Conference on the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Southeast Asia
September 22-23, 2017 | Manila, Philippines
The growing influence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has created serious concern among governments in East Asia over the possibility of ISIS establishing a foothold by linking with local extremist organizations in areas affected by ethnic conflicts. Of particular concern is the radicalization of conflict-affected communities in Myanmar, Southern Thailand, and Southern Philippines.
Fellow ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia have been at the forefront of initiatives to counter and prevent extremism, as their own citizens have been targeted for recruitment by global extremist groups. While it can be argued that the drivers of violent extremism differ across individuals, communities, and regions, there are commonalities in the ideologies and narratives used by terrorist groups. The Philippine government’s initiatives to curb violent extremism have thus far been aligned with counter-insurgency strategies. While the use of force and law enforcement measures remain key strategies in countering terrorism, these are still insufficient on their own. A more sustainable, multi-level, and inclusive approach is needed to address this transnational problem, which thus necessitates the participation of civil society.
Muslim radicalization in the Philippines has evolved over the years, and is concentrated in the Bangsamoro areas. For the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), radicalization was bolstered by the belief that the Muslim sultanates of Mindanao were sovereign states, illegally annexed to the Philippine Republic when the United States declared the country’s independence in 1946. The Philippine Government has implemented peace talks with both MNLF and MILF, wherein both have accepted genuine autonomy in lieu of independence. Meanwhile, extremist groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement, Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) believe that Islam cannot flourish under a secular government, especially in Catholic-dominated Philippines. The founders of the ASG had advocated for the establishment of an Islamic State and consider the Philippine government as a neo-colonial power occupying the ancestral lands of Muslim communities.
Violent Extremism: The beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals. This includes terrorism and other forms of politically motivated and communal violence.
Radicalization: The action or process of causing someone to adopt radical positions on political or social issues.
The abovementioned extremist groups are said to have established links with international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyyah. Post 9/11, Al Qaeda has been replaced by ISIS in the Middle East and North Africa. In Butig, Lanao del Norte, members of the Maute Group have raised the ISIS flag over the old town hall and have engaged the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a continuing firefight, with casualties on both sides. Earlier, the Abu Sayyaf had announced its allegiance to ISIS. Whether the links of these local extremist groups with the said international terrorist group are real or rhetorical remain to be seen.
Moreover, the use of the Internet and social media to recruit and radicalize individuals to violence means that conventional approaches are insufficient to identify and disrupt all terrorist plots. Hence, in this space, it is important to understand more clearly the role of the Internet as a recruitment tool for extremism and radicalization and craft effective tools in response.
Rationale and Objectives
The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) proposes to jointly organize a conference to address the challenges of the expanding influence of violent extremism in Southeast Asia. The proposed initiative has the support of the Presidential Peace Adviser and National Security Adviser. It is in line with the Philippine Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017 as it will cover one of the six thematic priorities of the Philippine chairmanship, which is Peace and Stability in the Region. The newly organized ASEAN Society-Philippines, spearheaded by former Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Albert, will be a co-organizer.
Building upon on past initiatives of PCID such as the 2015 conference on radicalization in South East Asia co-organized with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS),the University of the Philippines and the Mindanao State University, the conference aims:
- To encourage the development of appropriate policies and standards, and adoption of good policies for action plans at national and regional levels.
- To prevent violent extremism in ASEAN member states by strengthening local actors, particularly the women and the youth.
- To engage local communities as critical partners in rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives, and monitoring and peace-building efforts;
- To address the specific societal dynamics and drivers of radicalization to violence, and discuss means to counter ideology, messaging and recruitment methods that extremist groups and propagandists employ to attract new recruits and incite violence;
- To identify sustainable and proactive efforts for preventing support for violent extremism in areas where there is an emerging threat; and
- To promote dialogue and discourse among political leaders, government officials, security analysts, peace advocates, civil society, academe, religious leaders, business leaders, and media, with particular attention to women and youth. This should include representatives of ASEAN member states and partners from Mindanao’s conflict-affected communities.
The conference is envisioned to elicit perspectives on the challenges posed by the evolving Islamic radicalization, and the extent of influence of violent extremist groups in the Philippines and ASEAN. Perspectives provide a contextual framework for ensuing assessment of identified challenges and other factors that strengthen or weaken the communities’ resiliency. It underscores the need for establishing national action plans for member states, as well as a regional Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) plan for ASEAN, to address radicalization of Muslims, particularly women and youth.
