Historical archive

Preventing violent extremism. Promoting development

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Fornebo, 14 March 2016

State Secretary Tore Hattrem's opening address at the UNDP Global meeting "Preventing Violent Extremism by Promoting Inclusive Development, Tolerance and Respect for Diversity".

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ladies and gentlemen,
dear friends,

Violent extremism recognises no borders, no cultures, no religions, and no ethnic groups.   

It affects us all.  

No country is immune.

ISIL’s atrocities in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and the brutal excesses of Boko Haram, the Taliban, al-Qaida and al-Shabaab demonstrate how far terrorist groups are willing to go to disrupt our societies.  

However, the occurrence of violent extremism is not evenly distributed.  

The correlation between violent conflict and violent extremism is strong.  

Out of 23 countries in conflict, 17 are also experiencing violent extremism.  

88 percent of all terrorist attacks occur in countries involved in violent conflict. 

Not all conflicts breed violent extremism, but where they do, this amplifies the negative effects on development.  

Violent extremism increases  fragility, it weakens communities, and it fuels migration.   

Almost 80 percent of killings related to violent extremism take place in just five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.  

Drivers of violent extremism

What makes people commit such acts?

We need a better understanding of the root causes of violent extremism.

There is a broad array of push and pull factors responsible for driving violent extremism. These are influenced by local, national and regional dynamics.

Poverty alone is not the sole cause of violent extremism.

Nevertheless, economic, social or political marginalisation is often an important element in the process of radicalisation.

Violent extremists exploit fragile states and areas with limited or no government control.

Weak rule of law, lack of accountability and little respect for human rights are important push factors for recruitment.

And the threat is evolving.

Extremists are finding new ways to carry out their attacks, spread their propaganda, finance their activities, and recruit people to their ranks.

Recent studies of the motivations of foreign terrorist fighters show that ideology is less of a motivation today than it was in the 1980s and 90s.

More often, group dynamics and a sense of belonging and security appear to be strong motivational factors. 

Foreign terrorist fighters

The unprecedented number of foreign terrorist fighters travelling to areas of conflict and instability is of particular concern.

30 000 people have travelled from their home countries to join violent extremist groups, most of them in Syria and Iraq.

Not only are they wreaking further havoc on already fragile countries and areas.

They also pose a threat when they return to their home countries or travel to other areas of instability.

The security development nexus

The international community must adapt to the changing landscape of violent extremism.

Without security, we will not achieve sustained development.

And without development, the extremists will continue to be able to expand their bases and recruit new terrorists. 

The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals reflect this, especially goal 16 and its promotion of just, peaceful, and inclusive societies.

Last month, the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee changed the definition of foreign aid to include spending on preventing and countering violent extremism.

However, we must be careful not to blur the line between development and security.

We need respond to violent extremist acts with justice and law enforcement.

And we must be vigilant in ensuring that our efforts to address violent extremism respect the rule of law. They must be in accordance with our international obligations.

Certain rights are non-derogable even in times of public emergency.

However, security measures alone cannot defeat violent extremism.

It must be prevented.

We must reduce the appeal of extremist organisations, and we need better measures to stop recruitment.

As we redouble our efforts to address the root causes of violent extremism, development actors will have to play an important role. 

The role of the UN and development agencies

We need the UN to show global leadership.

This is why the UN Plan of Action for Preventing Violent Extremism is timely and much needed.

The plan builds on the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in 2006.

It highlights two important parts of the strategy: addressing the conditions conducive to terrorism and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law.

It underscores the importance of prevention and working to re-establish the social contract between state and people.

UNDP and the development agencies have a key role to play in this context. A number of topics alluded to in the Plan of Action are already within the mandate of UNDP.

SDG 16 has provided us with an excellent framework to address the root causes of violent extremism.

We need a UN that is fit for purpose and adequately equipped to provide the strong and high-level leadership needed to coordinate efforts to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism.

Narrow focus

We need a comprehensive approach to address the conditions conducive to violent extremism.

We must address both the push and pull factors.

But, while taking a broad approach, we must at the same time stay focused.

Our interventions need to be PVE specific. They must address the heart of the matter, not only be PVE relevant.

The last thing we should do is to apply a preventing violent extremism lens to everything we do.  

The role of young people, the gender dimension, and civil society

Nobody can tackle the issues of preventing violent extremism alone.

In order to succeed, we must form new partnerships, and learn from local experience.

There is a strong focus on how young people are recruited to violent extremism.

However, young people should not only be seen as part of the problem.

They also have to be part of the solution - both by preventing violent extremism among their peers and by providing important input to policy-makers.

This was the main message from the conference Youth Against Violent Extremism held in Oslo last year.

At the conference, a European network of young people working against violent extremism was launched.

Prime Minister Cameron has taken the initiative to expand the network to the Commonwealth. We hope the network will be further expanded to include the regions of the world most affected by violent extremism.

At the conference in Oslo, an initiative was taken to launch a global alliance of women’s organisations working against violent extremism.

We must better understand the gender dynamics of violent extremism - the different roles young women and men play in radicalisation, as actors in countering violent extremism and as victims of violence.

A gender perspective should be included in all our efforts to effectively prevent and counter the threat.    


When we stand together – regardless of nationality, religion and ethnicity – our efforts will be powerful and effective.

Respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression are fundamental values. They must be upheld if we are to successfully counter radicalisation and violent extremism.

That’s why our efforts to prevent and combat terrorism must be carefully balanced against our fundamental values and international human rights obligations.

We will not allow the extremists with their destructive agenda to change our way of life.

We are pleased that UNDP’s  Oslo Governance Centre is helping to place prevention of violent extremism and inclusive development higher on the global agenda.

I look forward to the discussions on this important topic during the coming days.

Thank you.