Working together against violent extremism & radicalisation

  State Secretary Laila Bokhari  

Radicalization - Shared Challenge or Dividing Threat? How the West/Europe and Muslim majority countries face radicalization 

Remarks at the Indonesian Foreign Policy Community

Jakarta, January 2017

Thank you for the invitation to speak at the Indonesian Foreign Policy Community. It is a great pleasure to be here, and I am happy to see that so many of you have turned up.  

 Almost exactly one year ago, Jakarta was hit by a major terror attack. Within minutes the news spread across the globe, reminding people in Paris, in Istanbul, in Brussels, in Norway and all over the world that terrorism and violent extremism are among the greatest security challenges of our time.

But the immediate and excellent response from the young people of Indonesia after the attack also went viral: [“Kami Tida Takut”] “We are not afraid!” In a classic Indonesian embrace of the small things that make life good in this country, the message in social media was crystal clear: We will not be defined by haters. Indonesia is something else. Something positive and inclusive. 

To me, this was also recognizable when Norway was struck by terrorism in 2011. Like here, people responded strongly by expressing the opposite of the terrorists’ war rhetoric. I think this should be our starting point, where both our countries have shown that we are up to the task:  The global fight against radicalization and terrorism starts with our own values and care for our families, friends and communities, but also for those who are different; have differing opinions and different ways of life. 

As we are all well aware, violent extremism brings death and suffering to innocent people, and destruction and insecurity to whole societies and regions. The horrendous attacks in Berlin, Istanbul and other places recently have, unfortunately, made this topic even more relevant as we enter 2017. 

Terrorism is inspired by many different political motivations, ideologies and religions. On 22 July 2011, my own country, Norway, was struck by right wing terrorism when the main government building in Oslo was attacked. Later the same day, a youth camp at Utøya was brutally attacked. 77 people were killed in the two attacks, many more injured. Most of them were youth.

Terrorism can never be tolerated regardless of political, ideological or religious motivations. Terrorism is a crime. 

Violent extremism is an important driver for many of the world´s current conflicts. These conflicts are obstacles for social and economic development, and sometimes rolls back already achieved progress and growth.

More than 70 percent of terrorist attacks are happening in only five countries - Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. However, the situation in these few countries are affecting a large number of countries on all continents. 

There is a clear link between Islamic radicalization in Norway, and the recruitment of young men and women who travel to Syria and Iraq in order to join ISIL and other terrorist networks. This is a challenge for many countries. According to the United Nations, Foreign Terrorist Fighters have traveled to Syria and Iraq from more than 100 countries. Almost 100 foreign terrorist fighters have traveled from Norway to Syria and Iraq since 2013. Fortunately, much fewer people are travelling today than a year ago. 

We must now turn our attention to those who are returning to stop them from carrying out attacks or radicalizing others. A large number of the foreign terrorist fighters who have returned to Norway have been indicted or convicted on terrorism charges. It is also important to address the issue of radicalization in prisons. The Norwegian Correctional

Service has established a mentoring scheme as a pilot project. The scheme is focusing on inmates who are understood to be vulnerable to recruitment to violent extremism, especially young inmates. The mentor scheme is voluntary, and the mentor provides assistance and guidance to the inmates. 

The international threat landscape is changing rapidly, and the predictions for 2017 are very worrying. As ISIL is losing ground in Syria and Iraq, we need to prepare for a possible future increase in terrorist attacks against soft targets in other regions, including here in Indonesia and my own country, Norway. 

From the government’s side we therefore need to step up our efforts. We must work harder to detect and prevent further terrorist plots. We need to share more information across borders, and we need to increase our work in preventing radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism. 

But we cannot do this alone, we need to work closely with academia and with civil society. Our efforts must be based on a broad analytical understanding of terrorism and its root causes. 

Last year, the Norwegian Parliament approved the first Norwegian White Paper on Global Security Challenges – terrorism, organized crime, maritime security and cyber issues. The White Paper provides a framework for Norway´s international efforts to counter terrorism and preventing violent extremism. It also addresses the nexus between these threats. In particular, the connections between terrorism and organized crime. Terrorist networks benefit, often indirectly, from trafficking of arms, drugs, persons and cultural artifacts, as well as illicit trade in natural resources such as oil and charcoal. The White Paper provides forty concrete measures that will be followed up, many underlining the importance of good research and analysis. 

The Norwegian government has also developed a national action plan for preventing radicalization and violent extremism. The action plan deals with all kinds of extremism, regardless of ideological or religious motivations. It has a strong emphasis on preventing young people from being radicalized. It also contains measures aimed at preventing people from travelling to conflict zones and for dealing with returning foreign terrorist fighters. 

