Drawing on the recommendations of the United Nations Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, Switzerland developed a Foreign Policy Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism in 2016. In particular, the plan aims to address the causes of violent extremism, which may be political, social or economic.
The Human Security Division (HSD) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has made a commitment to its partners to tackle these causes using tools that have proven effective in the field of human security. In the prevention of violent extremism, the HSD is particularly active in North Africa, the Sahel and the Middle East, as illustrated by two projects that were presented at the conference on Thursday.
The first project, which was realised in close collaboration with Switzerland, was implemented at the end of 2015 in Ettadhamen in Greater Tunis. The project aimed to tackle the political and social marginalisation felt by young people in this deprived neighbourhood, by reinforcing their participation in local governance. Local authorities encouraged 740 young people to speak out about their neighbourhood in order to understand their expectations with regard to their living conditions. Participants also took part in developing an information tool, the OpenStreetMap, an online mapping of the neighbourhood, which has subsequently been used by the local authorities. As a result of the project, the young people feel listened to and involved in local governance, as head of the FDFA Didier Burkhalter observed on his visit to Tunis in November 2016.
The second project is an initiative launched by Switzerland with the United Nations. It is a regional discussion forum on preventing violent extremism, which has drawn participants from around 15 countries in North, West and Central Africa. The first meeting took place last June in Dakar and the next will be held in May in N’Djamena in Chad. The forum allowed participants to come together to debate potential ways of tackling violent extremism. Their discussions were based on a common assessment of the phenomenon, which affects their countries in different ways. These exchanges have created a regional dynamic which has reinforced the commitment of these actors to the preventive approach.
These two projects were cited by the panellists at the HSD's annual conference. The experts on the panel, from Mauritania, Tunisia, Nigeria, the United Nations and the African Union, spoke of their experiences in relation to their respective geographic and institutional contexts.
In her address, the FDFA deputy state secretary reiterated that violent extremism cannot be tolerated and must be combated and condemned. Ms Marty also highlighted the importance of prevention and Switzerland's efforts at international level to facilitate dialogue, manage and transform conflicts, promote good governance, human rights and the rule of law, but also to integrate marginalised groups, young people and women, improve education and employment, and reduce socioeconomic inequalities. In this way, Switzerland helps consolidate the bond of trust between citizens and their institutions, broaden horizons and on this basis, to work towards eliminating the factors that can lead to violent extremism.
Ambassador Heidi Grau, head of the HSD, pointed out that political exclusion is a central cause of violent extremism. She added that legitimate grievances should be expressed peacefully in political spaces and stressed that facilitating such spaces for inclusive political dialogue is at the heart of prevention efforts.
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