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The Capstone Conference on “Countering Violent Extremism – Lessons Learned and Ways Forward” is rounding up the last two years of CPAU’s CVE efforts in Afghanistan

Over the course of the last two years CPAU was actively taking action for countering violent extremism in Afghanistan primarily through the second phase of our main CVE project to encourage and facilitate the knowledge sharing and information exchange between international Islamic scholars and Afghan religious scholars, leaders, and civil society on the issues affecting Afghan lives including CVE, conflict resolution, peace building, and women and youth empowerment. The program is based on the promotion of intellectual discourse and academic debate through diverse perspectives and aims at promoting and increasing support for religious and cultural tolerance and for embedding pluralism and women’s rights throughout Afghanistan.

All our conferences intend to give participants the tools and opportunities to become leaders and advocates in the promotion of positive social change and to take on a more active role in proactively shaping Afghanistan’s future while also promoting gender equality and a moderate religious perspective in countering violent extremism.

The Capstone Conference was held on June 4-5, 2016 at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and gathered many high-level speakers, including Members of Parliament and Government officials as well as leading Islamic scholars and civil society representatives. CPAU was especially pleased to welcome Professor Hashim Kamali, author of the book “The Middle Path of Moderation in Islam. The Qur’anic Principle of Wasatiyyah”,founding CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS), Malaysia and leading Islamic law expert originating from Afghanistan as keynote speaker of the conference.

The aim of the Capstone Conference was to reevaluate our CVE efforts and lessons learned so far as well as to think and discuss about innovative and effective strategies, approaches and ways forward in order to tackle the threat violent extremism is posing for Afghanistan and the region.

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Increasing community policing and strengthening common efforts for CVE – CPAU brought together community members and police forces for two days of discussions, talks and group work in Kabul city

Security forces play a central role in protecting civilians and their human rights. When the need of civilians for protection, justice and dignity is not met by state security forces, they will start looking for the satisfaction of their basic needs elsewhere, potentially turning toward extremist and terrorist groups offering such services. Consequently, it has to be understood that a lack of rule of law, corruption within the security sector and the associated violation of basic human rights by the state forces presents a main driver of radicalization and the recruitment by violent extremists. Therefore, community-oriented policing and the building of strong relations between police forces and communities can prevent the spread of violent extremism.

On this topic, CPAU organized a two day event, including informative speeches, discussions and productive group work, in Kabul City on May 18-19, 2016 as part of a series of conferences with different topics relevant to countering violent extremism.

During the workshops, participants developed some recommendations for the improvement of community-police relations such as capacity building within the police forces based on improved training, better equipment and higher levels of education. Furthermore, the level of community policing should be increased by building trust through a number of measures like identifying community needs and organizing meetings between the people and police forces to enhance their accessibility. As weak points have been identified a lack of a national mission and coordination as well as the absence of satisfactory knowledge on and awareness of the rule of law.

All participants thanked CPAU for organizing such event to bring the public and security forces together to discuss the issues that are hampering the development of their good relations.
The role of media and of religious scholars was also highlighted for increasing awareness and the commitment was made to support security forces in countering violent extremism.
 
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Countering Violent Extremism: CPAU conducted a two-day conference in Kunduz Province on the role of women and youth in CVE efforts

Young people tend to be adventurous and in search of purpose, meaning and status in their lives while going through the different stages of personal development. When the government and society fail to offer possibilities for youth to translate this energy and striving for purpose and meaning into positive actions, young people start looking for other sources of purpose. Violent extremist groups often fill the void and offer a disillusioned, frustrated, and disenfranchised youth guidance and purpose and moreover a sense of belonging. In this context, it has become clear that youth radicalization and recruitment is often based on social bonding rather than ideology as well as it is fueled by a feeling of injustice rather than poverty. The disregard of young people’s need for identity can lead to a sense of alienation within their homes, communities or countries and consequently can prompt them to turn to violent extremist groups to find recognition, fellowship, and identity.
Especially in Afghanistan – with one of the world’s youngest populations – youth are the primary target group for violent extremist recruiters. This means that young men and women need to build resilience against radicalization tendencies and therefore play an important role in CVE.
Moreover, CPAU acknowledges that women not only are victims but play a crucial role in identifying early warnings of radicalization tendencies within their homes and families. Most importantly, however, they are to be considered agents of change and therefore have to be seen as equal partners in the fight against violent extremism and terrorism.
In light of this initial situation, CPAU organized and conducted a two-day conference on the role of women and youth in preventing and countering violent extremism in Kunduz province held on May 9-10, 2016.

