Lebanon mulls national plan to counter violent extremism

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam launched talks to discuss the formation of a National Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism on September 14th. [Photo courtesy of Dalati and Nohra]

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam launched talks to discuss the formation of a National Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism on September 14th. [Photo courtesy of Dalati and Nohra]

In mid-September, Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam launched talks to discuss the creation of a National Action Plan to Prevent Violent Extremism in collaboration with the UN, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.

The September 14th event, held at the Grand Serail in Beirut, was organised by the National Initiative for the Centennial of Greater Lebanon, headed by Lebanese MP Bahia al-Hariri.

The talks seek to create a space where terrorism can be addressed, along with the social issues that drive Lebanese youth towards violent extremism.

The proposed national action plan places Lebanon "at the heart of the fight against terrorism, and is directly involved in the international efforts to put a stop to violent extremism", Salam said.

The gravity of the current situation "requires a state of public emergency and mass mobilisation so that the measures taken are successful and effective", he added.

In order to successfully confront violent extremism, he said, the foundation of the state must be reinforced by electing a president and improving the performance of public institutions so as to reconcile citizens with the state.

Strengthening the rule of law also is necessary, he said, because any miscarriage of justice provides the shortest path to extremism and terrorism, while economic and social development can help to prevent the poverty, unemployment and marginalisation that provide fertile ground for extremism.

"Finally, it is important to guide religious and educational rhetoric towards moderation so as to steer the younger generation clear of the concepts of extremism," Salam said.

The Prime Minister expressed his hope that a draft of the plan would be ready by the new year, "and that its implementation would be one of the main themes of the next president’s acceptance speech and oath".

Fostering dialogue

The proposed plan includes measures to intensify dialogue and prevent conflict, strengthen good governance, uphold human rights and the rule of law and work with communities to integrate people of all backgrounds into Lebanese society, said UN special co-ordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag.

The plan also addresses the need to empower youth, invest in education, develop skills and job opportunities and reinforce the role of women in building peaceful societies, she said.

"After being familiar with the bitter experience of violence for many years as it entered our homes, we had no other alternative but to launch this initiative with the UN in light of the spread of violence and terrorism throughout the region," Lebanese MP Bahia al-Hariri told Al-Mashareq.

Al-Hariri said the plan dovetails with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy launched in 2006 and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's 2016 Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

The recently launched talks on anti-terrorism in Lebanon are designed to put in place "a plan that is a result of a national discussion", she said. "This will lead to devising a road map and a national plan to confront violent extremism."

The talks are meant to be inclusive of all components of Lebanese society, she said, expressing her hope that there will be a broad discussion that stems from a detailed and objective diagnosis that identifies the cause of extremism.

"We aspire for Lebanese universities and their research centres to play a key role and be the authority on all future national policies, because they would know what the next generations in Lebanon want," al-Hariri said.

The role of women

Beginning talks for a national action plan to prevent violent extremism "could not have come sooner", said Committee for Women’s Political Empowerment president Hayat Arslan.

"This is a timely issue, particularly since extremism and terrorism affect the entire world and not just Lebanon and Arab countries," she told Al-Mashareq.

"It is our duty to look into the root causes of the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism in an attempt to find serious and effective solutions," she said.

"In Lebanon, we have enough poverty, discrimination and injustice to drive some people to follow the path of violence that could lead to extremism and terrorism," she added.

Arslan stressed the importance of engaging all components of society, including women and women's organisations, in talks preceding the formation of the plan.

"On this particular topic, women have a leading role in planting the seeds of peace in the face of violence, because women are peace loving and often pay a high price with their life, their health, their existence and their emotions for this cause," she said.

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