Defusing Violent Extremism in Fragile States

Defusing Violent Extremism in Fragile States by Fred Strasser, United States Institute of Peace

In Nigeria, a radio call-in show with local Islamic scholars provided an alternative to extremist propaganda. In Somalia, training youth in nonviolent advocacy for better governance produced a sharp drop in support for political violence. In the Lake Chad region, coordinating U.S. defense, development and diplomatic efforts helped push back Boko Haram and strengthened surrounding states. Such cases illustrate ways to close off the openings for extremism in fragile states, experts said in a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

For 15 years, the annual rankings of the Fragile States Index have prompted the question of what works and what doesn’t in improving governance, enhancing stability and, increasingly, in reducing violent extremism, said Patricia Taft, programs director at the nonprofit Fund for Peace, which produces the Fragile States Index.

From the Sahel to North Africa to South Asia, fragility generates the political grievances, social alienation and economic failure that fuel extremism, the panelists said at the event, part of the regular Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum. Fragility, as defined last year by the USIP-led Fragility Study Group, is the absence or breakdown of a social contract between people and their government, with institutional weakness and a lack of political legitimacy.

The impact of fragility—and the openings it provides for extremist influence—surfaces throughout a society, the panelists said…

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