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IPSS-USAU roundtable on youth and women in CVE

On 1 November 2018, IPSS and the U.S. mission to the AU (USAU) hosted a joint roundtable on the topic ‘Youth and Women in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): What prospects?’.


07 November 2018

The panel included Ms. Jessica Davis Ba, Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S. Mission to the African Union and U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), representatives from the U.S. Department of State, and IPSS research staff. The discussion was moderated by Pamela Mbabazi, Head of Research at IPSS.

The roundtable focused on promoting the inclusion and understanding of;

  • How to engage youth and women in CVE efforts and programs in Africa;
  • The importance of analyzing, identifying and preventing drivers of violent extremism;
  • The conditions and factors that contribute to the spread of terrorism; and
  • The importance of bringing together various stakeholders to advise on CVE strategies.


In recent years, violent extremist groups have weakened but continue to be a pressing global issue. Countering violent extremism refers to proactive actions to counter efforts by extremists to recruit, radicalize and mobilize followers to violence.


A gender-based approach to CVE


Youth and women in migrant countries have a critical role to play in CVE. Mothers and social workers are at the frontlines of violent extremism and can be the first to identify potential radicalization in the family and community. Equipping these women and youth with the skills to address and prevent these issues through ‘mother schools’ gives them agency in prevention; therefore, deconstructing the narrative of women as victims, but potential perpetrators. This also establishes their role as peacemakers and conflict mediators.


Moreover, focusing on gender and gender roles is important when engaging women, youth and men in CVE. Analyzing how these groups engage with each other, identifying the key actors in the community and addressing their grievances are all essential to the success of CVE programs in communities bridging not only the gender but generational gap on the continent.


Looking at the efforts of the U.S. government in CVE in Africa


In efforts to work collaboratively with African institutions in preventing and countering violent extremism, USAU in partnership with the African Union Commission launched the second annual CVE week from 29 October to 1 November 2018 which consisted of a series of events that raised awareness of CVE in Africa.


In 2005, the U.S. originally started with a state-centred approach to countering violent extremism, but today, the approach is inclusive of regional and local actors, including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) which are able to identify radicalization and the negative effects of CVE.


The U.S. implements a dynamic strategy that involves a Diplomatic-Defense-Development (3D) cooperation between multi-stakeholders. Through 3D cooperation, violent extremism can be tackled from all aspects and ensure the involvement of women and youth, as well as the protection of civil spaces and freedom of expression. The U.S. governments initiative has been focused on improving the relations between CSOs and security actors and being public about governments that restrict the fundamental rights of the citizenry.


Action has also been taken through partnering with international organizations like the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, Hedayah the International Centre of Excellence for CVE, the IGAD CVE Centre for Excellence and the US Institute for Peace among others.


Recommendations for improving CVE by the panel and audience included:

  • Ensuring 3-5% of CVE program budgets are allocated to monitoring and evaluation.
  • Addressing CVE holistically and navigating the positive and negative influences of CVE programs on society.
  • Improving relations between governments and CSOs.
  • Ensuring actions in CVE are diverse and collaborative.
  • Creating and implementing national frameworks that create opportunity and protection for women and youth.
  • Drawing out the best practices and lessons learnt from other communities around the continent.
  • Improving mechanisms that enable dialogue for addressing early warning signs of extremism between women, youth and CSOs.


In conclusion, the roundtable discussion emphasized that CVE programs in Africa that encompass the 3D cooperation is best to address violent extremism. Nonetheless, this must be inclusive of all actors contribute to communities’ vulnerability to violent extremism. Such a dynamic approach to prioritizing the collaboration and cooperation of all stakeholders along with the engagement of women and youth in CVE is crucial for sustainable peace and security on the continent. 


Click here to view photos from the lecture.