Turkey is the co-initiator of a newly established global fund that will fight extremism at the grassroots level.
By Menekse Tokyay for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 10/10/13
Turkey will play a leading role in a new global fund aimed at preventing terror attacks, like the one in May in Reyhanli, pictured here, that caused widespread property damage and several casualties. [AFP]
Turkey has a key role in the launch of a new front in the fight against violent extremism as the co-initiator of global fund that will challenge the appeal of jihadist groups at a grassroots level.
More than 30 nations have pledged contributions to create the fund, which was announced during the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) on September 27th in New York. Established in 2011 with the participation of 30 members (29 countries plus the EU as a legal entity), the GCTF provides a platform for international co-operation to develop skills and techniques for halting the spread of extremism.
The fund, which was initiated by the GCTF but will have no organic ties to the organisation, will be effective by the middle of 2014. Financing will be provided by both governments and non-governmental actors and will be used to launch local projects or monitor existing programmes dealing with vulnerable groups or individuals likely to participate in terrorist networks.
Administered from Geneva, the Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience also will be used for vocational training and exchange programmes for young people who frequently are targets for recruitment by terrorist organisations. Newly designed school curriculums and websites run by the fund will provide youths with information about the dangers of extremism as well as the benefits of diversity and tolerance.
While the amount of Turkey's contribution has not been publicly disclosed, efforts will co-ordinated by the foreign ministry. The 28 EU nations, Canada, Qatar, the United States and private donors will contribute to the fund, which is expected to raise more than $200 million during the next decade.
"New trends, such as the threat from self-radicalised individuals, growing exchange among locally active terrorist groups, and the increasing the number of attacks on economically or otherwise sensitive infrastructure, requires dexterity in our responses," Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a speech during the ministerial meeting of the GCTF. "These facts compel us not to only enhance coherence, complementarity, and agility of our existing counterterrorism measures, but also to develop new approaches and tools."
Alp Ozerdem, a Turkish professor who heads the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies at Coventry University in Britain, told SETimes that the fund is an important step to deal with the challenge of extremism around the world.
"It is particularly important that Turkey is the co-chair of this forum, which would send a strong message to those who often make the mistake of calling acts of terrorism by those so-called jihadist groups as 'Islamic terrorism.' However, it is also important to accept that there are indeed such groups and they claim that they undertake these horrific acts in the name of Islam," Ozerdem said.
Ozerdem said it is promising that the fund will focus on programmes targeting the local and social roots of extremism, rather than emphasising armed responses to terrorist activity.
"In addition to such programmes, building trust with local communities that have been affected by armed conflict and become easy targets for recruitment by extremist groups is likely to be much more effective as a response, particularly in the long run," he added.
Alper Sozer, an expert with the Turkish National Police’s International Centre for Terrorism and Transnational Crime (UTSAM) in Ankara, said the flexible and multi-dimensional structure of the fund will provide countries with active help to disrupt extremism without having to endure a slow bureaucratic process.
UTSAM was involved in the preparation and adoption of the Ankara Memorandum on Good Practices for a Multi-Sectoral Approach to Countering Violent Extremism during the last meeting of GCTF on September 27th.
The document addresses the role of government and civil society in countering violent extremism. It also demonstrates how some countries have fostered an inclusive process, drawing support from cultural NGOs, educational institutions and the increasing role of women in society.
"Although countering violent extremism requires co-ordinated work among state actors, there is also a need for grassroots work that would integrate the society into this process and would challenge the sources of the extremism through soft power instruments like funds or programmes," Sozer said.
"There is no one-size-fits-all approach for counter-radicalisation efforts, so this fund will be in constant dialogue with the civil society representatives and opinion-molders of each country for tailoring responses to the local conditions in hot-spot areas. Various NGOs functioning in different fields like sport or art will be invited to co-operate and contribute to the awareness-raising efforts," he said.
Sozer said the presence of Turkey within the fund will be an advantage both for Turkey and the beneficiary countries.
"The rule of law, human rights and strengthening of civil society are at the heart of Turkey’s humanitarian diplomacy solutions to countering violent extremism," Sozer said. "This fund can serve as a platform to transfer them. It will also benefit Turkey to raise global awareness regarding the extremism problems that the country faces from its neighbours, especially Syria, where the state authority is lacking."
What steps can Turkey and other nations take to halt the spread of extremism at a grassroots level? Share your thoughts in the comments section.