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As part of its wider CVE efforts, CPAU organized a conference in Takhar Province on Preventing Radicalization in Prisons and Rehabilitating and Reintegrating Violent Extremists

In the face of violent extremism, prisons may provide a ‘safe haven’ and breeding ground for terrorists to network and to recruit and radicalize fellow inmates. This is further enhanced by a lack of suitable prison cells and a corrupt prison and justice system which are causing great damage for society and overall security.

However, prisons – when controlled and well-managed – can also constitute an environment that can be used to foster positive change and to disengage terrorists from their extremist ideologies and to rehabilitate them.

Therefore, it is important to have an efficient, just, and transparent prison management as well as appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration programs in place in order to prevent recidivism and to counter further radicalization and recruitment of violent extremist fighters.

As part of our CVE work in Afghanistan, CPAU organized a two-day conference and workshop in Takhar province on May 7-8, 2016 on the above introduced topic.

The event was aimed at facilitating intellectual and informative speeches and discussions in order to promote cultural and religious tolerance and pluralism among civil society members, traditional and religious leaders and government officials who attended the conference.

Some of the key points identified were that the present state of violence in Afghan prisons fuels into the spread of extremism. Therefore, it is essential to eliminate torture and every form of discrimination within prisons. Furthermore, it has been suggested to provide education and training opportunities for prisoners in order to present them with an alternative to violence and extremism and also to increase their awareness of Afghan laws. Finally, it has been proposed to establish rehabilitation centers for ex-prisoners in order to reintegrate them in communities and the society and to counter the spread of violent extremist ideologies.

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CPAU organized a Workshop in Kandahar Province for Identifying Political and Economic Opportunities for Communities Vulnerable to Radicalization

As an important aspect of its Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts in Afghanistan, CPAU organized and implemented a two-day conference and workshop to identify appropriate political and economic opportunities for vulnerable communities in order to prevent radicalization processes.

The event took place in Kandahar Province on April 21 and 23, 2016.

It has to be noted that political and economic factors can leave certain communities or individuals susceptible to radicalization and recruitment by violent extremists based on social marginalization, poor governance or denied basic services. Oftentimes, radical and extremist groups use these grievances to their advantage and fill the void by providing the communities concerned with basic civil services, including a form of governance, a political voice and a sense of cohesiveness and identity. In order to prevent the almost automatically ensuing recruitment process and the further alienation of the public from the GIRoA, it is of utmost importance for the central government – with the support of external actors such as international donors and aid agencies – to provide vulnerable communities with appropriate political and economic opportunities.

To identify local peculiarities in this context, CPAU gathered civil society members, government officials and other key stakeholders with different backgrounds in Kandahar to discuss current shortcomings and to jointly develop recommendations and solutions for the future. It has been realized that violence and extremism have a negative effect on a country’s economic development as it scares away investments, hampers general development and national and international trade. Moreover, violent extremism also destroys places of public gatherings and thereby alienates communities and prevents people from engaging socially.Addressing these challenges, it has been suggested to support families who lost their primary breadwinners due to insurgency attacks, to increase equal job opportunities free from corruption, gender or ethnic discrimination or nepotism, to enhance the possibilities for political participation and the freedom of expression. Finally, tackling the vast migration movement, it was recommended that educated Afghans should not leave their country but stay and support the development and progress of Afghanistan.

