Switzerland launches Foreign Policy Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism
Bern, 08.04.2016 - Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), unveiled Switzerland’s Foreign Policy Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism at the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism co-organised by the UN and Switzerland on 7 and 8 April 2016. Switzerland is using this initiative to contribute towards combating terrorism through preventative measures by strengthening the resilience of individuals and communities. The UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism launched in December 2015 was in turn well supported by the high-ranking state representatives attending the conference who also highlighted the UN’s key role in this area.
Preventing violent extremism is achieved at various levels, starting locally by incorporating social, family and educational structures and involving the communities concerned. The cantons and communes play a major part here in Switzerland in view of their highly effective structural organisation. Existing structures have to be realigned to tackle the phenomenon of jihadist radicalisation, experience and specialist knowledge exchanged to a greater extent and synergies harnessed. Prevention is a key element of Switzerland’s counterterrorism strategy adopted by the Federal Council in September 2015. Measures were stepped up (particularly interdepartmental cooperation) and 86 additional positions created as part of this initiative to combat terrorism.
Switzerland’s Foreign Policy Action Plan
The Foreign Policy Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism launched by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the Geneva Conference aims to provide the states and communities concerned with support in creating a social environment where people are not drawn to politically or ideologically motivated violence, or recruited by violent extremists in the first place. In practice, this means depriving violent extremism of its breeding ground. Tackling its direct and structural causes requires long-term, sustainable engagement in conflict-affected, transitional and fragile contexts.
Examples of Swiss engagement
- Switzerland is supporting a project in a marginalised suburb of Tunis with the aim of improving the social and political integration of young people by encouraging their participation in local governance. It seeks to create prospects and therefore alternatives to extremist violence.
- Over 300,000 individuals – predominantly young people – have received vocational training since 2012 in 20 of Switzerland’s priority countries. The Federal Council’s Dispatch on International Cooperation 2017–20 indicates that the financial resources deployed for this purpose will be increased by 50% compared to the current level. One example is the SDC’s involvement in a vocational training project for young people in Honduras. This intends to better integrate young people from districts where high levels of violence exist into the employment market and to provide them with an alternative to gangs and organised crime networks, consequently breaking the vicious circle of violence and poverty.
- Switzerland initiated a process at the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) which focuses on drafting international standards and recommendations on juvenile justice in the fight against terrorism. This process is set to be concluded before the end of the year with the adoption of a memorandum and will then be incorporated into international cooperation programmes.
Specific projects and programmes are to be developed when implementing the Foreign Policy Action Plan. The private sector will play a significant role in establishing expertise and creating employment opportunities. Switzerland therefore wishes to increasingly undertake joint activities with companies and seeks to ensure that the private sector make a greater contribution to the activities of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) based in Geneva. Switzerland contributed CHF 4 million to its set-up over the first four years.
International Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism (UN Plan of Action)
The ministers and heads of regional and international organisations attending the conference in Geneva – co-chaired by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – presented specific solutions on preventing violent extremism. The conference addressed issues including the causes of violent extremism and priorities for national and regional action plans. Great importance needs to be attached to promoting and protecting human rights, and civil society should be perceived and supported as a key partner. The funding of activities and projects specifically aimed at preventing violent extremism was also discussed. The discussions will be recorded in the joint co-chairs' summary of conclusions.
More than 700 representatives of states, international and regional organisations, civil society and the private sector took part in the conference.
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