CB: I think it’s also important to stress that we are trying to fill a funding gap. Most of these local communities probably understand what drives radicalization to violence better than we do and may have some of the solutions, but they can’t get the funding they need to start to make a difference. One reason the gap exists is that traditional development donors have focused on communities at risk of poverty, not at risk of radicalization to violence, and often these communities are not the same.
CB: GCERF has also learned lessons from other Global Funds, such as the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, in particular on how to engage with national governments and local communities in affected countries. But of course the scale and context are very different.
CB: I’d say Geneva is also a good location for this Fund, as the home of most of the world’s dedicated organizations working in the humanitarian field, i.e., on conflict, development, and human rights.
CB: It’s also worth mentioning that we’ve had significant interest from the private sector, to support us through in-kind contributions of expertise, facilities, and services. Violent extremism doesn’t just devastate lives; it also disrupts supply chains and employment.
KK: As Executive Director of the Secretariat, my role is to operationalize the Fund. We have an ambitious agenda to start funding projects within the next nine months, before which we need to appoint an independent review panel, work with beneficiary countries to convene national stakeholders, solicit and review proposals, and so on.
CB: We’ve also had interest from several other countries. What’s important to emphasize is that GCERF is using development principles and tools to achieve its goals, and so our work is being funded by development agencies as much as by parts of government directly concerned with security and counter-terrorism.
CB: We are raising funds to establish a rapid response fund, to provide quick grants to respond to immediate challenges, for example at the moment in countries affected by ISIS, including in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Western Balkans.
KK: The Board has rightly cautioned us to start slowly and get it right in a few countries. But I must admit I’m keen to try to extend the Fund’s reach quite soon – this really is a global challenge that needs a global response.
CB: Frankly I think focusing on religion is misleading. The drivers of radicalization to violent extremism are complex and often personal to the individual. Certainly, economic, social, cultural and political exclusion and marginalization are all contributing factors. This is why GCERF uses development tools to try to provide positive alternatives to people at risk.
CB: We don’t want to prescribe or prejudge projects: we will put out a call for project proposals as widely as we can. But I can imagine funding projects around education, women’s empowerment, community engagement, skills training, social entrepreneurship, and media for example.
KK: What excites me is that we don’t have a clear answer to this question. I imagine that by the end of 2016 when we have funded projects, some we will have predicted, but others will have caught us off-guard. This is the point of GCERF, to try to unlock innovative responses.
CB: I think what will be important is to make sure that we reach the people we are trying to fund. I expect we will need to use the internet, newspapers, and radio to reach them; and of course consult organizations already working in affected areas to seek their guidance on how to reach these communities. It will also be important that the application process is easy – the whole point is to provide access to funds to people who can’t normally get money because of the bureaucracy involved.
KK: Board approval is fundamental as it removes any risk that projects may be funded for political or other reasons. To reiterate this is a multi-stakeholder Board, where civil society and the private sector for example have equal voting rights to donor and beneficiary countries. In other words projects will not be funded for political reasons.
CB: We also need to be aware of one of the lessons of development, which is that local communities simply cannot absorb large amounts of money.
KK: Another development principle is sustainability. These are not intended to be life-long grants. They will be made for maybe one to three years, but we will include in the funding capacity development to allow the communities to begin to access funds after the GCERF grant.
CB: The Board will of course keep a particularly close eye on this: GCERF needs to quickly establish a reputation as a safe steward for funding.
CB: And frankly, if the Board became concerned about any grants, we would immediately suspend funding.
CB: I think the last point is important and often forgotten. Part of the added value of GCERF is to bring together people who don’t usually speak and may not even trust each other – government and civil society, local authorities and community organizations – to develop cooperative solutions. It may well be that the impact of GCERF goes beyond violent extremism, as these relationships can also be valuable for other challenges whether poverty or climate change.
KK: I think it’s also important to emphasize that GCERF is striving for medium and long-term solutions, not ‘quick fixes’.
CB: Again I think it is worth emphasizing that while the local manifestations of violent extremism may differ, often the underlying causes are similar, and these causes are rooted in development challenges – a lack of education, poverty, human rights abuses, governance failures, and so on.
KK: What will be different is that the funding will be rapid. It will also extend to a far wider set of countries than the pilot countries identified for the core work of GCERF.
CB: At the same time I think it is important that GCERF complements other foreign policy tools in this area. GCERF alone cannot prevent violent extremism, but supporting local community initiatives is one important part of a suite of responses that are needed.
KK: And GCERF will also complement the ongoing efforts of governments most affected by violent extremism, for example by convening national stakeholders, and bridging the gap between government and civil society.