Confronting the Challenge of Violent Extremism: Remarks by Ted Allegra at GCERF

Ted AllegraRemarks by Theodor Allegra
Deputy Chief of Mission
U.S. Mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva

at the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Ambassador Ahsan, Ambassador Thiam Diallo, Ambassador Udo, Dr. Koser, Ladies and gentlemen:

“We live in a world of unprecedented opulence, of a kind that would have been hard even to imagine a century or two ago,” wrote Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen in Development as Freedom. “And yet,” he said, “we also live in a world with remarkable deprivation, destitution and oppression.”

This dichotomy may indeed reflect the quintessential challenge that nearly every international organization in Geneva must address. Understanding the stark differences between both worlds is indispensable to informed global action. For the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, the question is clear: How much of this is playing in the rise of violent extremism?

Economic disadvantage, history, religion, ideology, grievance, psychology, politics, or personal ambition.

What among them are the underlying drivers of this global issue?

And what can we do, especially here in Geneva, to eradicate them?

I want to thank GCERF for giving me the opportunity to address you tonight halfway through your two-day consultation.

This is my very first event as Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mission in Geneva, and it’s fitting that it should be about violent extremism, not least because I had the opportunity to serve in the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism a few years back.

I saw firsthand how important it is to forge partnerships with non-state actors, multilateral organizations, and foreign governments. And how successful those partnerships could be in confronting the challenge of violent extremism.

Communities, in particular, are called to play a central role in this effort — not just for addressing today’s terrorist threats, but for preventing tomorrow’s threats from emerging. And that’s why the United States strongly supports GCERF’s efforts to promote local, community-level initiatives aimed at strengthening resilience against violent extremist agendas.

Take the Country Support Mechanisms established in the first three GCERF pilot countries of Bangladesh, Mali, and Nigeria.

By now, community-level initiatives in all three countries have submitted Expressions of Interest to receive GCERF funding.

By December, the first GCERF grants will be signed, marking the achievement of a global multilateral initiative to elevate the role of small, local, grassroots, community-based initiatives in countering and preventing violent extremism.

We need more of these initiatives — more countries and more commitment.

Because ultimately, as Secretary Kerry has said: “this fight is not going to be decided on the battlefield. The outcome is going to be determined in classrooms, work places, houses of worship, community centers, urban street corners, in the perceptions and the thoughts of individuals, and the ways in which those perceptions are created.”

Yes, we need to be everywhere.

Terrorism is global, but starts local.

We need to think creatively and preventively about how violent extremist networks radicalize and bring individuals and communities into their ranks.

And we need new tools — new analytical tools and policy ideas that specifically address enablers of extremism among populations at most acute risk.

Young people, of course, who are often most prone to radicalize.

But also women and girls who are facing unimaginable brutality at the hands of extremists.

You already know the work of our Chief of Mission in this area — Ambassador Hamamoto — who wants women and girls to take on a broader role in countering violent extremism, urging all of us, at a recent event co-sponsored by GCERF, “to enlist and empower women and girls as agents of peace.”

The time is now to synthesize global thinking and global action to confront violent extremism; it is about to take center stage.

At the end of the month, President Obama will host a Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism in New York that will bring together leaders from government, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector. I’m very pleased to learn that Dr. Koser will be there to represent GCERF and to bring greater awareness of its mission to the world.

The following month, UN Member States will convene around the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 to assess progress and decide what to do next on women, security and peace.

And finally, in November, the United Nations will release to the General Assembly its Global Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

***

I started with a quote from Amartya Sen, and I will end with him. And not just because there’s an emerging conversation among governments but also among international organizations about the role of development in countering violent extremism.

“Freedoms are not only the primary ends of development,” he said, “they are also among its principal means.” Our collective responsibility is clear: to preserve the freedoms that help ensure a better world for all — the very freedoms that the extremists seek to destroy.

Thank you to GCERF for the important work you’ve embarked on. And thank you to all of you who work hard to protect these freedoms.

The role of the international community in Geneva in countering violent extremism will remain vital to this cause, and I look forward to working with you in the coming months and years ahead.