Cairo, Egypt – Following the successful conclusion of CCCPA’s expert workshop, titled “Towards a Comprehensive Approach to Countering Extremist Narratives Conducive to Terrorism in the East and Horn of Africa”, the Center was invited to brief the Plenary meeting of the Working Group on Capacity Building in East Africa of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) on the workshop’s key findings and recommendations on 18 April 2018.
The workshop, which was organized in cooperation with the Counter-Terrorism Unit of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 15-16 April 2018, brought together 70 officials and leading scholars and practitioners from 24 countries to discuss current and future trends in countering violent extremist narratives in East Africa. High-level speakers included H.E. Mourad Wahba, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Assistant Administrator and Director of the UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States, H.E. Alexander Avanesov, Special Advisor and Manager of the Global Programme on Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) of the UNDP, Ambassador Khaled Azmi, Director of the Counterterrorism Unit at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ms. Brigit Loeser, Deputy Head of the Counterterrorism Division at the European Union External Action Service.
The workshop was divided into six sessions, during which experts covered a wide array of topics including: drivers of extremism leading to terrorism; the means by which terrorist groups manipulate the complex political, socio-economic, cultural, and historical grievances in East African communities through their narratives and messages so as to recruit individuals, mobilize resources, establish and maintain control over communities; and the developments in countering these narratives - including online. The workshop also examined national and regional strategies, action plans and policies in East Africa; identified both opportunities and challenges facing the implementation of these policies; and explored ways to enhance synergies and partnerships among international, regional and national actors to achieve better collaboration in countering extremist narratives.
The discussions highlighted a number of key issues, including: the individuality and context-specific nature of journeys to terrorism, which requires local level analysis and contextualized interventions; the importance of capacitating local communities with the necessary knowledge, skills, and needed resources to fight terrorism; the crucial need to develop religious and ideological counter narratives; and the need to base counternarratives on a “call-to-action”, not merely on debunking terrorist propaganda. The workshop also shed light on the importance of utilizing online and offline communication platforms to disseminate counter narratives, the significance of gender-sensitive counter narratives that targets a well-defined audience, the vital role civil society and community based organizations play in formulating national strategies, and lastly, the importance of complementing alternative-counter messages with developmental, governance, and educational programming.
Building on the these findings, the workshop’s recommendations included: developing an elaborate “theory of change” and practical and contextualized guidance to counter extremist narratives; conducting research on elements of resilience and pillars of peace in local communities; and establishing a network of local researchers from the countries of the region - supported by expertise from the region and beyond - and from a wide variety of fields, from marketing to human rights to facilitate the exchange of good practices. The workshop also recommended building capacities of local communities and influencers, through trainings, to develop their home-grown, context-specific alternative and counter narratives; developing the necessary tools to measure the impact of alternative and counter-narratives; building better synergies and effective partnerships on the regional and international level, so as to avoid duplication of efforts; and coordinating the development and implementation of national strategies and action plans on the regional level.
The workshop also raised awareness of the contribution of the Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD) process - led by Japan. Article 3.3.2 of the Nairobi Declaration highlighted the importance of “international cooperation in strengthening counterterrorism capacity in Africa.” On his part, Kenichiro Mukai, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Japan in Cairo, highlighted the important role Japan has played in supporting African efforts to overcome the challenge of terrorism”. Japan supports CCCPA’s program on Preventing Radicalization and Extremism Leading to Terrorism (PRELT) in Africa.