Gina Casar: Speech at side-event on “Social Harmony for Sustainable Development: Promoting respect and understanding in a time of intolerance”

Sep 26, 2015

Your Excellency, Mr. Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania;

Your Excellency, Nasser Judeh, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Jordan,

Your Excellency, Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, 

Your Excellency, Ditmir Bushati, Foreign Minister of Albania,

Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, 

High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

Assistant Secretary General Mr. Jean-Paul Laborde.

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Preventing violent extremism – in all its forms – requires comprehensive and concerted action. The principles of the new post-2015 development agenda can point us in the right direction.

Systematic implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and especially Goal 16 which calls for inclusive and accountable governance and reduced violence and corruption, would contribute greatly towards countering and preventing violent extremism, and building lasting peace.

As development actors, it is our role to understand and address the underlying causes.

UNDP plays a special role in fragile and conflict-affected countries through its unique mandate on development, governance, conflict prevention, the rule of law, the restoration of core government functions, and security sector reform.

Through UNDP’s work around the world for over half a century, we have gained substantive experiences on how to reduce the underlying causes of conflict, which are now informing our approaches to addressing the challenges posed by violent extremism.

Allow me to provide a few concrete examples:

• In Niger, UNDP is targeting the economic and social inclusion of marginalized youth in its response to the presence of Boko Haram, a group which is causing terror and misery in several Central African countries. The overall objective of UNDP’s approach is to offer young people an alternative to violent groups, and also strengthening access to justice. The programme is also exploring ways to prevent overpopulated prisons becoming recruiting grounds for extremism.

• In Kenya, UNDP has supported youth leaders using radio and social media to challenge radical ideologies and to promote inter-faith tolerance.

• Through our work in Tajikistan, and in partnership with UNICEF, UNDP is conducting a ‘Socio-Economic Drivers of Radicalization’ review, examining the impact of vulnerability, exclusion, and marginalization on young people.

• Similarly, in Kosovo at the Government’s request, UNDP has supported an assessment of the causes of extremism.

• In Iraq UNDP is supporting authorities in areas reclaimed from ISIS with re-establishing social services, rebuilding damaged infrastructure, and creating employment opportunities for displaced people who return home.

• In Jordan and Kuwait, UNDP has supported the development of National Youth Polices, specifically targeted at strengthening community and economic participation by youth.

These experience have yielded important lessons for future policy and programming.

First, marginalization, profiling or alienation of particular communities whether by state institutions or society at large causes public humiliation and is a powerful driver of radicalization.

Especially critical in mitigating this driver of extremism is establishing and respecting laws that provide equal access to justice, and protect basic human rights, particularly the right to information, and the right to peaceful assembly and association.

Second, rapid social and economic change can create a sense of disempowerment and loss of identity. Violent extremist groups claim to provide a new sense of purpose and identity in times of uncertainty. Preventing extremist groups from promoting violence, intolerance and the oppression of diversity requires a strong and united counter-narrative from political, religious and cultural leadership.

Family remains an important social instrument of prevention, and that in turn calls for empowerment of women. Women’s organizations already provide an important and necessary counterweight to extremist groups by offering alternative social, educational and economic opportunities to at-risk youth. It is vital that women be involved in every stage of the planning and implementation of initiatives aimed at countering or preventing violent extremism.

Third, religious groups should be considered partners to achieving the SDGs and other national priorities. For instance, Pope Francis’ call for global action against inequality and environmental degradation provided constructive faith-based mobilization for the SDGs. Islamic religious leaders have helped international organizations and governments to counter anti-vaccination narratives in many Muslim countries.

Fourth, lack of decent employment is a source of alienation and frustration. Approaches to preventing violent extremism must include strategies for inclusive economic growth, sustainable livelihoods, and delivering policies that expand people’s choices and opportunities.

Fifth, the more a society provides opportunities for dialogue, and for different groups to develop mutual understanding, the greater the chance of trust, tolerance and respect for diversity flourishing. Structured dialogue involving law enforcement personnel, youth and political, religious and community leaders is being used from Kosovo, to Detroit and London.

Last but not least, young people must be given a role. Many young people are already transforming their communities, countering violence and building peace. Yet, their efforts remain largely invisible due to lack of adequate mechanisms for inclusion and participation, and opportunities to partner with decision-making bodies.

The Amman Youth Declaration of 2015, drafted in consultation with over 11,000 young people from around the world supported this call, urging a rethink of current stereotypes towards youth. The next Arab Human Development Report will also focus on this issue.

Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

A peaceful, just and inclusive world is possible, if the foundations of tolerance and respect for diversity and human rights are built.

Co-existence is our common future, so let us embrace it by taking the actions we know will build inclusiveness and respect for diversity.

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