Remarks Delivered by Ambassador Leonard at the U.S. – AU Workshop on CVE

Panelists at the U.S. - AU workshop on CVE

Ambassadors and distinguished colleagues, it is my distinct honor to be here today to kick-off fruitful discussions on ways in which the United States and the African Union can collectively work together to prevent and counter the rise of violent extremism in Africa.

I would like to extend my appreciation to Director of the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, who flew here all the way from Algiers to participate in today’s discussion.  I welcome your contributions and appreciate your commitment.

Today’s collaborative approach, which includes contributions from the U.S. State Department, USAID, and the Department of Defense, demonstrates the U.S. government’s commitment to the 3Ds – diplomacy, development, and defense—in how we seek to blunt the appeal and growth of violent extremism in Africa.

As we all are aware, the spread of violent extremism and terrorism pose significant challenges to Africa’s security, long-term development goals, and democratic gains.  These threats to the global community can only be addressed with a global response.  The tragic recent attacks in London, Afghanistan , Egypt, Nigeria, and many other countries, demonstrate the impact as terrorists seek to expand their reach and resonance.  On this continent as elsewhere, a comprehensive approach, where Africans are empowered to lead and devise their own solutions to address the drivers of violent extremism is critical to not only advancing the United States’ foreign policy goals but to realizing the aims of Agenda 2063– an African continent that is peaceful and prosperous.  The United States stands as your steadfast partner in achieving these goals.

A foreign policy approach that advances America first for national security and economic prosperity, doesn’t comes at the expense of others.  United States values our critical partners like the African Union.   As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted, “our partnerships and our alliances are critical to our success.”  Today’s discussions and presentations will frame future collaboration to prevent and counter violent extremism with the goal of building the African Union’s capacity to carry out its broad CVE mandate and deepening overall collaboration and coordination between the United States and the AU.

Examples of areas where we are currently providing and plan to expand assistance include:

  • Assisting the development and implementation of national CVE action plans.
  • Supporting the Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism (RESOLVE) Network, which connects academics and researchers to study the dynamics of CVE in specific, local contexts and identify effective CVE interventions.
  • Building the CVE capacity of criminal justice actors and institutions.
  • Expanding programs, especially in the Horn, Sahel, and Maghreb regions of Africa to strengthen the CVE capacity of law enforcement, including police deployed to peace and stabilization operations, prison management and justice sector actors, and to help address drivers of violent extremism such as corruption and human rights abuses and violations.

It is important to note that today’s workshop supports the African Union Commission’s theme of 2017, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through investments in Youth.”   With almost 70 percent of Africans under 25 years of age, empowering young people is a commitment shared by the  United States and the -African Union.  I look forward to hearing from the young and innovative participants who are present here today.   I believe that it is important that all stakeholders see youth as partners for peace rather than as the cause of conflict.  Additionally, when women are included in peace and security efforts—in peace keeping missions, peace negotiations, and political decision-making—communities are safer.  Today’s discussion, focused on creating an inclusive space for youth and women promoters of peace, seeks to expand how we understand and approach the roots and drivers of conflict.

Today, we are taking a step forward towards realizing our shared vision of the “Africa We Want.”   I know from experience that the security challenges in Africa are formidable, but by marshalling our values, our partnerships, and our resources, I’m confident that together we can overcome them.  I would like to end by reiterating that the United States remains a steadfast partner for Africa and continues to stand by the AU in its bold vision for sustainable peace and prosperity.