Journey to Extremism in Africa – Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment
Brief summary of presentation of information made
The meeting opened with a video (recorded interviews with former violent extremists).
Opening remarks were made by Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Uganda:
- Uganda has been a target of violent extremism - July 2010 World Cup incident (Al-Shaabab) for example – and so they know what effects of extremism are. There are implications for policy-making.
- Religious education can serve as a tool against extremism.
- Poverty and deprivation are key drivers of extremism.
- Uganda is committed to working with UNDP on this issue, looking to address root causes. The SDGs remain an important tool in this.
Remarks by Ambassador Lise Gregoire-van Haaren, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands:
- The scourge of violence in the African continent is overwhelming but concerns all of us – it is a worldwide issue and needs international co-operation, particularly in addressing the root causes of violence.
- This new report is based on significant scientific underpinning and will contribute to finding comprehensive and effective solutions.
- Governments are not always the most effective actors to engage with vulnerable youth - teachers, sports coaches, youth workers and family all have this role.
- All stakeholders should step up their efforts on this. More evidence-based programmes, more action from civil society and more from governments is needed. Using and sharing experiences will improve national efforts.
Opening speech by Mr Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director, UNDP Africa:
- The report is based on interviews with 495 voluntary recruits to extremist organisations, covering eight countries.
- Current efforts on preventing/responding to extremism lack evidence, are not comprehensive or are too ad-hoc.
- Economic deprivation is a key driver - unemployment often crucial.
- Report debunks myths: religion features prominently but religious literacy is very low in those most vulnerable to recruitment (so Islamaphobia, for instance, is misplaced).
- Report provides algorithm for identifying most likely targets for recruitment to extremism - the ‘tipping point’. This is innovative.
- Violent extremism is a shared burden, not limited by borders.
Mr Mohamed Yahya, Regional Programme Coordinator, UNDP Africa presents the report:
- Fatalities between 2000 and 2016 have dramatically increased across African continent. 8900 deaths and 6605 wounded during 2000-2010; 33300 killed and 10,790 wounded during 2011-2016.
- Objective of report: to create an evidence-based approach to the issue; to guide policy and response and gauge their effectiveness; to bring clarity to what a development approach to prevention of violent extremism (PVE) entails.
- Methodology: political socialisation approach. 200+ questions covering personal background, geography, socio-economic, religious, political perspectives.
- Distribution of interviews: Cameroon (1%), Kenya (20%), Niger (1%), Nigeria (24%), Somalia (41%), Sudan (14%).
- Caveats: samples are not random (implausible to achieve this given the subject matter); gender and country imbalance.
- Key findings:
- The majority of recruits come from borderlands or peripheral areas that have suffered generations of marginalisation and report having had less parental involvement growing up. Some of those interviewed did not even know they were in a country called Nigeria.
- Majority of recruits have lower levels of secular education.
- Those who join extremist groups tend to have lower levels of religious or formal education and less understanding of the meaning of religious texts. Although more than half of respondents cited religion as a reason for joining an extremist group, 57 per cent of respondents also admitted to understanding little to nothing of the religious texts or interpretations, or not reading religious texts at all.
- Majority express frustration at their economic conditions. Employment is the most frequently cited need at the time of joining a group. Recruits also indicate an acute sense of grievance towards government: 83 per cent believe that government looks after only the interests of a few, and over 75 per cent place no trust in politicians or in the state security apparatus.
- Limited confidence in institutions and the democratic system. 71 per cent of recruits interviewed said that it was some form of government action that was the ‘tipping point’ that triggered their final decision to join an extremist group. The actions most often cited were government action including killing or arrest of a family member or friend.
- Speed and age of recruitment - 80% joined within a year of being introduced to a group, 48% joined in under a month.
- Community-level social networks are influential. Joining with a friend common (50 per cent).
- Policy implications:
- Development solutions are key, military solutions alone will not deliver results.
- Internet is not a huge factor, but could become one as connectivity improves.
- Create viable exit pathways. Big sense of regret from those who have left. Support networks/programmes must be in place.
- Programme implications:
- Development work needed in peripheral areas.
- Counter-extremist messenger is as important as the message - who discourages you?
- Support the resilience of religious institutions.
Mr Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director, UNDP Africa formally launched the report and website.
Dr. Ozonnia Ojielo, Regional Cluster Director Governance and Peacebuilding, UNDP Africa acted as moderator for the following panel discussion.
Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Uganda:
- Believes that ‘the battle can be won’. Report talks about importance of development and education and, though it will be a long struggle it can be won.
Mr. Mourad Wahba, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director, UNDP Arab States:
- Need for a measure of the impact of what NGOs and governments do to drive people away from extremism.
Ms. Ilwad Elman, Director of Programs and Development, Elman Peace Center, Somalia:
- Report supports many of the theories long-held by the speaker’s organisation, useful to be able to have this evidence.
- Organisation worked to source many of the interviewees - prisons, working with government officials, other partnerships. Privacy important.
Dr. Jehangir Khan, Officer-in-Charge, UN Office of Counter-Terrorism:
- Journey to extremism is complex. Approaches must be suitably well-informed and based on research, and this is why the new UNDP report is important.
- UN Secretary-General recognises the need for anti-extremism to be central and comprehensive to the work of the UN, and this report represents this ‘all-of-UN’ approach.
Dr. Simon K. Nyambura, Director, IGAD Center of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism:
- Report elevates challenges faced by region to international level.
- Report provides framework of response based in evidence.
- Governments are not always the most trusted actor for a response. Cross-society approach important.
Ms. Mbaranga Gasarabwe, Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA):
- Development is a key solution, rather than military.
- Education, employment, gender issues are relevant.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
- The emphasis of development (rather than military action) highlights the importance of the role The Salvation Army plays as a church and community actor. Given the organisation’s position as a provider of education, development and employment skills