Realizing a Whole-of-Society Approach to Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration in the Far North Region of Cameroon

This policy brief presents recommendations for a whole-of-society approach to the reintegration of former Boko Haram associates in Cameroon. The brief builds the Global Center’s engagement with local, national, and regional partners in Cameroon to strengthen the country’s response to terrorism in the Far North Region, a joint roundtable with the Centre for Peace, Security and Integration Studies of the University of Maroua, and other consultations. The Cameroonian case offers a window into the roles of different stakeholders in shaping and implementing efforts to reintegrate ex-associates and the challenges they face. This brief emphasizes the need to adapt to local specificities and to place communities at the heart of the process, which is particularly important in nontraditional disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration contexts such as the Lake Chad Basin, where peace agreements are absent and conflict is ongoing.

It is in this context that in 2017 we were invited to partner with Cameroon’s National School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM), the official training program for Cameroon’s public servants. Within ENAM, we established an expansive human rights-based training program for judges and prosecutors, governmental authorities, investigators, and civil society actors; a curriculum now taught to all incoming recruits as well as seasoned officers. Our legal team has since trained hundreds of Cameroonians of various sectors who are active in the country’s long-term security and governance efforts. We continue to deepen our programming in partnership with Cameroonian experts and institutions, including recently developing an anti-torture course for investigators.

Our legal team built a groundbreaking network of 180 judges, attorneys, traditional authorities, and civil administrators to address governance and security challenges facing communities impacted by Boko Haram. The insights garnered through this community-based network directly informed our draft of a new law that adequately harmonizes existing Cameroonian legal frameworks with international human rights standards which has been submitted to the President.

Building on these successes, we funded local organizations working to enhance community resilience in regions impacted by Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa. Through our subgrants program, we supported 13 grassroots organizations promoting peacebuilding and governance—from the launch of a peace radio station to a leadership development program for women who are responding to local security challenges. This work continues through our support to USAID’s multiyear programming in the country. The Global Center has unique access and influence, thanks to our privileged role serving as one of only two independent organizations in the country funded by the U.S. Department of State to support Cameroonian security efforts. This program has strengthened collaboration among governance, justice, and community actors, and significantly contributed to the country’s long-term efforts to prevent violent extremism and build sustainable peace.

The threat of violent extremism, porous borders and vast coastlines, and interconnectivity by land, sea, and air has caused Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to adopt strong governmental approaches to tackling violent extremism and terrorism within their jurisdictions. This report explores practical examples of how governments and civil society have cooperated across Southeast Asia to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals associated with violent extremism, including prisoners, detainees, and returnees. The case studies featured are examples of how governments and civil society have approached rehabilitation and reintegration across the five countries of focus, but are not intended as an assessment of the success or propriety of the actions taken nor as an embrace of the approach. Rather, they are meant to highlight discrete elements that may be informative as stakeholders consider ways to advance cooperation between governments and civil society.

Prisons around the world have seen an increase in individuals who are involved in violent extremism, presenting new challenges for authorities. In response, we work with several national prison services to develop human rights–based training programs to help staff identify violent extremist radicalization and recruitment in prisons and to support the management, rehabilitation, and reintegration of violent extremist prisoners.

This work began in 2017 in Morocco, where we trained the entirety of its prison system staff—approximately 9,000 individuals—across all prison facilities in the country. We also lead a unique program for all prison psychologists in Morocco, who can serve as critical agents in addressing the psychological risks and needs of violent extremist prisoners. Building on these successes, we have replicated the model in Indonesia, Kenya, and Trinidad and Tobago. Our program Kenya is underway to train all 30,000 prison staff around the country, delivered by Kenyan officers through a training-of-trainers framework designed to maximize institutional ownership and sustainability. In Indonesia, we implement a unique program for female prison officers managing violent extremist prisoners as well as an advanced training that has become the standard training program for prison staff posted to high security prisons. In Trinidad and Tobago, we supported the development of a national strategy to prevent violent extremism in prisons and designed and institutionalized a new curriculum for recruits.

From 21-30 June 2021, the United Nations organized the Second Counter-Terrorism Week and High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States to accompany the negotiations and adoption of the seventh review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (UN GCTS).

Outside of the Security Council, the UN GCTS review is one of the few times where counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism (PVE) discussions take center stage involving all member states. The seventh review discussions were not exempt from the dynamics of deepening global polarization, with divergent positions on issues related to the repatriation of foreign fighters and their families, the shrinking of civic space, the promotion and protection of human rights and gender considerations, and how the UN system’s architecture can support member states in realizing their counterterrorism efforts. The adoption of the seventh review resolution demonstrates a commitment to consensus, but a closer inspection reveals significant cracks in the global approach – please find our analysis of and recommendations for the UN’s counterterrorism and PVE efforts here, and some reflections on the seventh review process here.

