7-8 December 2021
The GCTF Capacity-Building in the West Africa Region Working Group Co-Chairs, Algeria and Germany, with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for West and Central Africa, convened a two-day virtual workshop to discuss the topic of violent extremism conducive to terrorism.
West African states encounter security risks posed by the spread of violent extremism conducive to terrorism. Violent extremist groups continue to carry out attacks throughout the region, targeting civilians, humanitarian personnel and security forces. These groups’ tactics involve recruiting locals by instrumentalizing states’ vulnerabilities and exploiting ancient local conflicts. Structural drivers of violent extremism conducive to terrorism include socioeconomic inequalities and deeply rooted grievances. The COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly further encouraged radicalization, providing terrorist actors opportunities for spreading propaganda online due to an increased audience. In response, national and regional actors have increasingly recognized the importance of preventing and countering radicalization and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.
Addressing the problem of violent extremism conducive to terrorism is a multifaceted topic. It includes inter alia aspects such as the means to reach out to communities at risk, the use of the Internet for radicalization purposes, upholding human rights as part of law enforcement and security measures, countering radicalization in prisons, as well as rehabilitation and reintegration programs, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs.
Trends, Legal Frameworks, Most Prevalent Targeted Means and Success Stories at the Core of Discussions
The workshop provided an opportunity for GCTF Members, the GCTF Inspired Institutions, and West African professionals to identify good practices and challenges and share lessons learned while outlining possible ways forward. The timely exchange was framed by a current situation analysis of radicalization and violent extremism conducive to terrorism in West Africa and outlined relevant international legal frameworks, concepts and curricula developed to address this challenge, including several GCTF good practices. Participants heard presentations on the most prevalent means to countering violent extremism conducive to terrorism and their implementation in West Africa and insights on national level efforts.
During the discussions, participants underlined the need to:
- address violent extremism conducive to terrorism by means of several simultaneous actions—research, prevention, interventions, strategic communication, and rehabilitation;
- conduct localized research and analysis to understand the problem, including on the drivers of violent extremist conducive to terrorism;
- enhance cooperation between international partners to share intelligence, between NGOs, between neighboring countries, and share lessons learned and good practices between states;
- to take into consideration the relevance of gender and youth perspectives in the context of addressing violent extremism conducive to terrorism, and engage youth to be program leaders;
- deliver capacity-building workshops, including on the detection of misinformation, the drivers of polarization, and the design of relevant communications campaigns; and,
- coordinate between technical assistance programs.
Related GCTF resources:
Since 2011, the GCTF has developed framework documents outlining recommendations and good practices on various important aspects of preventing and countering violent extremism conducive to terrorism. They include:
The GCTF has also produced the Lifecycle Initiative Toolkit to equip policymakers and practitioners with conceptual tools that can be applied at various stages of the lifecycle of radicalization to violence: whether it be prevention, intervention, rehabilitation or reintegration.