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Respect for Rights Critical in Fighting Violent Extremism


FILE - A boy holds a poster during a civil society protest rally against terrorism in Lahore.

Secretary of State John Kerry has called corruption a “radicalizer,” because it “destroys faith in legitimate authority.” In such a vacuum, violent extremists that portray themselves as pious and untainted can offer a seemingly seductive alternative.

Respect for human rights plays a critical role in countering violent extremism, said U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall.

When corruption goes unaddressed, citizens may conclude that government exists not to serve but to exploit. Secretary of State John Kerry has called corruption a “radicalizer,” because it “destroys faith in legitimate authority.” In such a vacuum, violent extremists that portray themselves as pious and untainted can offer a seemingly seductive alternative.

Additionally, when there are no jobs and prospects for a better future, when people struggle to feed and house their families, feelings of exclusion, hopelessness and indignity can be openings for violent extremists peddling false promises of a better deal.

And finally, when governments respond to terrorist propaganda by restricting freedoms of speech, assembly and religion they risk silencing the voices most needed to fight violence and hatred.

“Clamping down on political opposition under the guise of fighting terrorism has become all too common,” said Under Secretary Sewall, “yet it can backfire spectacularly by radicalizing the non-violent individual and confirming violence as the only route to political change.”

“Time and again, nations around the world – including ours – relearn the harsh lessons of framing security as a zero-sum trade-off with fundamental human freedoms,” said Under Secretary Sewall. “A comprehensive approach to countering violent extremism recognizes this as a false dichotomy and highlights the importance of good governance and human rights protections in preventing the next generation of violent extremism.”

Countering violent extremism emphasizes preventive action, and advances collective security while championing universal values.

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