High-Level Side Event During African Regional Conference On Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) Conference

Remarks by Mr. Aeneas Chapinga Chuma, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia (a.i)

H.E. Eugene Wamalwa, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution & ASALs, Republic of Kenya

H.E. Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary, IGAD

H.E. Stefano A. Dejak, the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Kenya

Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under Secretary General, United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism (UNOCT)

Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, UN RC, Kenya, Welcome Remarks

Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists and Colleagues, (Shimels/Mustafa)

It is my pleasure to participate in this high-level side event on preventing violent extremism (PVE) conference, organized in collaboration with the Governments of Ethiopia and Kenya, the European Union and the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism.

The objective of the event is to ‘show case the innovative approaches of Ethiopia and Kenya’ cross-border programme at devolved levels to prevent radicalization and violent extremism and conflict’. I wish to recall the historic moment when Ethiopia and Kenya signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cross-border collaboration in 2015. The noble aim was to transform the economically and culturally linked border region of the two countries, into prosperous and peaceful area with resilient communities.

Since, the two countries have recorded significant progress on operationalizing this innovative programme approach: The Governments of Ethiopia and Kenya signed a Framework Agreement on the cross-border integrated programme in 2017; a cross-border project with a focus on ‘conflict prevention and peace building’ in Borana, Dawa and Marsabit region was launched in 2018; and the implementation of ‘Support for Effective Cooperation and Coordination of Cross Border Initiative’ was initiated also in 2018.

Advancing integrated, area-based and transformative initiative as such is a monumental task and can be at times, a daunting process. What is utterly important here is: the unflinching political will expressed by Governments, refreshing partnership commitment offered by development actors, including European Union and IGAD, and the kind of agility demonstrated by the UN Country Teams to undertake the cross-border programming.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you are well-aware that the cross-border programme approach is an un-conventional one – that it squarely aims to jointly address violent conflict and bring sustainable peace in the region, beyond cross-border areas of countries, as a ripple or multiplier effect. In this sense, I believe that the programme will certainly contribute to prevent violent extremism in the Horn of Africa. 

Early in this decade, violent extremism in many parts of Africa, had set in motion a dramatic reversal of hard-won development gains and threatened prospects of sustainable development for decades to come. As an illustration, between 2011 to early 2016, over 33,000 people in Africa lost their lives to violent extremism. The continent continues to face a unique vulnerability to violent extremism that is shaped by underdevelopment and incomplete peacebuilding and state-building in key regions. Challenges faced by Governments include around: delivering peace and stability and ensuring that the pace and benefits of economic growth keep up with the expansion of the most youthful population in the world.

However, the winds of positive change are blowing in the Horn of Africa: After decades of hostility and rivalry, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement, and later Somali and Djibouti joined the force, and thereby brought hope for a long-term peace in the region. Investment in infrastructure such as roads and ports as well as agriculture has transformed some of the economies of the countries in the Horn of Africa into the fastest growing in Africa, making the region more attractive from a strategic military, maritime, and trade perspectives.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The political reforms and peace-agreements signed between the various governments of the Horn of Africa are significant milestone in the right direction to bring sustainable peace and security in the region. The policy shifts will also create a conducive environment for economic cooperation and integration in the region. I am hopeful that the most able leaderships that we have today in the region and the new policy direction will certainly lead us to make the violent extremism a history – a story of yester-years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is not that there are no challenges anymore. Internal ethnic division in countries and strife in the region as well as external stresses – such as the influence of competing global and regional powers – may complicate many transitions. The regional and global partnership need to deal with such issues, not only with best of intentions, rather with a great perseverance, sharing knowledge and technical solutions. 

Preventing violent extremism is about paying closer attention to the root causes and drivers of issues. Studies show that conflict and poverty are inextricably intertwined; exacerbated by ethnic and religious tensions; high level of illiteracy; and competition of scare natural resources. Other factors that deteriorates conflict situation are: issues around land access and ownership; transnational criminal activities; inadequate policing and state security; the collapse of traditional governance systems; and wider geo-political interests.

I believe, as also attested by the Sustainable Development Agenda, resolving conflict and thereby preventing violent extremism, is about reaching the furthest behind first. For example: 56 per cent of households in Borana and Dawa pastrolist households in southern Ethiopia are considered to be dynamically poor, which refers to be in a condition of being in a poverty trap. Likewise, in Marsabit of Kenya, the poverty level stands at 83 per cent, with women in both sides of the border bearing the heaviest burden of poverty.

The cross-border initiative aims to transform just that: establish cooperation and trust between the communities towards mitigating and managing violent conflicts; and support community to become prosperous, healthy, peaceful and resilient – the community that utilize resources in a sustainable, equitable and effective manner. The Resident Coordinator Offices in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have drafted a fresh concept for further expanding cross-border programming in the Horn of Africa region. I am keen to operationalize it.

The cross-border strategy should help us prevent violent conflicts before they erupt into full-fledged crises. Interventions alike should be catalytic and focus on making real and permanent changes in lives of most marginalized in a positive manner. I am glad that I am part of this event today; and I wish to assure you that the UN Country Team in Ethiopia stands ready to support the Governments, the IGAD and other partners to advance the cross-border cooperation beyond Ethiopia and Kenya – rather in the Horn of Africa region.

Thank You.

UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Development Programme