Mohamed Yahya, Africa Regional Programme Coordinator for the UNDP, recently published an editorial entitled Africa`s Unique Vulnerability to Violent Extremism. Yahya advocates for an empirical approach to combating extremism that identifies underlying factors and local attitudes in order to construct effective counter-narratives and policy responses. His perspective on the issue aligns with that of Club de Madrid in its efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism in the region.
An important step in developing counter-narratives is understanding the appeal of current extremist messaging. Yahya states that North Africa offers ¨ideal conditions for mayhem, ¨ and extremism. Poverty, weak institutions and ethnic marginalization all create widespread suffering and desperation. The ¨hard¨ security approach taken by African governments has done nothing to address these underlying development failures that enable extremist ideologies to take hold.
Speaking to a number of captured militants in Nigeria, he realized they could barely understand the notion of healthcare or public education. Facing bleak conditions, individuals can easily be attracted to the exploitative messaging of extremists. ¨Just as tuberculosis infects a body already compromised by HIV,¨ Yahya writes, ¨extremism thrives under the right conditions, such as those created by the political fragility and social neglect in Nigeria.¨
Club de Madrid´s Preventing Violent Extremism program aims at strengthening counter-narratives and producing a multi-dimensional response to extremism using evidence-based findings. By promoting positive alternatives, CdM attempts to erode the influence of extremist messaging in desperate and vulnerable communities. The three target countries for this program are Tunisia, Lebanon, and Nigeria.
The purpose of PVE:Leaders Telling a Different Story is to strengthen these fragile civil societies, promote social inclusion, and provide desperate communities with positive alternatives to violence. Mr. Yahya`s article paints a clear and thoughtful picture of how and why this must be done.