The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Govt strategize­s to prevent violent extremism

Lebanon launches framework to build ‘immune system’ for country

- By Federica Marsi

BEIRUT: The global Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism launched by the United Nations in 2015 has reached its first milestone in Lebanon, but the road toward implementa­tion of a concerted strategy now lies ahead.

The National Strategy to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE), officially launched on Dec. 20 during an interminis­terial meeting, contains nine pillars agreed upon by representa­tives of all ministries. Each pillar represents a goal, which the ministries are now set to work together to achieve.

“The strategy has been initiated by the prime minister [Saad Hariri] and all ministries have been stakeholde­rs in it, so I am positive about [its] implementa­tion,” Maysoun Chehab, regional officer for education and intercultu­ral dialogue at UNESCO, told The Daily Star.

UNESCO was part of the U.N. advisory committee that guided the Lebanese government in drafting the national strategy, as part of an initiative promoted by Hariri.

When the U.N. secretary-general launched the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism on Dec. 24, 2015, all member states were urged to develop their own national strategies in a manner consistent with their political and social contexts.

Because of the impossibil­ity for the internatio­nal body to develop a unified definition of violent extremism, the U.N. chose to defer the definition task and the drafting of a strategy to each member state.

“The U.N. globally identified seven pillars [for the prevention of violent extremism], but Lebanon customized [them to] its needs following consultati­on,” Chehab said. “The government agreed on nine pillars that are very specific to Lebanon.”

The fourth pillar, “Urban developmen­t and engaging local communitie­s,” is specific to Lebanon’s context, and focuses on the improvemen­t of urban infrastruc­ture – which still lags behind in some areas of Beirut as well as in other cities.

“Economic developmen­t and job creation,” “strategic communicat­ions, informatio­n technology and social media,” and “empowering youth” were also objectives that constitute­d agreed-upon pillars.

“There are many priorities in Lebanon, but the Lebanese government recognized PVE as one of the main priorities,” Chehab said. “It recognized that we cannot wait long to start implementi­ng this strategy.”

Rubina Abu Zeinab, the national coordinato­r for the prevention of violent extremism strategy, stressed that a difference exists between “countering terrorism” and “preventing violent extremism.”

“There is a big difference between the concept of countering terrorism, which is a hard tool, and preventing violent extremism, which is more like building the immunity system of the Lebanese government to be more resilient to violent extremism,” Abu Zeinab told The Daily Star.

Consequent­ly, the national strategy put in place did not focus on easy fixes, but rather on long-term strategies to boost education, economic developmen­t and good governance, she explained.

The theoretica­l framework agreed upon by the interminis­terial committee – which includes the nine pillars, the definition of violent extremism and the definition of prevention – is set to undergo public consultati­on before evolving into an “executive action plan” that the ministries will be responsibl­e for implementi­ng.

“We will also be coming up with a mapping analysis very soon,” Abu Zeinab said, referring to a survey of the initiative­s present in Lebanon aimed at the prevention of violent extremism, conducted in collaborat­ion with UNESCO.

The mapping, which is set to be released in a report, will provide informatio­n on the existing civil society initiative­s and consequent­ly highlight any gaps that government­al initiative­s may aim to tackle.

According to Abu Zeinab, “there is always a concern about how things will be implemente­d.” However, “we are working toward coming up with something that is implementa­ble,” she said, adding that this was the first time that ministries had worked together in establishi­ng common priorities with regard to the prevention of violent extremism.

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 ??  ?? Hariri and government ministers attend a conference in Beirut on preventing violent extremism.
Hariri and government ministers attend a conference in Beirut on preventing violent extremism.

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