A key objective for the Central Asia Security Forum is to promote the development of strategies aimed at preventing violent extremism in Central Asia that are evidence-based, proportional, and avoid a negative impact on economic opportunities, development, and human rights, or that risk promoting violent opposition.
Central Asia Security Forum
The rise of radicalized Islam is viewed as one of the main threats to the stability of Central Asia. Since the early 2000’s, state policies across the region focused on the dangers to stability posed by what are classified as “extralegal Islamic groups”. In the Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, between 14 and 24 groups are designated illegal by judicial order. Since 2014, recruitment into violent extremist groups has increased apace with the conflict in Syria. Recent figures estimate between 4000 to 7000 volunteers from Central Asia are engaged as foreign fighters principally with Al Nusra and ISIL, with over 2,500 arriving in 2014-2015 alone. These numbers represent approximately 17% of the total number of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, a figure three times higher than the percentage Central Asians represent of the global ummah (approximately 5%).
Assessments of the danger posed by returning foreign fighters vary. Some analysts argue that most foreign fighters from Central Asia are on a “one-way trip” to martyrdom or support for the Caliphate and therefore do not represent a significant threat of return. Others contend that absolute numbers of returnees are less important than the impact those that do will have in channeling disaffection in Central Asia into more violent forms of protest and resistance.
The danger posed by radical and violent Islamic groups is being addressed in the region through a number of national, bilateral, and multilateral mechanisms. The countries of the region belong to multiple regional organizations including CSTO, SCO, OSCE and the CIS. The Anti-Terrorist Centre of the CIS plays an important role in coordination, capacity building, and training for the Central Asian states, and ensures Russia’s leading role on these issues in the region. In recent years, the United Nations, acting through the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, has worked with Central Asian countries to implement a joint Action Plan adopted in November 2011 under the United Nations Global Counterterrorism Strategy. More recently, the high-level political and security dialogue between the EU and Central Asian states has engaged the EU more directly in support of Central Asian efforts. The United Nations Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) Action Plan, adopted by the UN General Assembly in February 2016 has brought the United Nations Development Programme into addressing PVE through development lenses. Central Asia is also a recipient of direct bilateral counter-terrorism and security assistance from the United States, and other countries.
Several significant events have been held in last two years within the region focused on assessment, capacity building, and response. However, at present, and despite the commitment of regional countries to a joint Action Plan for the region, individual countries have yet to adopt national PVE/CVE strategies.
The session will systematize the drivers and assess the direct risk and threat posed by online recruitment and/or incitement to mobilization/violence through Internet content generated in Central Asia, or abroad. The Internet is frequently cited as a major driver of radicalization in the region. However, few assessments contextualize or rank its importance relative to other factors. Consequently, an objective of the symposium is to systematize and assess the relative importance of Internet-enabled radicalization and violent extremism in the region.
The session will aim at identifying knowledge and data gaps. The existing evidence linking the Internet to recruitment and/or incitement to violence is weak. For example, the total number of foreign fighters and or individuals radicalized through the Internet does not exist in the public domain. More importantly, for a response perspective, is the absence of studies quantifying the presence of violent extremist content online, and a qualitative assessment of interaction with violent extremist content, or its impact. In the absence of this evidence, it’s difficult to judge the intent or effectiveness of any programming, or policies designed to counter or mitigate the impact of Internet-based content or recruiting.
Presenters will share best practices and approaches for combating and mitigating the impact and effectiveness of online propaganda and recruitment. (Violent extremists exploit the Internet for recruitment). An objective of the symposium is to be an active exchange of experience between practitioners engaged in CVE and PVE from Europe, North America, the Russian Federation and Central Asia; operators of the social media platforms including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Odnoklassniki and VK; and other private-sector companies involved in tracking and investigating online VE use of the Internet (GroupIB, SecDev, Kasperski, DialogNauka). The symposium will facilitate a dialogue between a select group of experts and practitioners (actively engaged on these issues operationally) exchanging practical lessons-learned and approaches.
The discussion will focus on Identifying programmatic entry point/policy gaps. Despite a commitment of regional countries to pursue a joint Action Plan, individual countries have yet to adopt national PVE strategies. An important objective of the meeting is to identify specific programmatic entry points and policy gaps pertaining to addressing on-line recruitment and violent extremist use of the Internet, consistent with international norms including the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (as per UN resolutions).
The Symposium aims to achieve the following objectives:
- To facilitate the development of integrated strategies to PVE/CVE/CT that are evidence-based, proportional, and avoid a heavy-handed security response that can contribute to a negative impact on economic development and human rights, or that risk exacerbating violent opposition to government policy.
- Allow national and expert audience to build person to person, institution to institution relationships, specifically between peer groups, and between the public and private sector in order to establish a joint approach supportive of the intended outcomes of a PVE/CVE/CT strategy.
- Foster international cooperation and trust around the UN PVE/CVE/CT mandate, consistent with international norms and conventions including the United Nations Universal declaration of human rights.