Extremely Together’s Young Leader from Libya, working to engage women and young people in peace building.
Countering violent extremism recently became a priority in the peace and security global agenda. We see that the United Nations, the Security Council and its member states have all prioritized this issue. Whilst these discussions aim to come up with practical solutions that can be implemented in the short term, barely any progress on the ground can be seen. One of the reasons for this is that these discussions often exclude important actors from the field; women and youth.
Countering violent extremism from the field
In 2013 the Together We Build it Organization in Libya, initiated the 1325 Network; a network of 30 civil society organizations and independent activists from all over the country promoting the participation of women and young people in peace building.
Through the 1325 Network project, the Together We build it organization works with a bilateral approach; firstly, raising awareness of the local community to reduce violence on all levels: family level, community level, national level. The organization delivers training to community activists and leaders on reducing violence and how to objectify the structure of violence in the community. It also works towards making women question the prevailing opinions around the traditional position of women in the community; that they tend to conform to, and to envisage an active role in the context of peace building as opposed to feeling invisible and dis-empowered.
Secondly, through a political advocacy approach, advocating with national and international decision makers to Libya to integrate a gender and a youth perspective in peace building and conflict resolution. It creates a political space for women and youth on the ground to have their perspectives reflected in the peace and security national agenda and to participate in peace negations and mediation.
Countering violent extremism should not be looked at as only putting an end to something negative; it’s also about empowering positive peace.
From my experience working for five years on peace building in a context of conflict, I came to the realization that if peace is truly desired, women and youth must take part in the peace and security process, because they are the ones who have access to the community, they are the ones who can sense the rise of radicalized violence in their communities and most importantly they will be the ones who will know how to fight it.
How the global agenda on countering violent extremism is perceived at the community level?
Unfortunately the fight against terrorism, media reports on terrorists attacks and many initiatives on countering violent extremism, have placed young people in a paradoxical situation in relation to rejecting the violence in their society and defending the identity of their community. Many of the young people who publicly condemn violent actions committed by members of their community, have their loyalty to their community called into question. What the community see is, under the name of countering violent extremism the whole community is identified as extremists or potential extremists, which raises a valid question ‘why would youth support global initiatives on countering violent extremism that identify them as potential extremists?
The Extremely Together initiative aims to turn this question on its head. The initiative brings together 10 powerful voices from the field, who have made tremendous efforts to break the stereotypes on violent extremism and deliver a better understanding to their local communities on the importance of fighting against the radicalization. Their work sets a great example for the international community on how violent extremism can be defeated by empowering young people.
The Extremely Together initiative with the support of the Kofi Annan Foundation, One Young World and the European Commission, will work to promote new narratives for countering violent extremism; a narrative that won’t only be looking at putting an end to something negative; ending conflicts or preventing requirement of foreign fighters. Rather, it will advocate for the peace and security stakeholders to invest more in economics of peace rather than economics of war. The initiative will work towards creating more political space for civil society and young activists to contribute to this issue. The initiative with the influence Mr. Kofi Annan has, will address the obstacle that militarism is spreading and under the name of countering violent extremism.