Ensuring a Voice for Civil Society at the United Nations on Countering Terrorism

Among other efforts, the Global Center is currently leading a global process to engage civil society around the work of the United Nations on countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism, with the goal of establishing a mechanism by which civil society can advocate, inform, and hold states accountable on counterterrorism.

Separately, on 9 March, 2023, the Global Center organized a high-level event at the UN Headquarters to inform the negotiations on the future of UN counterterrorism efforts. An all-women civil society panel briefed member states and UN entities on the importance of inclusive, human rights-based approaches to counterterrorism, which need to account for the negative impacts on civic space, humanitarian action, and human rights defenders.

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 Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF)’s Gender and Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) Policy Toolkit was developed under the leadership of the GCTF CVE Working Group Co-Chairs, the governments of Australia and Indonesia, and implemented by the Global Center with support from Professor Jacqui True and a twelve-person Expert Project Advisory Committee. The Gender and P/CVE Policy Toolkit was developed to support the implementation of the Good Practices on Women and Countering Violent Extremism (2015) and the Addendum to the Good Practices on Women and Countering Violent Extremism, with a Focus on Mainstreaming Gender (2019) by providing practitioners and policymakers with relevant frameworks, good practices, and resources for designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating gender-responsive P/CVE policies and programs.

The Toolkit is based on the premise that mainstreaming gender is about ensuring inclusive, equitable participation and leadership of people of diverse gender and intersecting identities, while also recognizing the diversity within a group of individuals that identifies similarly. It is about accounting for the experiences, needs, and challenges of individuals and recognizing gender differences and inequalities, as well as intersecting factors, including socioeconomic, age, disability, ethnic, and cultural identities.

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.

The Global Center is an implementing partner of the Strong Cities Network, which facilitates collaboration between municipal governments and civic leaders on violence prevention initiatives. Launched in 2015 at the UN General Assembly to mount a city-led response against hate, polarization, and extremism, the SCN now includes 140 local governments, from small municipalities to megacities.  

We are helping grow the network by engaging municipalities from Central and Southeast Asia; by joining, governments and civic leaders have access to regional dialogues and city visits that facilitate effective strategies across cities. As part of this work, we also allocate small grants for community-led initiatives in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

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.

Through our work around the world, we witness how young people are primary targets of armed groups of all stripes. This is notably true for violent extremist networks, which tend to focus their recruitment on individuals between 15 and 30 years old. This is evident among al-Shabaab and Boko Haram in Kenya and Nigeria, respectively, which capitalize on young people’s sense of economic, social, and political marginalization and despair.

Young people also play pivotal roles as leaders for positive change. Both Kenya and Nigeria have a vibrant, youth-led civil society landscape, which has proven critical to building and sustaining resilient communities. Yet civil society—particularly youth people—working in communities impacted by violent extremism often struggle to secure and sustain the funding required to maintain long-term programming and establish formal organizations. Many civic and nonprofit leaders are not connected to regional or national communities of practice, much less international networks—hindering their ability to contribute to and capitalize on peer expertise and resource-sharing.

It is in this context that we recognized the opportunity to invest in the next generation of change-makers and peacebuilders in Nigeria and Kenya. With a focus on organizations in regions with high levels of violent extremist activity, we made a multi-year commitment to twenty grassroots violence prevention initiatives, including through the provision of small grants, capacity development, and networking and mentoring opportunities. Our partnership effectively equipped youth Nigerian and Kenyan leaders with the skills, networks, and resources to address community grievances, stand up localized communities of practice, and ultimately stem the growth of extremist violence.

Our capacity development and training programs draw heavily on train-the-trainer and other peer-to-peer models to help ensure ownership by participants as well as the sustainability of these programs after our role formally ends. These workshops included an innovative peer exchange: Kenyan facilitators traveled to Nigeria and Nigerian facilitators traveled to Kenya, with both leading workshops to share their insight into combatting the strategies and methods used by al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIS, and al-Qaeda. The program presents a successful new model for grantmaking that foregrounds hyper-local community and youth engagement as requisites in preventing violent extremism. Further, the framework for pairing regions and countries on the basis of shared experiences is easily replicable.

In 2018, the Global Center marked its sixth year of partnership with the Ethiopian Financial Intelligence Center (EFIC), Federal Attorney General (AG), and other stakeholders under two phases of technical assistance programming supported by the government of Denmark.

Ethiopia has made substantial progress in strengthening its anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. The Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group recognized this progress in November 2018 when it increased Ethiopia’s compliance rating on nine Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations. Further, Ethiopia has demonstrated its ability to effectively utilize AML/CFT frameworks to detect and investigate financial crimes, as evidenced by the high profile arrests of intelligence, military, and business officials over alleged corruption and human rights abuses in November 2018.

