x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Centre to fight extremism will be ready this year

The UAE promised the world it would build a centre for countering violent extremism last September, and by October this year they will have it.

ABU DHABI // The UAE promised the world it would build a centre for countering violent extremism last September, and by October this year they will have it.

Faris Al Mazroui, the Assistant Foreign Minister for Security and Military Affairs, said the building for the International Centre of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is already completed. All that remains to be done is to reach an international agreement about the staffing and administration of the centre.

The idea for the CVE was first floated a few days ahead of the launch of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) in New York last year.

The GCTF, a group of nations brought together by the US Department of State to act in solidarity to prevent extremist violence, announced from the outset its interest in creating a multilateral training and research centre.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, told the conference that the UAE was happy to host such a centre.

In a recent speech, Daniel Benjamin of the US Department of State's office for counterterrorism, thanked the UAE for taking on the role. "Sheikh Abdullah has been a leader in global efforts to counter violent extremism," said Mr Benjamin. "The UAE government has developed creative and targeted programmes to address vulnerable populations in countries and regions such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia."

"Establishing an international venue in Abu Dhabi ... is another demonstration of the UAE's leadership," he said.

Yesterday and today, the nations making up the GCTF met at Jumeirah Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi to discuss the logistics of how the centre would operate. The GCTF is made up of about 30 members, including the European Union and United Nations.

"The CVE's administration and budget will be discussed and set by members of the GCTF steering committee," said Mr Al Mazroui.

He said the centre would have three main objectives. "It will conduct discussions and initiate cooperation between member states on issues of violent extremism, it will research and offer studies on the subject and it will train experts and stake holders as well as offer members capacity building to counter the threat," he said.

What the CVE would not be is a place for intelligence gathering or militaristic responses.

"We are not a security centre; we are a research and study centre," said Mr Al Mazroui.

The Turkish government will be co-chairing the coordinating committee alongside the US during the first few months.

Ambassador Reha Keskintepe, the director of Research and Security Affairs at the Turkish foreign ministry, explained: "The centre will study the realities behind fanatic terrorism, what leads to it and how to counter fanaticism.

"The centre is also oriented towards capacity-building in countries that provide a fertile breeding ground for extremist violence."

The extremism under consideration, Mr Al Mazroui added, was not solely related to religion. "Violent extremism is ideological, not religious," he said. "We are not talking about Islamic, Christian or Jewish extremism but we are studying the roots all kinds of violent extremism.

"This centre is dedicated to study the platforms it grows on and develop methods to counter it so we do not have issues like what happened in Oslo last July or the Sarin gas attack in Japan in 1995," he said.

Christian Lungarotti, the deputy head of the Italian Mission to the UAE, said knowledge sharing would be the key element of success for the centre. "It is a remarkable initiative," he said. "And the idea of sharing knowledge and efforts on such a topic is very important.

The GCTF conference continues today as diplomats create the final working plan CVE.

 

amustafa@thenational.ae