The three-day, part in-person, part-hybrid High-Level Conference focused on countering terrorism and PVE in the age of transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence and data capture techniques. Mr. Eelco Kessels, Global Center Executive Director, spoke at the High-Level Conference during Breakout Session C: The critical roles of civil society and local actors in building partnerships for prevention. His remarks referenced recent publications from the Global Center, including the fifth iteration of the Blue Sky report and the 2020 publication on Enhancing Civil Society EngagementIn his remarks, Mr. Kessels highlighted the importance of meaningful engagement of civil society in counterterrorism and PVE efforts; the negative impacts of counterterrorism and countering the financing of terrorism measures on civil society and civic space; and the need for multilateral organizations like the United Nations to model positive engagement and push back on counterterrorism and countering the financing of terrorism efforts that restrict civic space.

The week also included 36 side events, which were organized by a broad range of stakeholders, including member states, civil society organizations, and multilateral entities. These events drew attention to topics such as the rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist prisoners and the use of new technologies and the internet both by violent extremist groups and in PVE efforts. During the Counter-Terrorism Week, the Global Center hosted an official side event in collaboration with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Switzerland. The event, Enhancing Civil Society Engagement in Multilateral Counterterrorism and Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Efforts, was held virtually and attended by 150 people globally. The event featured remarks from Ms. Vanja Skoric (European Center for Not-for-Profit Law), Mr. Matthew Simonds (CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness), Ms. Marina Kumskova (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict), and Ms. Amina Rasul (ASEAN Women for Peace Registry). The panelists reflected on their own experiences in working with multilateral organizations as members of civil society and shared obstacles, challenges, and opportunities for successful engagement between civil society and multilateral actors. Following the panel remarks, H.E. Mr. Vladimir Voronkov (Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism) and Ms. Elisa De Anda Madrazo (Vice President, Financial Action Task Force) offered their reflections on civil society engagement from the perspective of their respective multilateral institutions.

The event launched the global consultation process for a Global Center project with the same title as the event, supported by the Swiss government. A recording of the event is available below and on YouTube. An event transcript can be found here. For more information about this project, please contact Ms. Franziska Praxl-Tabuchi at

In line with the Global Center’s 2021 Annual Report launch, a brief snapshot was developed to highlight the our organizational story, presence in the sector, and the whole-of-society approach to the work we do.

Our Space. Where do we focus and operate?

Concentrate on community level injustice, inequality, and disengagement anywhere in the world with local partners to counter conditions that breed and enable violent extremism.

Means. What is our operating model?

Programming, policy analysis, and advocacy to communities, policymakers, and influencers; strong and diverse alliances and local partnerships; independence; innovation.

Success. What makes the difference to those we serve?

Credibility and trusted expertise; informed, unbiased, high quality, and customized programs; consistent on-time project delivery; optimized funding efficiency.

Roadmap: How are we moving forward?

Enhancing awareness of our work; driving more multi-sectoral engagements to improve funding; increasing global capacity and programming; identifying and accelerating new partnerships.

Outcomes: What results do we expect from our work?

Communities that are more resilient to polarization and radicalization to violent extremism; stronger trust-based government and community collaboration that advances human rights and protects populations.

In addition to causing the immense suffering of the people of Ukraine, the Russian invasion has significant implications for the international normative and financial system and for peace, security, finance, and counterterrorism efforts. From the functioning of the UN Security Council to the ripple effects of sanctions and cryptocurrency to the challenges of managing the return of foreign fighters participating in the conflict – the impacts cannot be overstated. The Global Center hosted an online discussion which brought together several experts on these subjects for a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Victoria Holt (Global Center Board Director and Dartmouth University) to share their perspectives and reflections.

Dr. Kacper Rekawek (Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo) reflected on the impacts of the conflict and the flow of foreign fighters to Ukraine. Mr. Colin Clarke (Soufan Center) built on Dr. Rekawek’s reflections and emphasized that governments need to be proactive in handling the fallout and challenges related to the return of these individuals by starting to prepare now. Mr. Richard Gowan (Crisis Group) discussed the impacts of the conflict on the multilateral system, particularly the United Nations. Finally, Ms. Liat Shetret (Solidus Labs) reflected on the role that cryptocurrency and cryptoassets play in this conflict and explained how the use of cryptocurrency is impacted by sanctions.

