Where does the fight against violent extremism fit within the broad spectrum of development?
USAID’s mission – to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity – outlines the answer.
It is through USAID’s approach to development that we can prevent the underlying causes of discontent from turning into radicalization. It is this inclusive approach that also drives our commitment to advancing the Global Goals.
Over half of U.S. foreign assistance goes to countries in the midst of conflict, or trying to prevent conflict or state failure. While we have made remarkable gains, the scourge of violent extremism undermines the work we and our partners are doing.
Violent extremism impedes growth by discouraging long-term investment – not only by international corporations, but by local entrepreneurs who hesitate before setting up shop in a market or fear investing in inventory.
Violent extremists’ actions tax health systems, overcrowd hospitals, create refugees and displace people from their homes. Responding to attacks consumes government services and resources, stymieing development.
This is why we must focus more effort on preventing the growth of violent extremism before it starts.
Addressing the root causes of violent extremism successfully starts by resolving issues at the community level. While each case is different, our experience indicates it is often a combination of social and economic marginalization, unaccountable governance, and inadequate institutions, among other push factors, that are at the root of extremism.
These issues are also at the heart of what impedes economic growth. These grievances create opportunities for pulling forces that draw vulnerable people into the compelling, but ultimately empty, narratives of violent extremism.
Recognizing this, USAID developed its 2011 policy The Development Response to Violent Extremism and Insurgency to help guide the use of our tools effectively, and balance our broader development objectives with these security priorities. It affirms the necessity of identifying and addressing drivers of extremism, while remaining flexible and locally focused.
USAID manages programs that specifically address drivers of violent extremism in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. These programs are working in coordination and often through local and national governments, the private sector and NGOs to address issues of exclusion and injustice. These partnerships enhance USAID’s traditional development tools to address the drivers of extremism before they metastasize into a much larger problem.
Tomorrow’s event at the United Nations on balancing security and development will explore how USAID and like-minded partners can partner to prevent violent extremism. Development professionals care about violent extremism, and those on the security side recognize that development tools and expertise are needed to succeed against violent extremists.
We are confident that we can work together and make progress in key areas. Already, we are making progress on a foundational step: understanding the local drivers of violent extremism and what works to address them.
A new network to support research focused on these issues, RESOLVE, was launched just last week and is supported through a partnership between USAID, the State Department and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Other efforts, like guidelines for good practices on gender and countering violent extremism by the Global Counterterrorism Forum, create operational approaches for local partnership.
As Secretary Kerry called for in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, we have to get ahead of the next ISIL. Development that reduces the allure of violent extremist groups has immeasurable payoffs, both in terms of making us more secure and by ensuring we reach our ambitious Global Goals targets by 2030.