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Nonviolent Action vs. Violent Extremism

Opening remarks by Ambassador Mari Skåre on Nonviolent Action vs. Violent Extremism: The Strategic and Appealing Choice for Addressing Grievances, 8 November 2018.

Let me start by thanking IPI and USIP, and all our guest speakers, for convening this important meeting. I look forward to the distinguished panelists’ presentations and the following debate.

The threat from violent extremism remains high around the globe and continues to evolve. Its causes are complex and the conduct of such acts is not limited to any one ideology, religion or system of belief.

The consequences are horrific for the civilian population and for our societies. Violent extremism poses a threat for all of us, it is a national threat - it is a global threat. I have seen the pain, the grievance, the suffering such acts causes in my own country - I have seen it in Afghanistan. Violent extremism raises the conflict levels in our societies and we know that women and girls often are harder hit than men. In particular where you see sexual and gender based violence as a terror method.

Violent extremism creates fears and stifles development, economic and social growth, and prosperity.

Today we meet to discuss why some people turn to violent extremism as a response to grievances, while others opt for nonviolent action. We are very glad for this opportunity to learn more. We need the analysis and we need good strategies. Comprehensive, long-term strategies tailored to the specific context.

Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s UN Plan of Action lays out a policy framework and priority areas to address common drivers of violent extremism. These can be factors as: lack of socioeconomic opportunities, marginalization, poor governance, and the violation of human rights. Such grievances, and a hunger for meaning and inclusion, I have learned, can lead individuals – particularly young people – to violent extremism.

Terrorism and violent extremism can never be justified, regardless of motivation. However, our response to extreme violence cannot solely rely on military force and post-the-fact solutions. The complex nature of this phenomenon presents us with a demanding situation.

By increasing focus on the preventive measures against violent extremism, we are shifting towards a more proactive mode.

I would like to highlight three points we believe are important in our endeavors.

  • We must recognize that national governments have the primary responsibility for countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism. We do, however, need partnerships.
  • Governments should work closely with a range of stakeholders, including civil society as we do in Norway through our National Action Plan.
  • Women, youth and local authorities play an important role in efforts to tackle these threats. Extremists understand the power of women and youth so they want them on their side. We need to understand the social construct and roles in our societies. We need to have a gender perspective.
  • Agenda 2030, and particularly Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies, establishes that security and development are mutually reinforcing. The high ambitions set for the Agenda cannot be achieved without integrating the prevention of violent extremism.
  • We must ensure that all efforts to address terrorism and prevent violent extremism are respectful of the rule of law and in accordance with international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law. A growing body of evidence shows that human rights violations by states, whether real or perceived, are often the tipping point for individuals to become radicalized to violence.

In conclusion, our challenges are shared. To prevent and resolve the threats posed by violent extremism and find good solutions for a common future, we need a strong UN, a UN showing global leadership.

We need the knowledge, advice and leadership of academia and other parts of civil society and I am looking forward to the debate.

Thank you.