The Global Center has been honored to support Ethiopia in these efforts and commends the EFIC, AG, and all its partners on their achievements. Key highlights from the second phase of programming (2016-2018) include:

Trainings and Capacity Development: In collaboration with the EFIC and AG, the Global Center facilitated 27 trainings for 624 participants representing 51 different institutions, organizations, and businesses in Ethiopia from 2016-2018. These efforts have contributed to the capacity development of individuals and institutions and fostered stronger relationships and information sharing pathways between institutions.

National Risk Assessment: Ethiopia finalized its national risk assessment in 2016, a critical element of compliance with the FATF standards. The findings of the national risk assessment are instrumental in advancing Ethiopia’s risk-based approach (RBA) to AML/CFT and to deepening the understanding of Ethiopia’s unique threat and vulnerability profile. Building off this process, the EFIC is leading a sectoral risk assessment for non-profit institutions and real estate as identified areas of higher risk.

Risk-Based Approach to Supervision: To advance effective compliance procedures in line with the findings of the national risk assessment, the Global Center supported the EFIC in establishing an intra-agency drafting committee to develop policy guidance on implementing a RBA to supervision. The EFIC collaborated with the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) to develop a manual on RBA supervision for financial institutions, and with other regulatory authorities to develop a similar manual for RBA supervision for designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs). To date, the EFIC and NBE have conducted joint on-site inspections of six financial institutions and are prioritizing supervisory mechanisms among identified risk-risk DNFBPs.

AML/CFT Manual and Practitioner’s Guide for Investigators and Prosecutors: In order to facilitate sustainable institutional development, a committee of local experts collaborated with the Global Center to draft an AML/CFT manual for investigators and prosecutors in an Ethiopian context. The manual provides an overview of international and domestic legal frameworks for AML/CFT, including an overview of the relevant actors, compliance obligations and processes, and sources of information that may be useful in conducting money laundering and terrorist financing investigations and prosecutions. The manual is augmented by a practitioner’s guide that offers practical guidance for conducting financial crime investigations in line with Ethiopian legal frameworks.

Three Multi-Course Training Programs on Effective Financial Crime Investigations and Prosecutions: One of the key areas highlighted in Ethiopia’s mutual evaluation and subsequent follow-up reports has been low levels of technical capacity among investigators and prosecutors pursuant to AML/CFT and financial crime investigations. Many provisions of Ethiopia’s AML/CFT law have yet to be tested in court, resulting in variances in interpretation and application. To address these challenges, the project supported three multi-training certification programs on effective financial crime investigations and prosecutions for over 110 representatives from the AG, Ethiopian Police University College (EPUC), Federal Police, Addis Ababa Police Commission, Regional Police Commissions, and Federal Investigation Bureau. Graduates of this program have been engaged by the AG in facilitating local trainings at the sub-city level, with EPUC graduates implementing an AML/CFT module into the training curriculum.

Regional Training Series on AML/CFT: In order to deepen capacities outside of the capital, a series of regional trainings were facilitated for police, investigators, and prosecutors in each of Ethiopia’s nine regions. Demonstrating its strong institutional capacity and role as experts on AML/CFT issues, trainings were led by EFIC and AG staff with the support of the Global Center consultant Mr. Biniam Shiferaw Ayalew. Trainings were conducted in Bahir Dar (Amhara region), Adama (Oromia region), Hawassa (Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ region), Jijiga (Somali region), Mekelle (Tigray region), Semera (Afar region), Gambela (Gambela region), Assosa (Benishangul region), and Hara (Harai region), as well as in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa for over 300 participants.

Asset Freezing and Non-Proliferation Legislation: Building upon prior trainings and gap analysis, the AG established an intra-agency committee to conduct research and draft new legislation related to the financing of weapons of mass destruction as well as legislation and procedures to strengthen asset freezing, confiscation, and management. Draft legislation on proliferation financing is awaiting approval from Parliament, and will address the final major technical gap identified by the FATF during Ethiopia’s mutual evaluation.

For more information about this program, please contact Ms. Tracey Durner at tdurner@globalcenter.org.

This report provides good practices for the design and implementation of effective capacity development programs on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). It first reflects on the current AML/CFT landscape, including recent changes to AML/CFT evaluation methodologies, diverging responses to money laundering and terrorist financing, unintended consequences of AML/CFT measures, and the integration of financial inclusion objectives into AML/CFT efforts. Against this background, the report outlines good practices for the development of regional and national AML/CFT capacity development programs. It explores each stage of the program cycle: inception and design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. The report concludes with reflections on how technical assistance providers can help reconcile international standards, existing policies, and practical implementation contexts.