Club de Madrid organizes a Workshop in Nigeria on effective alternative narrative against violent extremism

The National Workshop, funded by European Commission DG DEVCO, will include case studies, thematic roundtables and focused attention on steps towards improving existing practices and policies on delivering alternative narratives to challenge violent extremism. Participants will specifically address issues of effective messaging; building trust and sustainable partnership among interlocutors; role of civil society in community resilience; and influence of traditional and social media in radicalization and recruitment, in order to reframe the narrative debate through the development of a multi-stakeholder approach on effective communication strategies, messaging and transformative narratives against violent extremism.

The Forum will be lead by Club de Madrid Member Olusegun Obasanjo (President of Nigeria 1976-1979, 1999-2007) in collaboration with the National Security Adviser to the President (ONSA), Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno, the Partnership Against Violent Extremism (PAVE), and participants will include key national interlocutors, from policy-makers to media actors, regional organizations, civil society representatives and grassroots practitioners.

The effectiveness of the recruitment strategies of extremists groups showcases their deep understanding of communication, marketing and social media tools. Extremist recruitment efforts resonate most strongly in fragile communities and conflict areas where governance is weak and economic opportunity is lacking. Promises of religious salvation, political gain, or simple camaraderie are used by violent extremist groups to exploit the desperation of marginalized or impoverished youth. A self-declared ally of the Islamic State, the Boko Haram terrorist group has been responsible for immense damage and suffering in Nigeria and surrounding countries, including Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. Since 2009, the group has killed 20,000 people and displaced over 2 million.

Extremist groups make use of a variety of online platforms, including social media, to exploit and coerce vulnerable individuals. There is a pressing need for better understanding of how messages can be countered and the appropriate tools to carry it out. Since 2016, the federal government of Nigeria has made important efforts in developing a National Policy Framework and Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism. This framework seeks to guide the development of a comprehensive national approach to tackle violent extremism. On the first day, the ONSA will present the current challenges and opportunity for advancing this P/CVE framework and action plan for Nigeria. 

Thereafter, a Civil Society Working Group will be organized to discuss the role of civil society in Nigeria, their challenges and what needs to be done in order to strengthen civil society engagement in the implementation of the National Action Plan on P/CVE. The conclusions will then be presented to the key governmental and non-governmental actors in an advocacy effort to support national policy frameworks on this front. The outcomes of the Workshop will ultimately be incorporated in a final recommendations report – main outcome of the project – on delivering alternative narratives to counter violent extremism. 

The Club de Madrid (CdM) is implementing its project Preventing Violent Extremism: Leaders Telling a Different Story (2016-2017). One of the main outcomes of the project will be a set of evidence-based recommendations on how to create positive messaging and which tools and strategies are more effective to challenge violent extremism. To that end, a first round of focus groups was held in 3 targeted countries: Nigeria, Tunisia and Lebanon. The current second phase includes national and regional consultations.

This project builds on the Club de Madrid work, since 2005, on countering and preventing violent extremism and its 2015 Policy Dialogue, Madrid+10 on PVE/CVE. One of the main outcomes from the meeting was the Global Consensus, a document summarizing a set of principles and values to fight against terrorism from a democratic perspective, respect for human rights and the assumption that military means alone are not enough to tackle the challenge of violent extremism.