Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group Community Engagement Practitioners’ Workshop

19—21 March 2013: The event gathered 117 participants from 24 countries, the EU and UN, and 22 nongovernmental organizations. The ACSRT was represented at the workshop by H.E. Ambassador Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Counter‐Terrorism Cooperation, Director of the ACSRT.

Based on the strategies, priorities, challenges, and opportunities discussed at this workshop, a community engagement good practices document will be drafted and submitted for GCTF members’ review and comment, with a view to having it adopted at the next meeting of the GCTF’s Coordinating Committee in the fall. This document will help governments and non-government organizations build coordinated and effective community engagement strategies based on the experiences and lessons learned from fellow practitioners in the field.

To support the development of this community engagement good practices document, the following are, among others, several primary good practices discussed at this workshop:

  •  Refrain from securitizing relationships with communities by engaging them on issues beyond radicalization in order to build trust;
  • Approach community engagement as a long-term, sustained strategy, not a short-term tactic;
  • Do research on the community to understand local problems and solutions;
  • Understand how to leverage community leaders and community influencers to reach those you cannot reach;
  • Target youth for engagement and leverage schools and textbooks for positive messages;
  • Amplify the alternative message by using all forms of media to create awareness and shame the enemy;

Addressing the workshop, H.E Ambassador Francisco Madeira underscored the African Union’s effort to address the factors that can motivate people to commit terrorist acts or be exploited by jihadists to attract people to their extremist and violent ideologies. In 2012, the ACSRT organized two workshops on “Radicalization, Violent Extremism and De-radicalization”, the first one was for the North Africa and Sahel Region from 8 to 10 April 2012 and the second was for the East Africa and the Horn of Africa from 22 to 24 November 2012. These two workshops were attended by representatives of the governments and the civil society, religious leaders, the prominent scholars, UNICRI, CISSA and GNRC.

Ambassador Madeira said that these two workshops helped the participants to better understand the phenomenon of radicalization and the conditions that attract people to it by clarify a number of concepts, definitions and terminology on terrorism, radicalism fundamentalism and extremism. Moreover, it sought to provide the decision makers with the intellectual tools required to create resilience and protect our populations from falling prey to incitement of terrorist acts and in case they do fall, to help them extricate themselves from the cobweb of radicalism.

In conclusion, Ambassador Madeira indicated that terrorism is complex and multifaceted and may present different dynamics in different places. These complexities call for multilayered approaches and no one theory can explain all forms of it and no one approach can address all the conditions that may lead to it. He wished that this workshop would play a helpful role by promoting an exchange of information and knowledge among participants in addressing radicalization and extremism that lead to terrorism.