News

GCERF partnership convenes first regional conference in Mali: Forum on Peace and Prevention of Violent Extremism

GCERF partnership convenes first regional conference in Mali: Forum on Peace and Prevention of Violent Extremism

GCERF partnership convenes first regional conference in Mali: Forum on Peace and Prevention of Violent Extremism

“The problem of insecurity, is that the longer it lasts, the more it takes root.”

-Community leader from Meneka, Mali

Violent extremism in the Sahel is a force of instability that is affecting an increasing number of countries in the region, as groups expand their influence. Local communities bear the brunt of this phenomenon, experiencing numerous deaths from violent extremists and hard security responses to the insecurity they cause, as well as significant displacement and disruptions to their livelihoods and educations. At the same time, local communities are best placed to both understand and address the underlying factors that violent extremists exploit to gain power and legitimacy. In other words, they hold the key to success of prevention efforts against violent extremism.

In November, GCERF, in partnership with the Government of Mali and the African Union, convened the Forum on Peace and Prevention of Violent Extremism.  The conference connected communities affected by violent extremism with decision-makers and government actors, and identified community-based solutions that can be used to inform policy and programming in the region. The participants in the conference, who represented all regions and many social groups in Mali, wrote a declaration that calls for local solutions and gives specific recommendations for addressing root causes of extremism.

One of the principal successes and innovations of the conference was the diversity of participants, who came from communities across Mali, and who are often left out of conversations around solutions to the problems that affect them. Participants included youth, traditional community leaders, internally displaced persons, victims of modern slavery and violent extremist groups, ethnic-based defense groups, community workers, local organisations, government officials, and donors, African Union Youth Ambassadors for Peace and delegations from Burkina Faso and Niger.

The conference succeeded in gathering and elevating community perspectives on the solutions that are urgently needed to address the root causes of violent extremism. Community working groups discussed topics that included land and natural resource management, interethnic cohesion, good governance, the role of the media, and the creation of socio-economic opportunities.

Communities emphasized localised solutions to localised problems starting with a redefined and lasting social contract with the government. Participants emphasized that community members often join violent extremist groups because they lack other feasible ways to protect their property or their communities from insecurity. Misunderstanding this essential need in responses to insecurity can entrench community grievances and drive them further towards these groups. One young participant stated:

“If you treat me as a terrorist when I just joined to protect my property, I will give myself to the terrorists.”

The conference showed the gap that often exists between policymakers and community members whose buy-in is essential to create resilience to violent extremist narratives, and the unique value GCERF plays in connecting these actors. As one participant stated during discussions over solutions to conflict over natural resources – which GCERF’s local partners have identified as a key driving factor towards violent extremism, –

“Local management is therefore essential.”

Testimonies reiterated the importance of a deep understanding of driving factors of violent extremism and communities, who understand these factors best, must be at the forefront of prevention efforts. GCERF’s approach, which puts local communities and local community organisations at the forefront of designing and implementing solutions, shows how this can be done in close coordination with local authorities.

The Declaration drafted by participants and a panel of experts will be delivered to the President of the Transitional Government and will be used in GCERF’s advocacy with donors and governments as a framework for policy and programming. Recommendations were made on:

  • governance​
  • political and institutional reforms​
  • employment​
  • security​
  • social cohesion and​
  • media.​

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.