Violent Extremism and Development
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) strives to prevent and promote violent extremism and development respectively. USAID’s mission is to “end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing [America’s] security and prosperity.” The mission itself outlines the answer in the fight against violent extremism: development.

What is Development?

While economic growth is a necessary condition for development, development is a broader concept that covers both social and economic progress. Dr. Amartya Sen, an economics professor at Harvard University who was awarded The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1998, has said that development is about creating freedom and eliminating obstacles to greater freedom. According to Sen, obstacles include:

  • Corruption
  • Poor governance
  • Poverty
  • Lack of economic opportunities
  • Lack of education
  • Lack of health

Freedom is hard to measure, but other indicators illustrate the concrete aspects of development. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) uses the Human Development Index (HDI) to measure development. The HDI tracks changes in three areas: per capita income, health and education.

To track per capita income, the HDI measures GDP per capita, which specifically indicates material standards of living. For health, the HDI measures life expectancy, which is typically higher in more developed countries and which can be affected by the availability of food, war and rates of disease and natural disasters.

For education, the HDI measures adult literacy through the International Adult Literacy Survey. The Survey tests subjects’ abilities to understand and interpret text as well as to perform basic arithmetic.

The Relationship Between Violent Extremism and Development

Violent extremism and development have an inverse relationship: the more developed a country, the less likely it is for violent extremism to emerge; while development impedes violent extremism, violent extremism also impedes development.

Violent extremism impedes economic growth, and therefore development, by discouraging long-term investments. People living in areas plagued by violent extremism do not feel comfortable or optimistic about opening businesses and as a result, these areas’ economies suffer.

Besides stalling economies, violent extremism also taxes health systems, displaces people from their homes, prevents children from attending schools and drains government resources that could be put toward development.

Less-developed countries are vulnerable to violent extremism, which can grow more easily in the absence of strong social, economic and political institutions. Stronger institutions can address grievances that may otherwise fuel violent extremism and radicalization. Certain facets of development, such as steady governance, enable countries to control outbreaks of violent extremism if necessary.

USAID’s Approach

In 2011, USAID issued The Development Response to Violent Extremism and Insurgency policy. Over half of U.S. foreign aid goes to countries in conflict or toward preventing conflict, leaving less than enough to put toward really helping people therefore undermining the other work USAID is doing.

USAID’s policy strives to stimulate growth and progress in developing countries as a method of fighting violent extremism. Through Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), USAID hopes to be able to devote more funds toward development rather than conflict in the future.

One of the overall program principles is to identify and address the drivers of violent extremism, such as exclusion and injustice. USAID partners with local and national governments in Africa, the Middle East and Asia — as well as NGOs — to specifically address such drivers before they can grow to become larger problems. The policy also targets specific populations, such as women and at-risk young men.

USAID’s policy and approach concentrates on:

  • Youth empowerment
  • Social and economic inclusion
  • Media
  • Reconciliation
  • Conflict mitigation
  • Improving local governance

USAID also strives to think locally and take a coordinated and integrated approach toward violent extremism and development. The program tailors its activities to meet the threat levels, political environments and material needs of each community it works with based on qualitative and quantitative data. For example, in Africa, USAID has “developed web-based training, built knowledge sharing platforms, and convened workshops to assure innovation and learning.”

In September 2014, President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly and said, “We will expand our programs to support entrepreneurship and civil society, education and youth — because, ultimately, these investments are the best antidote to violence.” Thankfully, USAID is one of the many organizations working to advocate for and promote such change-making efforts.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

empower young leaders
Over the years, international organizations have taken tremendous strides in their universal effort to combat global poverty. In 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals in an effort to end hunger and promote sustainability. There has been great advancement from countries such as Costa Rica and India, which have both made incredible achievements in meeting specific targets.

Furthermore, companies such as Volvo have also done their part by committing themselves to promoting a clean environment. Public-private partnerships are now becoming more common, as they offer opportunities for countries in the global south, who face immense challenges.

For these reasons amongst others, the U.N. recently launched a new initiative geared towards empowering young leaders in the global south.

Youth for the South

The project is officially known as ‘Scaling Up Southern Solutions for Sustainable Development Through Advanced Youth Leadership,’ or ‘Youth for the South.’ It will offer interactive sessions, on-site and on-the-job training, and distance learning for leaders of developing countries. Furthermore, it will provide an opportunity to younger generations to sit at the table, have their voices heard and come up with innovative solutions towards job creations.

The Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey, delivered this initiative in November 2017, as part of their six-publication launch. The initiative is designed as a partnership between the U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), among others.

The crux of this project is to empower young leaders “to promote transformational change in their communities and countries, and to identify and adapt successful solutions.” Additionally, one of the major focal points is to enhance leadership development programs that will meaningfully impact the youth population across various sectors.

Part of this process will feature rigorous training by 30 to 60 young leaders selected by UNFPA from six developing countries. The trainees will not only possess the qualifications needed, but they will also maintain a strong personality, as they are most likely to influence their communities when they return.

Their performance will be monitored by representatives and staff of various U.N. agencies.

The Global Stage

The majority of the poverty that exists across the world is in the global south, which is why the development of this project should be effective to create universally meaningful change. This initiative will feature numerous phases tailored to meet the needs of those who lack basic training. The first phase will include agriculture and rural development, social protection, sustainable energy and youth employment.

UNOSSC urged the importance of working with the youth, as some 85 percent of the world’s youth are now residing in the global south. UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Alanna Armitage, emphatically spoke of the advantages that the youth will gain as part of this project launched to empower young leaders.

The initiative will help make important gains “at a personal level, really strengthen young people’s leadership by providing them with the skills and opportunities to build their own personal leadership.”

Improving Global Participation

Despite the strong contribution that developed nations provide in direct foreign assistance towards developing countries, the majority of them still do not meet the U.N.’s expectations. The irony is that countries like Turkey, who do not account for much of the world’s economy, are the second largest of humanitarian donors, spending $6 billion on humanitarian assistance.

One high-level U.N. representative noted that the 2030 agenda’s central promise to leave no one behind will “be elusive if [these] 91 countries … remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

To empower young leaders is to empower our world. How this initiative will impact countries’ progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is yet to be determined; however, seeking to assist young leaders from developing nations by allocating the means to allow people to flourish comes at a vital time if we are to eradicate world hunger.

– Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr