The Daily Star (Lebanon)
Govt strategizes to prevent violent extremism
Lebanon launches framework to build ‘immune system’ for country
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.