UNDP supports regional efforts against violent extremism

Oct 24, 2016

As part of the regional programme to prevent, counter, and respond to violent extremism in Africa, the UNDP Regional Service Centre in collaboration with the International Interfaith Peace Corps (IIPC) and the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development organized a two-day Traditional and Religious Leaders Conference on Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism in Africa in Abuja. Hosted by UNDP Nigeria, the conference convened some 80 Muslim traditional leaders and religious clerics and scholars of Islam from across West Africa. The objective of the conference was to proffer solutions to countering and preventing violent extremism within Muslim communities and reaching a consensus on an implementing framework for such work going forward.

The high-level event was chaired by H.E. the Sultan of Sokoto and included participation from the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, H.E. Mohammed Bello. It featured presentations by distinguished leaders and experts in the field of Islam, such as Imam Magid and Professor Isa Maishanu, that helped inform the discussions around how Islam can and should be at the forefront of countering violent extremism. Participants agreed and pledged their support for the Abuja Declaration, which will serve as a framework document for West African Muslim leaders in their efforts to counter violent extremism. The Abuja Declaration unequivocally denounced the use of violence, established that all lives and all places of worship are sacred, and agreed to work towards improving education, engaging women and empowering youth to curb violent extremism.

The next steps include developing a regional strategy as well as a formal implementation plan to take this work forward. Participants called for a baseline needs assessment to help shed light on areas where imams and Muslim communities need increased capacity to prevent and respond to violent extremism.

Although a key role of this assessment would be to help shape priority areas for interventions, workshop participants agreed that the role of education is central in efforts to curb violent extremism. By ensuring that all Muslims receive standardized, quality-assured religious teachings, it makes them less susceptible to falling victim to manipulations and misinterpretations of Islam. By empowering Muslims through better knowledge of Islam, it makes Muslim communities more resilient against the ideologies of violent extremism.

For UNDP Nigeria, the event not only marks a major achievement in helping regional stakeholders address the regional challenges of violent extremism; it also enhances the Nigerian infrastructure for peace by enabling a platform for dialogue on peace and security amongst strategic civil society partners in the country. Along with other UNDP initiatives, such as the countrywide Strategic Conflict Assessment, lessons learned from the religious leaders’ summit will feed into the forthcoming UNDAF IV (2018-2021) process, and help strategically position the UNCT to address threats to peace, social cohesion and stability in Nigeria in the years to come.

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