Last year, the Norwegian government established a new Center for Research on Extremism - the extreme right, hate crime and political violence - called C-REX. The center has received 50 million Norwegian kroner in funding for 5 years. 

In June 2015, Norway hosted a regional summit on Countering Violent Extremism as part of President Obama´s initiative. The meeting aimed at strengthening local preventative work, promoting research and information sharing on the drivers of violent extremism, the gender dimensions, and disengagement and reintegration of former extremists. 

A youth conference on countering violent extremism was also held as part of the summit. Almost 200 youth gathered in Oslo to share experiences and provide input and recommendations to policymakers. 

A network of youth activists was also formed – YouthCAN. The network gathers artists, tech entrepreneurs, and other creative people to share and promote ideas that counter the messages of extremists and provide alternatives that promote peace and tolerance. Today, more than 900 members from 100 countries participates in the network. It started in Europe, and was later expanded to Commonwealth countries by the United Kingdom. It has now expanded to the Middle East and North Africa. YouthCAN is working closely with tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. It is both an online network, based on Facebook, and offline through regional Innovation Labs. 

Two strong and clear messages came out of the youth conference in Oslo. First, we must cooperate across borders and societies if we want to stop people from joining extremist groups. As Ibrahim Abukar, a young Norwegian-Somali man, said at the conference ‘what happens in a small corner of the world will affect all of us – so let’s start working together’. From the individual level to the governmental level, everybody can make a difference. And it is important that we all intensify our efforts. Only through joint efforts and increased cooperation at all levels will we be successful in our fight against violent extremism. 

The second message was that young people´s voices must be heard when governments are formulating new policies and strategies. That is why the YouthCAN network went to the United Nations in New York last year to give input to Security Council Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. At the UN they urged the countries of the world to strengthen the cooperation between governments and between governments and civil society. They also urged governments to listen to young people and their concerns. 

The Oslo conference also paved the way for a new global alliance of women´s organizations working on preventing violent extremism. Extremists also understand the power of women, so they want them on their side. At the same time, they attack women´s rights and silence women who offer an alternative vision of society. But it is exactly these voices that must be heard, and the alliance will provide an opportunity for grassroots organizations to have their voices heard. Since the alliance was launched one and a half year ago, more than 90 partner organizations have joined from 29 countries.

Because of the need to pay more attention to the gender dimensions of violent extremism, Norwegian Prime Minister Solberg launched a mechanism for consultations between governments and women’s organizations at the UN General Assembly last year. The mechanism is called Global Solutions Exchange. 

There is a lot of discussion about what conditions are conducive to terrorism and violent extremism, and how we can overcome it.  Norway believes that ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law is the most important thing we can do to overcome terrorism and violent extremism. It is by relentlessly respecting the rules of democracy that we will succeed. 

Globally, countries should come together and work collectively to counter terrorism and preventing violent extremism. Much of this important work is happening in the United Nations. The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in 2006 is a good starting point. The Secretary General’s Plan of Action for Preventing Violent Extremism that was presented last year took the work a step further.

Norway believes the role of the UN should be further strengthened by the appointment of a designated high level coordinator of counter terrorism and preventing violent extremism. The new Secretary General, António Guterres, has underlined the importance of UN ‘s peace efforts, and we hope he will address this issue.  

Poverty alone is not the sole cause of violent extremism. Nevertheless, marginalization, whether economic, social or political, is often an important element in the process of radicalization resulting in violent extremism. Terrorism also has a deep impact on economic development. 

The adoption of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies is highly relevant to countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. It provides an international framework for a broad approach. It addresses the root causes of terrorism and contributes towards building robust societies that are less vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism. 

The world is getting more and more complex, and countries are interlinked in new ways. What is happening in one country can have far reaching consequences for another country in a completely different part of the world. New technology has increased the speed. Changes are happening much faster now than only a decade ago. 

These factors make the study of foreign policy and international relations more difficult, but also more important than ever. We need to understand the world we are living in, and we need to find ways of making the world better and safer.  

As the threats we are facing are transnational in their nature, so are the solutions. We must all stand up against terrorism and violent extremism. As I said earlier, terrorism can never be tolerated regardless of political, ideological or religious motivations. Terrorism is a crime. 

 We must increase international cooperation and understanding across different regions, countries, communities and cultures if we want to achieve our goal. Students of foreign policy play an important role in this regard. 

[Kami Tida Takut!] 

Thank you for your attention.


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