The conference will enable exchanges of best practices and networking for organizations that focus on PVE and CVE (Countering Violent Extremism), allowing these organizations to adapt initiatives that have worked, with the aim of engaging local actors and strengthening their communities’ resiliency.
Format and Participation
The Conference will be divided in two plenaries. The first plenary will provide a regional situational analysis where security experts and resource persons will discuss issues on conflict monitoring, peace-building, counter-terrorism, and Southeast Asian foreign policy, as well as the link between ethnic conflict in non-state armed groups against state and radicalization in the region.
The second plenary will discuss best practices; identified during international conferences such as the recently concluded East Asia Symposium can also be discussed. Civil society networks such as Southeast Asian Network of Civil Society Organizations Working Together Against Violent Extremism (SEAN-CSO) and the Women’s Alliance for Security and Leadership (WASL), chaired by Canadian Senator Mobina Joffer, will be invited to share experiences and expand the network of CSOs working on peace-building and the prevention of violent extremism.
Each of the Conference’s thematic sessions during the plenary will be followed by interventions from the floor, which will provide participants and resource persons the opportunity to exchange views.
Breakout workshops by sector will take place after each plenary to further discuss the issues raised as well as produce recommendations. The Conference will also seek to identify areas for country and regional action to support vulnerable communities in tackling the challenges of violent extremism and radicalization. A network of conference participants will be established to support post-conference advocacy and knowledge sharing.
Around 200 participants will be invited, including political leaders, government officials, security analysts, peace advocates, civil society, academe, religious leaders, business leaders, and media, with particular attention to women and youth. At least fifty will be representatives of ASEAN countries and partners, and fifty from Mindanao’s conflict affected communities.
From the proceedings of the Conference, PCID will prepare the recommended policy and program options, which will be published as post-conference briefs for circulation to legislators, policy-makers, academe, and affected stakeholders. The knowledge shared at the Conference will be taken forward thereafter through an integrated framework for action, which will act also as a learning lab for more effective policy responses and collective initiatives in support of peace and conflict transformation.
ABOUT THE PROPONENT ORGANIZATIONS
About Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy
The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to the study of Islamic and democratic political thought and the search for peace, democracy, and development in Muslim communities. First established as a council in 2002, PCID was formed amid global and domestic challenges confronting Islam and Muslims. The PCID seeks to articulate the voice of the Bangsamoro and Muslims in the Philippines, enabling their meaningful participation in both the global discourse on Islam and democracy and the struggle for self-determination and development. Through the years, PCID has become an important platform for the articulation of the Moro voices through its various publications and forums, focusing on the issues of peace and development, Islam and democracy, human rights, and genuine autonomy, among others. PCID has been working with Muslim religious leaders since 2004 on peaceful resolution of conflict and human rights advocacy. Currently, PCID is working on community-based ideas to counter violent extremism. It is piloting the Action for Madrasah-based Advocacies and Learnings (AMAL) project, which seeks to enable the madrasah to act as a center for community outreach for peace building, democracy, human rights promotion, and other advocacies.
About ASEAN Society Philippines
ASEAN Society Philippines is a private sector led civil society organization spearheaded by regional experts and distinguished luminaries in various fields including diplomacy, and groups engaged in the politico-security, economic, and socio-cultural facets of the ASEAN Community.
Leading the ASEAN Society Philippines is former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos, who serves as the organization’s Emeritus Chairman. He is joined by Delia Domingo-Albert, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Edgardo J. Angara, former senator and president of the University of the Philippines; Dr. Federico M. Macaranas, Chairman of the Asian Institute of Management’s Economics Department and former Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs and Chair of the APEC SOM 1996; Amina Rasul-Bernardo, former Presidential Adviser on Youth Affairs; Junie del Mundo, Chief Executive of EON The Stakeholder Relations Group; and Amb. Elizabeth Buensuceso, Philippine Representative to ASEAN.
Through a wide variety of initiatives, the ASEAN Society Philippines aims to translate the work of ASEAN into people-to-people programs that will enable citizens of member countries to acquire greater appreciation of the work of ASEAN in uplifting the region in the global stage.