Madam Amy Longland, Programmes Officer, Commonwealth Secretariat’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Unit, has urged the government, security agencies, educational and community actors to initiate activities to discourage association with or re-engagement with terror-related actions.
She said such activities should emphasize cultural and social empowerment through community involvement to win the hearts and minds of the main targets of exploitation or persuasion for terrorism-related activities.
These, coupled with activities that address the root causes of terrorism, would go a long way to prevent violent extremism.
Madam Longland made these suggestions on Wednesday at the start of a two-day capacity building workshop on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism held in Accra.
The workshop was organized by Commonwealth Secretariat‘s CVE Unit in partnership with the National Peace Council (NPC) of Ghana.
The event would help participants to refresh and enhance their existing expertise and gain a better understanding of the basics of violent extremism, and the approaches to preventing or countering violent extremism.
It would foster an understanding of countering violent extremism within the Ghanaian context and increase their conflict and peacebuilding skills that could be applied in local, regional and national scenarios.
Again, the workshop would increase mediation and stakeholder management skills, particularly in project management and the interface between governance and Civil Society Organizations.
Participants included; Board members of NPC, Chairmen of the Regional Peace Councils, Executive Secretaries of the NPCs, and Executive Secretaries of the various Regional Peace Councils.
Madam Longland said to mitigate Counter-Terrorism, Government and security or intelligence agencies should put in place strict measures to deny logistical opportunities for terrorist activities.
Thus, Counter-Terrorism required a “hard approach” whereas Countering Violent Extremism employed a “soft approach”.
She said they should also disrupt and arrest terrorist groups or networks.
The Commonwealth secretariat Programmes Officer said Violent Extremism was the use of and support for violence in pursuit of ideological, religious or political goals.
She said Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) comprised the “use of non-coercive means to dissuade individuals or groups from mobilizing towards violence and to mitigate recruitment, support, facilitation or engagement in ideologically motivated terrorism by non-state actors in furtherance of political objectives.”
Reverend Dr Ernest Adu-Gyamfi, Chairperson of the Governing Board of NPC, said the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa and along the borders of Ghana had heightened discourse within the security circles in the country.
He stated that other domestic threats, which provided fertile grounds for violent extremism activities, included chieftaincy disputes and ethnic clashes, farmer-herder conflicts, violent demonstrations, armed robberies, a proliferation of arms, drug trafficking, political polarization, violent groups and kidnapping.
The Chairperson urged participants to take advantage of the workshop to build their capacities to enhance the operations of the NPC.
Mr Assan Ali, Capacity Building Officer of Secretariat’s CVE Unit, mentioned some reasons behind violent acts to include, including injustice, the feeling of being under threat, poverty and the assumption of pursuing the right course.
He said five primary drivers of violent extremism were the lack of socio-economic opportunities, marginalization and discrimination, poor governance, violations of human rights and the rule of law, prolonged and unresolved conflicts, and radicalization in prisons.
Mr Ali said an understanding of the root causes behind the support of violent extremist movements was critical to designing appropriate responses, adding that there was no “one-size-fits-all” theory or profile to anticipate the circumstances in which violent extremism would arise or who were at risk of radicalization.
He stressed that it was imperative not to make assumptions about a given group or individual in the context of CVE, but rather allow local insight and analysis to inform decisions.