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African expertise shapes global decisions
21 September 2016

At this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) new global policies and actions are urgently needed, while at the same time, leadership of key bodies like the UN and the African Union is shifting. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) is at the UNGA this week to ensure that African perspectives on countering violent extremism and migration inform global policy making during this transition period. 

‘Too many responses to terrorism and migration are driven by fear and populist politics,’ says Anton du Plessis, Executive Director of the ISS. ‘Fear leads to bad policy and practice because it prompts basic human instincts of fight or flight. These reactions may bring short-term relief, but will make the threat worse in the long term.’

Through its research, policy advice and training, the ISS has made a significant contribution to understanding the nature and complexity of violent extremism in Africa; arguing for counter-terrorism approaches rooted in development and criminal justice responses rather than just security measures. General Assembly President Peter Thomson reinforced this view during his opening remarks, stating that the link between sustainable development, peace, security and human rights has never been more explicit.

ISS is arguing for counter-terrorism approaches rooted in development and criminal justice responses
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‘Regional bodies like the UN have developed effective theoretical approaches to countering violent extremism and often say the right things, but there is still a big gap between policy and the reality of counter-terrorism,’ says du Plessis. ‘We are still trying to shoot and fight ourselves out of the problem, and clearly this isn't working.'

The ISS is attending this year’s General Assembly as one of four implementing partners of the European Union’s Counter-terrorism Monitoring, Reporting and Support Mechanism (CT MORSE) project. Other partners are the Global Center on Cooperative Security, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime. 

CT MORSE is helping the EU respond to terrorism and violent extremism. On 22 September, the project will host a discussion of senior officials and civil society experts in New York on how to include a youth dimension in international efforts to counter violent extremism. ISS recently published two ground-breaking studies on the dynamics of youth radicalisation in Africa and factors that drive young people to join extremist groups in Mali.

While in New York, the ISS is taking the opportunity to share its expertise on terrorism and violent extremism at several meetings of global decision makers.

Du Plessis will present a World Economic Forum report on Responsible Investment in Fragile Contexts as part of a high-level panel on how the private sector can help prevent violent extremism. The panel is hosted by the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund.

At a workshop hosted by the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, Dartmouth College, du Plessis will discuss the need for policy coherence between countering violent extremism and counter-terrorism policy and programming. 

As part of the Community of Democracies, the ISS and Brookings will co-facilitate the recently launched Democracy and Security Dialogue (DSD), under the leadership of thematic co-chairs Madeleine Albright and Mehdi Jomaa. To inform the DSD's future research, the Community of Democracies will host two side events at the UNGA on democracy, violent extremism and peace. Cheryl Frank, Head of ISS’ Transnational Threats and International Crime division will provide African perspectives.  

While at the UNGA, du Plessis will also meet with the heads of the UN’s counter-terrorism bodies, including the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.

Du Plessis’ participation at the UNGA is covered by the CT MORSE Project. His participation at Dartmouth College is covered by The Prevention Project - Organizing Against Violent Extremism.

For more on why fear leads to bad policy and practice, read du Plessis’ full article here.

For more information contact:

Anton du Plessis, ISS: +27 78 781 3619,

Picture: ©DIRCO