Remarks by Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske at South and Central Asia CVE Regional Conference

Remarks as prepared
by Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske
South and Central Asia CVE Regional Conference
Astana, Kazakhstan
June 29, 2015 
South and Central Asia Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Regional Conference

Prime Minister Massimov, Foreign Minister Idrissov, Prosecutor General Daulbayev, other ministers from the region, and distinguished colleagues, thank you.

It is a unique pleasure to lead the United States Delegation to the fifth in a series of regional summits on countering violent extremism. This meeting will build on the successful February White House Summit to help stem the spread of violent extremism.

On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary JehJohnson and the Department of State’s Secretary John Kerry, I would like to thank the Government of Kazakhstan and Prime Minister Massimov, in particular, for your leadership in hosting this important event.

As the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection — the largest law enforcement agency in the United States — I am charged with ensuring that violent extremists are not able to cross our borders.

It is a responsibility that I – and the more than 60,000 people that work for me – take extremely seriously.  We have been working tirelessly over the past decade to ensure that CBP has a wide range of tools at our disposal to address the current threats as they relate to the border environment.

We have worked with our foreign partners around the globe to enter into robust information exchange agreements so we can better identify known threats and keep them out of our countries., We have deployed a wide range of modern technology and programs designed to promote secure travel and trade by focusing our efforts at the border on high risk people and cargo.

And we are enhancing these efforts by expanding our pre-clearance and other programs, particularly as they relate to passenger processing. Our goal is to expedite legitimate travel while focusing our law enforcement efforts on travelers who may have a nexus to violent extremism.

Despite all of our best efforts, however, the best way to stop violent extremism is to stop our young people from being radicalized in the first place.  And that is why conferences like this one are so important—and so timely.

Violent extremism is spreading geographically.  No region … no country … no community is exempt from this threat.

Despite the tactical successes of our intelligence, military, and law enforcement efforts, and despite enhanced international and regional cooperation on these issues – including in South and Central Asia – violent extremists continue to successfully spread their toxic ideology.

The only way to meet this challenge is by empowering local communities to develop effective prevention and intervention programs.
That’s because local communities maintain the most credible and persuasive voices to challenge violent ideology.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to mitigating violent extremism.
There is no single way forward, and no one government or oneorganization has cornered the market on good ideas.

Rather, the strategy of prevention and intervention is most successful when governments and community groups work in partnership to:
•    support the free exchange of ideas;
•    provide avenues for peaceful expression;
•    understand the local drivers of radicalization to violence; and
•    work together on innovative programs that address various underlying drivers of violent extremism.

At CBP, we communicate constantly with all kinds of public and private stakeholders – from national and international groups down to the most local civic organizations. We learn a lot from them, and we value those opportunities to teach them about the importance of our mission.

For more than a decade, much of the world’s focus has been on building the capacities of and cooperation among governments  to take terrorists off the street, and we have all gotten much better at neutralizing immediate security threats.

However, as a longtime leader in law enforcement, I understand that real security encompasses more than arrests and detention, more than armored vehicles and night-vision goggles. Real security involves the very fabric of our societies – the way government interacts with the public it serves.

In that sense, less attention has been given to the “upstream” challenge – that is, preventing individuals from being drawn to and recruited by violent extremist groups in the first place.

That is precisely why last September in his remarks at the UN General Assembly,President Obama issued a call to action for government and non-government stakeholders alike to do more to address violent extremism.

President Obama also challenged the UN delegates to report on progress that their governments have made in countering violent extremism when they return to New York this coming September.

The success of these efforts depends on six key factors:

First, we must work together to better understand the precise nature of threats at the local and regional level and what leads individuals to radicalize and support terrorist groups.  This involves promoting local research, analysis, and information sharing about violent extremism in all of its forms.

We might consider working together to create a regional awareness network for countering violent extremism.  Such a network will generate more local research within the region on the drivers of violent extremism and it can facilitate training of front-line national and local level officials and civil society.

Second,we must empower civil society as core partners in the struggle against violent extremism. As a Commissioner in a federal law enforcement agency and as a former police chief, let me be frank here with my governmental colleagues in emphasizing that governments alone cannot solve this problem.  Civil society is essential to address this challenge, and they are keys to our success.

We must place a particular emphasis on women,faith leaders, young people, and even victims to develop community-wide solutions and action plans to build resiliencies to radicalization and violence.

We have seen, for instance, the powerful role that women can play in countering violent extremism.  We’ve seen women develop early warning and response networks, build relationships with law enforcement, and bridge divisions across their communities as a tool to prevent violence.

Faith-based communities also have a unique role to play in countering violent extremism. We have repeatedly seen that violations of religious freedom can generate legitimate grievances, and these grievances can make communities more vulnerable to radicalization.

Young people also play critical roles – not just as beneficiaries but as partners, too.  Youth and other community-based organizations from across South and Central Asia gathered in Istanbul last week to exchange best practices and innovative approaches to stemming radicalization to violence.

We also applaud Norway’s recent launch of a Europe-wide youth network that connects mainstream young people across the continent who share a commitment to countering violent extremism and to building stronger communities.

We hope to see networks like these spawned in different regions, including South and Central Asia, in the lead-up to the CVE leaders’ summit in September.

Third, we must reaffirm our core values and strengthen human rights protections for all our communities, including religious and ethnic minorities.

This means strengthening relations between communities and the police and between communities and security forces – and these efforts should be centered on respect for human rights and law enforcement best practices.

Fourth, we must address corruption among our public officials and – in particular – among law enforcement agencies.  Corrupt police who solicit bribes from the public undermine faith in public institutions and helps drive people to look for alternatives outside of governments.

Certainly, as the United States’ largest law enforcement agency, CBP has a tremendous stake in this issue. At CBP, we continue to emphasize the need for personal responsibility by every employee for ethical behavior, on and off duty. And we are committed to increasing transparency and accountability in our policies and processes.

For example, we have revised our Use of Force Policy and changed our trainingcurriculum at the Academies, and we have been testing body-worn cameras to see how this technology can help our officers and agents be accountable to the public we encounter as well enhance their own safety.

Integrity is also critically important. In fact, one of the first things I did as Commissioner at CBP was to institute the first agency-wide, unified strategy with respect to integrity – based on a framework of prevention, detection, and investigation of corruption and misconduct.

Fifth,we must challenge and contradict the corrosive messages of violent extremists with counter-narratives that amplify authentic and credible voices.

To do this, we must use strategic communications and harness the power and reach of social media to challenge violent extremists’ messaging through positive alternative narratives, and, in turn, delegitimize violent extremist ideologies.

We must identify ways to build the capacity of non-government partners to use social media and other technology tools to better amplify an alternative, affirmative narrative to undermine the hateful and violence-filled ones being propagated by DA-ESH and other violent extremist groups.

Sixth, and finally, we must expand social services and provide educational and economic opportunities, particularly for marginalized populations and youth.

We must ensure that these groups have a stake in their communities by expanding programs that empower community and youth leaders, promote entrepreneurship, enhance civic education and increase economic opportunities.

In closing, I believe that we should leave this conference with new, creative, tangible ideas for achieving our shared goal of countering the violent extremists, and a renewed commitment to prevention and intervention.

Again, I would like to express my great appreciation to the Government of Kazakhstan for hosting this event and to all of you gathered here who are committed to this important cause.

Thank you.