In their final reflections, the panelists offered recommendations and highlighted opportunities and challenges for the international community, including encouraging the United Nations to leverage its advantages in the non-military, non-security aspects of this conflict to help address its unintended consequences.

This year’s 76th Session of the UN General Assembly aligned with the twenty-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, giving heightened significance to the annual multilateral discussions. The Global Center team produced a range of commentaries, resources, and analyses that speak to counterterrorism policy over the last two decades and prospective future of counterterrorism.

In an article in The Hill, Executive Director Eelco Kessels reflects on the twenty years since September 11th to underscore the urgency of restoring human rights and centering civil society in global security efforts.

In a Just Security article, Global Center staff reflect on the seventh review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and progress on issues within the United Nations since 2001. And in an IPI Global Observatory article, Legal Analyst Annabelle Bonnefont highlights the need for more meaningful engagement with civil society by the UN as part of its counterterrorism efforts.

Executive Director Kessels delivered remarks as part of the Special meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee commemorating the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) and the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Finally, the Global Center spotlighted these pieces, additional resources, and reflections from several Advisory Council members on our social media channels using #20YearsofCT.

A growing number of countries want to improve their assessment of violent extremism in prisons. This involves understanding whether prisoners are likely to commit future violent extremist offenses and how this can be prevented. It also involves identifying and managing prisoners vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism. Establishing frameworks to assess violent extremism poses challenges that may not be apparent to prison services. This brief provides a critical review of the choices available to prison services in their use of assessment, examining the processes of conceptualizing, developing, implementing, and evaluating these frameworks. It aims to ensure that these are appropriate, rights compliant, and sustainable in prisons.

The Global Center hosted a series of interactive, informal roundtable discussions on substantive issues and new developments relating to violent extremism, terrorism, and counterterrorism with guest speakers representing the United Nations, national governments, civil society, and the private sector. These roundtables are part of the Global Center’s work on promoting and protecting human rights, safeguarding civic space, and advancing rule-of-law based approaches to countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism in line with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Topics included national action plans, use of financial investigations in countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) and its implications for human rights, and the development of screening, prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration frameworks.

21 May 2021: A Conversation with Civil Society on The Seventh Review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy
The Global Center, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, brought together UN member state and civil society representatives to discuss priority issues in the Seventh Review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. These include oversight and accountability of UN and member state efforts to implement the Strategy, the UN’s engagement with civil society throughout the Strategy review process, and the applicability of new terminology to describe evolving terrorism threats, including those identified in the Secretary General’s report on Activities of the UN system in implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Opening remarks were delivered by Ms. Ní Aoláin and Ms. Melissa Lefas, Global Center’s Chief of Strategy. Closing remarks were delivered by H.E. Mr. Agustín Santos Maraver, Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN.

29 April 2021: Situating UN Counterterrorism and PVE efforts within the Organization’s Reforms and the Prevention Agenda
The Global Center’s ninth roundtable explored the extent to which UN counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism efforts are Participants discussed how these efforts can best support prevention and sustainable peace, while examining the potential risks of a more expansive counterterrorism agenda at the country level. Further discussion points included the benefits of locally driven and long-term, sustained civil society engagement and the importance of the UN counterterrorism architecture promoting and protecting human rights in all its efforts.
Featured speakers: Ms. Valerie Julliand (UN Resident Coordinator, Indonesia), Ms. Hanaa Singer (UN Resident Coordinator, Sri Lanka), Mr. Kurtmolla Abdulganiyev (UN Peace and Development Advisor, Kyrgyzstan), Ms. Nika Saeedi (UNDP), Mr. Fadi Abi Allam (Permanent Peace Movement Lebanon), Mr. Keneshbek Sainazarov (Search for Common Ground Central Asia)

2 December 2020: Launch of the 2020 Global Terrorism Index
For its eight roundtable event, the Global Center co-hosted the launch of the 2020 Global Terrorism Index in collaboration with the Institute for Economics and Peace, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and the RESOLVE Network in collaboration with the Global Research Network of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). Among its key findings, the index notes a decline in deaths from terrorism for the fifth consecutive year, a 250% increase in right-wing terrorism in the last five years, a geographic shift for ISIL’s “center of gravity,” and the decrease of deaths caused by ISIL to below 1,000 for the first time since the group’s inception. Discussions also addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the link between conflict and terrorism, among others. The event can be viewed here.
Featured speakers: Mr. Steve Killelea (Institute for Economics and Peace), Assistant Secretary-General Michele Coninsx (CTED), Mr. Alastair Reed (United States Institute of Peace and RESOLVE Network)