 
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CPAU engaged Jawzjan’sLocal Community and Youth in a Two-Day Conference and Workshop on the Role of Women and Youth in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism

The conference organized by CPAU in Jawzjan Province on April 12-13, 2016on “The Role of Women and Youth in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism” was part of CPAU’s wider CVE efforts and has been perceived as a great success for extending the participant’s knowledge and for raising overall awareness on the topic. It has also been acknowledged for being effective and beneficial for eliminating prejudices and ethnic, religious or gender discrimination.
Especially in Afghanistan – with one of the world’s youngest populations – youth are the primary target group for violent extremist recruiters. This means that young men and women need to build resilience against radicalization tendencies and therefore play an important role in CVE.
The main results gathered from the speeches and the group works include the responsibility of the government and society to offer possibilities for the youth to translate their energy and striving for purpose and meaning into positive actions. Perceived injustice based on a lack of opportunities, nepotism and corruption has been identified as a main driver for youth radicalization. In this context, the important role of the family to thwart frustration which might lead to extremism has become evident. Especially women as community builders and primary sources for education for their children have a vital role for building resilience within their families and for identifying early warnings. Therefore, it became evident that women need to be educated and respected as equal members of society. During the workshops, it has been furthermore highlighted to respect the family as starting point for countering radicalization and that the youth as motor for societal development need to be provided with a voice and platform. Regular youth gatherings, support by media outlets, and guidance by religious scholars and teachers have been mentioned as tools in the fight against violent extremism. It has also been highlighted that the gap between the government and the people has to be bridged and injustice needs to be eliminated.
In this sense, the conference succeeded in giving participants the tools and opportunities to become leaders and advocates in the promotion of positive social change and to take on a more active role in proactively shaping Afghanistan’s future while also promoting gender equality and a moderate religious perspective in countering violent extremism.
 
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In their efforts for CVE, CPAU organized a two-day event on promoting local research and information sharing on the drivers of violent extremism held in Balkh Province

In the context of countering violent extremism, it is crucial to understand the drivers of radicalization and violent extremism in specific, localized contexts. Therefore, more and extensive research is necessary to fully grasp and identify contextual factors causing vulnerabilities and consequently to design tailored intervention efforts to these factors. The role of governments as well as of the international community in this is to encourage deeper local research in order to facilitate the identification of most vulnerable communities and the drivers of violent extremism within as well as to evaluate the potential impact of possible responses to the problematic. To achieve this, it is also necessary to better connect the existing knowledge and best practices and to share newly gathered information with relevant individuals and communities.
Addressing this timely and pressing topic, CPAU organized a two-day speaker seminar session and workshops in Balkh Province, held on April 6-7, 2016 on the above introduced subject of ‘Promoting Local Research and Information Sharing on the Drivers of Violent Extremism’.
In summarizing the key outcomes of the Balkh Conference, it has been agreed that many people are not fully aware of the correct meaning and extent of extremism and that it will be important to define a clear definition of the phenomenon. It was also highlighted that the causes and reasons -including political and economic aspects – leading to violent extremism have to be identified. This will lead to greater knowledge and finally awareness of extremism. The speakers emphasized that a knowledge exchange and an intellectual debates and dialogue especially among young people can be useful for preventing the emergence and spread of violent extremism. As potential approach to solving the problem of extremism, it has been suggested to increase the cooperation inside and between Islamic countries, to promote education, training, and awareness raising and to bridge the gap between the government and the people through engaging civil society in finding solutions for preventing violent extremism.
The conference was characterized by a thriving and active knowledge exchange by high-level speakers like local officials, national and international scholars, civil society activists as well as central government members and an active participation from the audience. The event furthermore hosted very interactive workshops with a high representation of women and youths where men and women left gender issues and traditional roles aside and together engaged in an intellectual debate focussing only on the topic at hand.

