Ministers and officials from 24 countries, the European Union and the United Nations, as well as representatives from civil society and the private sector, met in Sydney, Australia, for the ministerial component of a two-day Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism. The Summit built on work commenced at the February 2015 White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism (CVE), and furthered at the April 2015 Singapore East Asia Summit Symposium. The Sydney Summit aimed to improve regional coordination and build the capacity of governments, civil society and local communities to challenge violent extremism in order to prevent terrorism.
In addition to exchanging models of good practice and building networks, the Summit delivered practical training and capacity building workshops for both government and civil society participants. These included working with social media, building community‑led rehabilitation and early intervention programs, and developing inclusive national strategies to counter violent extremism.
Consistent with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2178 (2014) to enhance cooperation and support each other’s efforts to counter violent extremism, Ministers agreed to ongoing actions to build international cooperation and collaboration ahead of a leaders level CVE meeting planned for the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015.
In their discussions, participant countries addressed and reinforced their commitment to five key themes
Regional and international cooperation
- noted the significant and enduring threat posed by the recruitment of foreign fighters by terrorist organisations and the evolving threat of domestic radicalisation to violence of vulnerable individuals, particularly young people
- underlined that there is no more pressing matter of national and regional security than reducing the threat of terrorism, and committed to counter all forms of terrorism and violent extremism
- stressed that terrorism and violent extremism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilisation
- recognised that countering violent extremism strategies need to be holistic, from addressing the underlying conditions conducive to the growth and spread of violent extremism and building community resilience to radicalisation through education and support, to early intervention and rehabilitation programs, and implementing appropriate legal regimes and codes of conduct, consistent with ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
- underscored that responding to the threat of terrorist groups exploiting the Internet to recruit and radicalise vulnerable individuals requires action by all tiers of government, together with civil society and the private sector
- reaffirmed their commitment to working cooperatively to support each other’s efforts to counter violent extremism, including through information sharing, capacity building, coordination of efforts, and sharing lessons learned
- welcomed the efforts of global and regional organisations to facilitate capacity building and networking to assist countries to counter the threats of terrorism and violent extremism, and committed to ensure regional efforts complement work already underway by organisations including the United Nations, the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF), the Hedayah Institute, the Global Community Engagement Resilience Fund, and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ASEAN-led processes including the East Asian Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum
Research and information sharing
- committed to work with and through key bodies such as GCTF, Hedayah, the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Taskforce, and the UNSC Counter Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate to collect and disseminate local, national, regional, and global experiences in order to identify good practices that effectively address violent extremism to be considered during the next session of the General Assembly together with the Plan of Action developed by the Secretary General
- underlined the importance of understanding the reasons why people join violent extremist movements has never been more pressing, and understanding the process of radicalisation is critical to responding to all facets of terrorism and violent extremism
- noted the responsibility on governments to support and share local and regional research and expertise drawn from the public and private sectors to contribute to a greater collective understanding of the appeal of terrorist narratives and how they are driving radicalisation to violence
Strengthening the role of civil society to contribute to strategic communications
- underscored that effectively preventing the spread of violent extremism includes empowering those who are best placed to facilitate change, including youth, women, families, religious, cultural and education leaders and community groups
- acknowledged that effective strategies to counter the threat of online radicalisation require governments to act beyond legislative and law enforcement measures to engage with the community in partnership with industry to promote positive messaging and counter misleading and harmful terrorist narratives
- noted the private sector, particularly the media and technology sectors, have a range of tools and resources that can support government and civil society to build resilience to radicalisation to violence
- undertook to seek opportunities to partner with civil society and the private sector to deliver tailored counter messages, delivered by credible voices including persons formerly involved in violent extremism, and aligned with government policies to suppress violent extremist rhetoric and counter violent extremism
Supporting vulnerable communities
- recognised that development entities and the private sector make an important contribution to addressing the underlying conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism, including through providing employment opportunities, building youth vocational and technical capacities, and encouraging entrepreneurship
- noted that young members of vulnerable communities have been actively targeted by terrorist groups, agreed that a focused effort needs to be made to discourage and prevent youth from embracing violent extremism
- noted the importance of empowering families and communities through education and engagement to recognise early warning signs that someone may be radicalising to violence and how to act
Strengthening community-police relations
- underscored that positive and trusting relationships between police and the community are a foundation for assisting in the identification and diversion of vulnerable individuals from radicalisation to violence, and
- recognised that counter-terrorism operations and misinformed public debate on legislative and law enforcement responses to domestic radicalisation can be perceived negatively by some community groups, eroding police relationships with the community, and agreed that proactive and transparent communication efforts should be engaged to minimise these unintended consequences.
Ministers and heads of delegation recognised that the following Summit outcomes will support a regional approach to countering violent extremism and will inform contributions to the leaders-level meeting in the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2015:
- Establish a regional network of civil society groups to foster peer-to-peer learning and partnerships, including with the private sector, and assist with identifying and better utilising leaders and influencers across the region to reach target audiences.
- Develop a regional guide for government and civil society on effective engagement with the private sector, to facilitate closer collaboration on countering violent extremism.
- Create a regional best practice guide for the development of non-legislative, legislative and law enforcement responses to inhibit the dissemination of terrorist propaganda.
- Develop a compendium of regional counter narratives to amplify effective messages across the region.
- Invest in enhancing the role of communities to challenge terrorist propaganda, including by building the technical capability of grassroots organisations to elevate non-extremist voices that resonate with target audiences.