amendments, which create volatile political disputes and divides citizens.

Meeting Title: Countering violent extremism and promoting community engagement in West Africa and the Sahel: Strengthening multilateral engagement
Speakers: H.E. Dr. Jerome Bougouma, H.E. Ambassador of Denmark Ib Petersen, Mr. Jehangir Khan, Mr. Alistair Millar, Mr. Emmanuel Bombande, Dr. Augustin Loada, Mr. Jesper Steen Pedersen
Location: United Nations HQ, Conference Room 5 NLB, New York
Date: 12 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

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