 
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CPAU invited national and international scholars to a two-day conference on ‘Development Assistance And Stabilization Efforts to Prevent And Counter Violent Extremism’, held in Khost Province on March 23-24, 2016

Appropriate development assistance is vital in supporting international peace and security, especially in countries where political and economic factors leave certain communities susceptible to radicalization and extremism. In this context, a growing overlap between conflict-affected countries and their vulnerability to violent extremism has been realized. While many national and international agencies and donors provide development assistance directed at the sectors most relevant to preventing and countering violent extremism to those affected countries, many programs lack direct focus on mitigating the specific drivers of extremism or miss to focus on specific populations and communities who are most vulnerable.

With this in mind, CPAU organized a two-day speaker seminar session and workshops in Khost Province, held on March 23 -24, 2016, offering a platform for knowledge exchange and the identification of best practices on the above introduced topic.

The conference has been a major success, identifying root causes of violent extremism in society and discussing approaches how to tackle them. Especially the topic of women’s empowerment and development programs for women has been highlighted during the conference, also offering many female speakers the opportunity to voice their insights and opinions on the very important topic.
 
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Countering violent extremism through strengthening community-police and community-security force relations: CPAU facilitated an inspiring speaker session on the subject in Farah Province

As part of its initiative for countering violent extremism, CPAU organized a major conference in Farah Province on the topic of ‘Strengthening Community-Police and Community-Security Force Relations for CVE’ held on March 23-24, 2016. Speakers with various personal and professional backgrounds, such as national and overseas scholars, government officials, local police forces and civil society activists, contributed to the event and allowed for fruitful discussions and knowledge exchange.

Strengthening community-police and community-security force relations are based on community-oriented policing and the building of local capacities and resilience in countering violent extremism (CVE) for preventing the spread of violent extremist ideologies. Therefore, an effective local law enforcement system needs to be in place which can eliminate discrimination and maintain social justice.

During the event it has been agreed on that the police and security forces of Afghanistan have the responsibility to fight against extremists. However, some obstacles have been identified i.e. problems within police institutions such as drug abuse, bias, and a lack of education and training. Only an educated, well-trained and honest police force can effectively counter violent extremism which also implies that the recruitment process is free of all kinds of ethnic, language and sectarian racism. Many speakers have emphasized that there is currently a gap between the government, including police and security forces, and the people, due to a lack of trust and confidence in police forces.As a result, it has become clear that the community and the police have to work together to create good relationships and to establish trust. Only by collaborating and by supporting each other can the police forces bring security to all areas. An important outcome of the event was also the understanding that the number of female police forces should be increased which will be beneficial to create community support and trust.
 
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CPAU organized a two-day event in Ghor Province on: Promoting Educational Approaches to Build Resilience to Violent Extremism

Educators exert considerable influence by shaping the views and skills of the next generation as well as helping to set society’s broader norms. Hence promotion of educational approaches is one of the most important tools to build resilience to violent extremism. It is important to recognize that the anxieties and uncertainties surrounding the transition in adulthood in a diverse society can leave young people vulnerable and at risk to being influenced by those who seek to promote extremist view points, including encouraging the use of violence for political ends. There is a need to ensure that as they mature, young people have a full understanding of Afghanistan’s democratic values such as mutual tolerance and respect for the law and are equipped with the skills and capabilities to resist extremist arguments that run counter to these values.

Following up on previous events on this important topic, CPAU organized a two-day seminar session and workshops in Ghor Province held on March 10-12, 2016, offering a platform for knowledge exchange and the identification of best practices on the above introduced topic.

In the course of the conference, it has become clear that the right kind of education -such as civic education, critical thinking, and life skills – is vital in countering violent extremism. It also includes familiarizing and teaching not only the youth but also every citizen of Afghanistan the country’s true values.

The Ghor Conference was characterized by a thriving and active knowledge exchange by high-level speakers like local officials, national and international scholars, civil society activists as well as central government officials. All speakers’ valuable contributions kept the participants engaged and triggered questions and an active participation from the audience. The event was highly appreciated by all participants as being very helpful for raising awareness and promoting knowledge on the topic of countering violent extremism in Afghanistan and worldwide.
 
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