More than 60 delegates participated in a seminar hosted under the CT MORSE project (a monitoring, reporting and support project financed by the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace), to provide an overview for EU Member States of the Horn of Africa focused actions to counter violent extremism (CVE) organised under the auspices of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF). The GCTF was launched in 2011 as a coalition of 30 states that works to coordinate action and catalyse successful responses to the threats of counter terrorism and violent extremism, under the overall rubric of the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy.
The purpose of this meeting was to share information on the activities and priorities of the GCTF Horn of Africa Working Group, and to showcase some practical initiatives and programmes that have resulted from the GCTF process. This included a number of EU-funded programmes, including the STRIVE programme that undertakes community capacity-building initiatives in Somalia and Kenya; the GCERF, a new and innovative financing mechanism to build resilience in communities vulnerable to radicalization, and the Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) project for the Horn of Africa that has been working in partnership with state institutions to build their capacity to address the financing of terrorism. Presentations were also given on a number of recent events, including a recent meeting of the GCTF Working Group on Foreign Fighters, the CVE Working Group, and the Horn of Africa Working Group Plenary meeting that the EU hosted in Kampala in March 2015.
What was apparent from the discussions is that there is considerable political will to address terrorism and violent extremism in the Horn of Africa, both on the part of regional states, as well as by international partners. Many participants commented on the positive role that the GCTF has played, by promoting joint assessments and prioritization, and fostering the building of operational networks. Coordination and information sharing are critical in ensuring that good practices are captured and disseminated, that complimentary efforts can be joined-up, and that duplication can be avoided. While CVE meetings have proliferated dramatically in recent months, and discussants repeatedly observed this as a critical challenge, they commended the GCTF for creating a trusted space for coordinated operational responses. The EU Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) was highlighted as a good practice for internal EU coordination and support to front-line practitioners, which was offered as a model for which could possibly be adapted in the Horn of Africa region.
In the coming year, the chairmanship of the GCTF will pass to Netherlands and Morocco, and Secretariat services will pass to the International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) in the Hague. The discussion offered a number of priorities for the new co-chairs to consider:
- States of the region have made significant progress in developing the legal and institutional frameworks to counter-terrorism. For example, achievements in building protocols to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism have lead to all of the Horn of Africa states being removed from FATF watchlists. However, work remains to be done to build up sustainable capacity in the relevant state institutions, including Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).
- Implementation highlighted as a challenge that needed more attention, as the frameworks in place were deemed sufficient but not utilized. Creating capacity along the criminal justice chain, as well as building cross-border networks that would enhance international cooperation and mutual legal assistance efforts, was emphasised as a necessary priority.
- Finally, participants highlighted the growing importance of working with non-state actors and civil society, with journalists being repeatedly raised as an important actor in messaging around counter-terrorism and CVE.