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Strengthening Democracy Is a Better Counterterrorism Strategy

Jason S Calder and Lauren van Metre write in Foreign Policy, considering the gaps in the Summit's discussion regarding the impact on democracy building in fragile states US approach to countering terrorism and violent extremist groups. The authors argue that incorporating commitments on anti-corruption, human rights and opening civic spaces into the US counter-terrorism approach will be key to future successes in supporting democracy and countering extremism.

Transnational violent extremist groups can thrive in weak democracies, as they use the institutions and systems to exploit their citizens. In failing to address this dynamic and focussing too strongly on the paradigm of countering violent extremism, the US approach to counterterrorism has in many cases only served to strengthen systems of predatory misgovernance. Moreover, this flawed approach has the potential to further erode trust in democracy, further empowering extremists. The assumptions miss the real sources of grievances that lead people to support extremism, especially among the youth, who often lose community, status and access to economic resources through counterterrorism efforts.

The authors make three recommendations targeted towards the three core pillars of the Summit. Regarding the Strategy on Countering Corruption released by the US Administration in relation to the Summit, the authors recommend that they prioritise the identification and disruption of the privileged networks that may capitalise on flawed democratic institutions to prey on marginalised groups. In terms of the promotion of human rights, principles of democratic governance should be integrated into the management of security forces, which would help in ending security force impunity in rights violations. Finally, to aid in expanding civic space, the US should ensure that any developed national action plans include civil society in their creation, implementation and evaluation, and also centre the plans themselves more explicitly around governance, rights and peacebuilding solutions.

Read the full piece here in Foreign Policy.