20 August 2020: Engaging Civil Society in Rehabilitation and Reintegration Efforts in Prisons
The Global Center and the government of the Republic of Indonesia, president of the Security Council in August 2020, hosted the seventh event in its monthly roundtable series to discuss civil society engagement in prison-based rehabilitation and reintegration efforts. During the discussion, participants addressed the role of civil society and government cooperation in prisons, including requirements for meaningful engagement of civil society in rehabilitation and reintegration efforts. Relevant prerequisites mentioned include structural and legal frameworks for engagement, sustained multi-year funded programs, and systematic and trust-building cooperation between governments, public sector, and civil society. Participants recognized the reputational and security risks for both governments and civil society organizations when working together, as well as the important gains that such cooperation can have on positive reintegration outcomes.
Featured speakers: Ms. Siti Darojatul Aliah (Society Against Radicalism and Violent Extremism), Mr. Christopher Dean (Identify Psychological Services, Ltd.), Dr. Siobhan O’Neil (United Nations University), Mr. Maximilian Ruf (Violence Prevention Network)

20 May 2020: Terrorism, Mass Surveillance, and Emerging Technologies
This virtual event addressed the use of surveillance mechanisms and the collection of personal data in counterterrorism investigations. The discussion drew attention to the broad abuses in mass surveillance technology and the challenges of ensuring human rights-compliant practices, emphasizing the roles that the United Nations, the private sector, and civil society can play. Panelists commented on the need for visible leadership in this area and further efforts to understand the broader implications of mass data collection practices for counterterrorism purposes outside of the national security space.
Featured speakers: Dr. Ilia Siatitsa (Privacy International), Mr. Alexander Moorehead (OHCHR), Mr. Javed Ali (former U.S. National Security Council), and Dr. Eleonore Pauwels (Global Center)

2 April 2020: Developing and Implementing Screening, Prosecution, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Strategies
The Global Center hosted its first virtual roundtable event in the series to discuss approaches for developing and implementing screening, prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration strategies. The discussions highlighted the need to develop context-specific approaches that account for the legal, political, sociological, and material constraints. Discussants emphasized select human rights challenges, including the need to uphold individual criminal responsibility and the presumption of innocence, the collection and use of data for screening processes, and the need to promote and protect children’s and victims’ rights and protect against gender-based violence.
Featured speakers: Prof. Issa Saibou (University of Maroua), Mr. Steven Siqueira (UNOCT), and Mr. Ulrich Garms (UNODC)

15 January 2020: The Use of Financial Investigations in CFT and its Implications for Human Rights
This event focused on the collection and use of financial data in terrorism investigations and the effects of CFT regulations on the shrinking space for civil society and human rights. Featured speakers highlighted the instrumental role financial investigations can play in disrupting the flow of illicit funds and identifying suspects, while emphasizing the applicable legal frameworks in the collection, use, and sharing of financial information. Participants challenged the perceptions that the non-profit sector is inherently at higher risk for terrorism financing and the effect these regulations have on civic space.
Featured speakers: Mr. Shaun McLeary (Global Center), Ms. Jacqueline Shire (1267 Monitoring Team), Ms. Delphine Schantz (UN CTED), and Ms. Deborah Brown (Association for Progressive Communications)

13 December 2019: Launch of the Global Terrorism Index
The Global Center and the Institute for Economics and Peace co-hosted the New York launch of the Global Terrorism Index 2019. Key trends in the report were highlighted, which include a 320% rise of violent right wing extremism reported over the last five years, the increased activity and deadliness of the Taliban attacks, and the shifting presence of the Islamic State in West Africa and the Lake Chad Basin Region. The discussion centered on the implications of the trends and data contained in the Index, including the ways in which technology has changed the anatomy of violent extremism, the use of widespread information manipulation, and the growing role of the private sector in these efforts, as well as the impact of counterterrorism strategies on women’s rights.
Featured speakers: Mr. Serge Stroobants (Institute for Economics and Peace), Ms. Letta Tayler (Human Rights Watch), and Ms. Audrey Alexander (U.S. Military Academy West Point)

18 November 2019: National and Regional Plans of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism
This event launched the roundtable series and highlighted current efforts undertaken by UN member states to prepare national and regional action plans to prevent violent extremism, which now require sustained and rigorous monitoring and evaluation. The discussions raised the important role that Resident Coordinators play in orienting the UN’s efforts to support governments in implementing these plans; the need for improved engagement at the local level, including through the creation of community-based action plans; and the importance of inviting civil society to participate in the creation of such plans from the outset.
Featured speakers: Mr. Raja Gundu (UNOCT) and Mr. Alexander Avanessov (UNDP)