Civil Society Engagement in Countering Violent Extremism

Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the Conference on Civil Society Engagement in Countering Violent Extremism

Thank you for having me here this morning.  I’m proud of the strong partnership between the U.S. and Kosovo on this critical and complicated issue, and am very encouraged by these events that empower local officials, communities, and citizens to be active in facing Kosovo’s challenges.

On the issue of CVE, of particular importance is the critical need to develop viable and effective ways to confront extremism and build resilience to radicalization and violence.

And it’s not a static threat – we must constantly think through how each community can find meaningful approaches to prevent radical ideologies from taking hold in the first place.

The Embassy has strongly supported the Government of Kosovo’s efforts to tackle this issue.  And now that the Government’s Strategy and Action Plan for countering violent extremism is well established at the national level, it is critical that community leaders take the reins to ensure local level implementation moves forward.

Your depth of expertise and experience, and your understanding of the local context of radicalization in your communities make you critical partners in combatting this phenomenon.

The Security Policy Research Center’s CVE initiative and conferences such as this one empower all of you to develop and implement CVE solutions.

These conferences also offer a chance to network with other civic-minded organizations and individuals to discuss ways to work together on CVE initiatives that bring each of your strengths to the table.

We can never know all of the reasons why extremism takes hold in the hearts of some, driving them away from family and community into a darker, more violent world.

But we are learning more and more about the roots of this radicalization, how it preys on young people at their most vulnerable – when they are jobless, when they see themselves without prospects or cause for dignity, when they feel most disconnected from the communities that nurtured them.

This does not happen overnight, and part of our collective challenge is to educate ourselves about the warning signs and to have strategies in place for what to do when we sense that something is terribly wrong.

That means providing our youth with the media literacy and critical thinking skills necessary to resist the false promises of violent extremism.

Local communities are the most powerful asset we have in this struggle to prevent radicalization—families, friends, neighbors, teachers, and faith leaders who love and care for the young people in their own communities.  We must knit together societies that offer the support, opportunities, and dignity that form an alternative to a darker path.

Most critically, we must invest in today’s youth so they have meaningful voices in the life of their communities and their country.  Education will play a decisive role—in school and home alike—in winning the battle for the minds of future generations.

And of course, law enforcement is a critical institution in this struggle as well.

As many of you know, I have spoken frequently about economic development and the rule of law since I arrived in Kosovo a year and a half ago.

And I continue to believe that a country whose young people see opportunity for themselves and who believe that their government holds faith with them, are less likely to succumb to the fear and isolation that make them so vulnerable.

And so we must all continue to work together to build a prosperous, transparent, corruption-free, and inclusive Kosovo whose citizens have the opportunities they deserve in order to thrive.

The dedicated participation of so many of you who have come together today to form a new network in this fight speaks to the importance of civil society in this effort, and as a partner in strengthening community ties and keeping Kosovo safe.

I thank you all for your partnership, and for working hard every day on behalf of Kosovo’s citizens and for your country’s best interests.