CVE Programme launched against Extremism by White House in early 2015

Jeevan Thiagarajah, in

Unknown and unnoticed by many media houses the White House convened a three-day summit in February this year on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) to bring together local, federal, and international leaders – including President Obama and foreign ministers – to discuss concrete steps the United States and its partners can take to develop community-oriented approaches to counter hateful extremist ideologies that radicalize, recruit or incite to violence.


“Countering violent extremism”

CVE is a buzz word amongst many and the enemy most see is ISIS. However we all know there are whole host of violent extremists around the world spurred on by fairly idiotic policies and or regrettable reasons. What’s fascinating about this initiative is that a conversation which was begun and hosted at the White House discussed the preventative aspects of counterterrorism as well as interventions to undermine the attraction of extremist movements and ideologies that seek to promote violence through community engagement, including the following programmes:

* Building awareness – including briefings on the drivers and indicators of radicalization and recruitment to violence;

* Countering extremist narratives – directly addressing and countering violent extremist recruitment narratives, such as encouraging civil society-led counter narratives online; and

* Emphasizing community led intervention – empowering community efforts to disrupt the radicalization process before an individual engages in criminal activity.

This is distinctly different from either standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier announcing the war on terror was over or arming all manner “free” armies to free countries from internal strife.

The read out goes onto say, the underlying premise of the approach to countering violent extremism in the United States is that (1) communities provide the solution to violent extremism; and (2) CVE efforts are best pursued at the local level, tailored to local dynamics, where local officials continue to build relationships within their communities through established community policing and community outreach mechanisms. The Federal Government’s most effective role in strengthening community partnerships and preventing violent extremism is as a facilitator, convener, and source of research and findings. These are indeed wise words.

U.S. government policy to counter violent extremism globally

The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism was the first of many events leading up to UNGA in September 2015, through which the United States and its partners will develop actions to counter the most immediate threats, including ISIL, and stop the spread of violent extremism. Ministers from nearly 70 countries, the UN Secretary-General, senior officials from other multilateral bodies, and representatives from civil society and the private sector gathered during the Ministerial segments of the Summit to develop a comprehensive action plan against violent extremism.

Religious leaders and faith community engagement: The United States works with religious leaders and faith communities around the world to address both religious and non-religious causes of violence and extremism, including by working with religious leaders on projects emphasizing peace, tolerance, and coexistence at the community level and training religious leaders on outreach to at-risk youth.

Civil society: In September 2013, President Obama launched Stand with Civil Society, a global call to action to support, defend, and sustain civil society.

Youth engagement: The United States is supporting young leaders in the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, including through projects that provide youth a sense of belonging, as well as technical skills and vocational training, scholarships, opportunities for civic engagement, and leadership training.

Remarks by President Obama at the White House Summit

“As I said at the United Nations last fall, nations need to break the cycles of conflict — especially sectarian conflict — that have become magnets for violent extremism. In Syria, Assad’s war against his own people and deliberate stoking of sectarian tensions helped to fuel the rise of ISIL. And in Iraq, with the failure of the previous government to govern in an inclusive manner, it helped to pave the way for ISIL’s gains there.

The Syrian civil war will only end when there is an inclusive political transition and a government that serves Syrians of all ethnicities and religions. And across the region, the terror campaigns between Sunnis and Shia will only end when major powers address their differences through dialogue, and not through proxy wars. So countering violent extremism begins with political, civic and religious leaders rejecting sectarian strife.

Second, we have to confront the warped ideologies espoused by terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL, especially their attempt to use Islam to justify their violence. I discussed this at length yesterday.

We must address the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances. There are millions, billions of people who are poor and are law-abiding and peaceful and tolerant, and are trying to advance their lives and the opportunities for their families.

But when people — especially young people — feel entirely trapped in impoverished communities, where there is no order and no path for advancement, where there are no educational opportunities, where there are no ways to support families, and no escape from injustice and the humiliations of corruption — that feeds instability and disorder, and makes those communities ripe for extremist recruitment.

When people are oppressed, and human rights are denied — particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines — when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit. When peaceful, democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorist propaganda that violence is the only answer available.

And finally, we have to ensure that our diverse societies truly welcome and respect people of all faiths and backgrounds, and leaders set the tone on this issue.

The Muslim clerics working for peace with Christian pastors and priests in Nigeria and the Central African Republic to put an end to the cycle of hate. Civil society leaders in Indonesia, one of the world’s largest democracies. Parliamentarians in Tunisia working to build one of the world’s newest democracies. Widening the Global Base of CVE Stakeholders.”

Regional summits followed quite rapidly in Tirana, Oslo, Sydney, South/Central Asian Civil Society, Nairobi, and Astana. It was followed by conference very recently in New York which set out to formally launch a network titled Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism (RESOLVE). The purpose of the network will be to connect local experts with knowledge of violent extremism to other local and international research programmes in order to build innovative partnerships, to share methodologies and findings for understanding the prevention of violent extremism, and to build research capacity. At the meeting, the mandate and activities of the network of CVE researchers and evaluators was further defined based on what local researchers required from such a network. Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, US Department of State addressing the gathering spoke about the need to “hear the voice of people” in the White House!.

Language uncommonly used by anti-terrorism and homeland branches of Governments. Its reflective of the fine bunch of educated, extremely bright and articulate women holding some of the top positions in the State Department in the current administration. One has to see if the next President assuming office in January 2017 will ensure such continuity.

Research priorities

The following priorities were developed following discussions at Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) forums around the world in 2015, including in Tirana, Istanbul, Astana, Oslo, Nairobi, Sydney, and Washington, DC as well as from surveys sent to local researchers. These priorities were offered for discussion by participants at the launch of network.

Policy priorities

* Sustain and develop local, community-based research on the drivers of violent extremism and community assumptions about drivers to support the development of national CVE strategies that incorporate locally relevant and contextually sensitive programming.

* Develop evidence-based prevention policies and programming to move CVE beyond near-term law enforcement actions, towards effective longer-term development and conflict resolution grounded actions.

Knowledge priorities

* Synthesize the existing evidence on the drivers of violent extremism

* and the effectiveness and impact of CVE programming

* Expand the focus of area studies to include cases of communities that successfully withstood violent extremism in the past and other cases where the manifestation of violent extremism or radicalization is expected, but not yet imminent.

* When examining the dynamics of violent extremism in a country or area, shift focus from risk and fragility to the elements that create resilience or guard against the infiltration of violent extremism

* Support greater cross-disciplinary research on radicalization that explores the relationship between gender, ethnic, sectarian and cultural issues as well as how economics affects vulnerability to recruitment and radicalization.

* Develop an assessment framework to examine the risk of radicalization to violent extremism.

* Assess de-radicalization, de-mobilization and re-integration programmes for lessons learned and best practices.

* Understand the commonalities and differences between CVE and peace building and traditional development.

Methodology/process priorities

* Develop more rigorous monitoring and evaluation tools for CVE. More thorough practice evaluations are needed, including further consideration of the unintended consequences of CVE projects. Develop better indicators are also needed to monitor progress.

* Create mechanisms to ensure local researchers and communities at risk are both the consumers and designers of research in order to ensure locally-driven research questions and community input in the development of a research agenda on CVE.


* Strengthen the capacity of local researchers, for example through training or mentoring on mixed-method approaches for data collection and analysis.

• Offer opportunities for networking and knowledge-exchange on best practices and lessons learned.

Though global in character it would be very easy to contextualize the text to Sri Lanka. As we embark on steps for accountability etc. equally important are the measures to prevent recurrence and prevent development of new flashpoints or triggers of new forms of tension leading to extreme violence.

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