Violent extremism represents one of the most serious challenges to the global community today. Violent extremists seek to exploit our cultural, economic, and religious differences to sow suspicion and mistrust as well as to recruit and radicalize.
But violent extremism is a threat that recognizes no national borders, nor does it choose its victims based on nationality, gender, age, ethnicity or religion. And because we are all threatened, said Secretary of State John Kerry, we must not accept the extremists’ narrative that our differences are more significant than our common commitment to ending violent extremism.
“Violent extremism has claimed lives in every corner of the globe, and Muslim lives most of all. Each of us is threatened, regardless of ethnicity, faith or homeland. We must demonstrate to the terrorists that rather than divide us, their tactics unite us and strengthen our resolve,” said Secretary Kerry.
“Whatever one’s individual experience might be, there are no grounds of history, religion, ideology, psychology, politics or economic disadvantage, or personal ambition that will ever justify the killing of children, the kidnapping or rape of teenage girls, or the slaughter of unarmed civilians. These atrocities cannot be rationalized; they cannot be excused.”
In late February, President Barack Obama hosted representatives from local and national governments, civil society, and the private sector around the world for a summit in Washington, D.C. Together, these stakeholders discussed not only current violent extremist threats, including ISIL, but also ways to prevent the emergence of violent extremism by addressing its underlying drivers.
As Secretary Kerry stressed, we must “strengthen the role of civil society – in particular women, youth, and victims – and to ensure that civil society has the space to be able to operate. We need to identify and amplify credible voices, expanding religious and other education that promotes tolerance and peace and respect for all religions; we need to address the social, economic, and political marginalization that is part of this challenge.”
At the summit’s conclusion, delegates pledged to work on a common action agenda that will guide the global community in preventing violent extremism. Participants recognized that only together through a multi-stakeholder approach, not simply through military engagement and not simply through governments, can the international community address this long-term challenge.
“We are in this for the long haul. We can send a clear signal to the next generation that its future will not be defined by the agenda of the terrorists and the violent ideology that sustains them; we will not cower, and we will prevail by working together,” said Secretary Kerry.
“Our collective security depends on our collective response.”