Third Regional Conversations on the Prevention of Violent Extremism: Investing in Peace and Prevention of Violence in the Sahel-Sahara

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On June 24 and 25th, 2018, the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the International Peace Institute (IPI), the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) of Switzerland, and the African Union’s Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) organized the third regional conversations on the prevention of violent extremism: “Investing in Peace and Prevention of Violence in the Sahel-Sahara” in Algiers, with support from the Government of Algeria.

Formally opened by Abdelkader Messahel, Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the third edition of the regional conversations gathered eighty participants from the Sahel-Sahara region (North Africa, West Africa, and Central Africa), including political leaders and parliamentarians, civil society representatives (women’s and youth groups in particular), traditional and religious authorities, media representatives (in their capacity as experts), and representatives from governments and regional and international organizations.

Because the drivers of violent extremism exist at the local, national, regional, and global levels, it is now recognized that responses must also intervene at various levels. Participants thus focused on identifying preventive structures to addressing violent extremism and its causes in the Sahel-Sahara.

Four preventive structures were discussed: civil society organizations, in particular those led by women and youth; media coverage; security and defense forces; and finally the contribution of culture, citizenship, and education for prevention. Participants worked to formulate recommendations for preventive actions that could be implemented by practitioners in the region both within states and through regional and subregional groupings, in some cases with support from the UN and other partners, including support to new or existing mechanisms, processes, and initiatives at the local, national or regional level.

Participants also considered ways in which citizens, states, and their regional and international partners can most effectively work toward preventing violent extremism at the national and regional levels, taking into account the challenges and opportunities of the global context.

A key message of these conversations was that it is “better to include than exclude, better to engage than shun, in all prevention efforts.” Another lesson was the importance of local action. The various findings and recommendations from the two days of work underlined the complexity of violent extremism, and stressed the need to include prevention initiatives in a holistic and pragmatic approach focused on achieving concrete results. The third Regional Conversations further emphasized the importance of sharing and supporting the various successful experiences in order to strengthen the preventive approach in the treatment of violent extremism.

The third edition of the conference built on discussions previously held in Dakar (2016) and N’Djamena (2017) and also organized by UNOWAS, IPI and the FDFA.

Read the joint press communiqué (in French).

A meeting note in French, English and Arabic will follow.