While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect livelihoods, economies and health systems around the world, other global challenges are also persisting. These include violent extremism and terrorism, which remain a very serious security threat worldwide.
Terrorism is a trans-regional phenomenon, which does not stop at the external borders of the EU. One of the EU’s key partners in addressing this challenge is the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum(link is external)(GCTF), an international forum consisting of 29 countries joined by the EU. Its overarching mission is to reduce the vulnerability of people worldwide to terrorism and to combat recruitment to terrorism.
As part of the Forum, a specific Working Group on Capacity-Building in the Eastern Africa Region, co-chaired by the EU and Egypt, looks at the challenges posed by terrorism in this region and brings together partner countries and civil society organisations for joint solutions.
During one of the latest online events organised by the Working Group, it was highlighted the need for harmonised and concerted efforts at national, regional and international levels to address terrorism and violent extremism.
The EU, through its Instrument contributing to Peace and Stability, finances a number of projects in preventing and countering violent extremism in East Africa. These have a positive impact for people’s lives and improves the overall security in the region. Engaging communities is a key tool in reducing terrorism recruitment and helps creating alternatives. Collaboration with youth, women, civil society, human rights defenders and victims of terrorism are a key to success in the fight against violent extremist ideologies. All these are put into action by civil society organisations at local and regional level, most of them receiving EU funding.
Civil society representatives present during the event have put forward recommendations to strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between law enforcement agencies and local communities. Sometimes the heavy-handed tactics of police and law enforcement agencies can become a source of resentment among local populations and thereby act as a trigger for individuals to join extremist groups. Strengthening the civil society, enhancing dialogue and community resilience remain therefore key pillars which will contribute to sustainable solutions.
Hilde Hardeman, Head of the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments said: ‘We must continue join forces in our efforts to address the root causes of violent extremism in the Eastern Africa region. Multi-stakeholder dialogue and community engagement in countering violent extremism and addressing root causes of terrorism remain key tools. We continue to help contributing to this effort through the EU-funded programmes and projects on the ground in East Africa’.