Malin Herwig works as an adviser on conflict prevention at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Hub for the Arab States, based in Amman. She mostly works on preventive measures against violent extremism. Read her story about her work to support peace.
Although we hear more on the news when something happens in Europe, most terrorist attacks happen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. In 2016, three quarters of all fatalities due to terrorism occurred in these countries. It is clear that terrorist groups exploit conflict areas and areas that are difficult to access. Although IS have lost the territorial control they had over large parts of Iraq and Syria, terrorism will unfortunately continue to be a threat in the Middle East and throughout the world.
We know that war and armed conflict are on the increase after decades of decline. Political exclusion, lack of opportunities and inadequate security affect recruitment to groups that use violence. To create sustainable peace we have to get to grips with underlying structural factors, such as authoritarian rule and state oppression, injustice, exclusion and inequality, corruption, and misuse of natural resources.
UNDP recently published a report entitled ‘Journey to extremism in Africa: Drivers, incentives and the tipping point for recruitment’, which I was involved in, especially the parts concerning Sudan and Somalia. The results show that radicalisation is linked to poverty, inadequate education and exclusion. However, the results also show that most of those interviewed say they ultimately joined because of violence and abuse of power by the police and the state. This shows that respect for human rights has to be at the core of the fight against terrorism – both in terms of what we do and how. I was in Somalia last summer to follow up on UNDP’s research with concrete programme activities.
Over the past year, I have been working closely on the processes in Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan for producing national action plans to prevent violent extremism. UNDP has communicated experiences between these countries and from other regions, and supported coordination and technical expertise so that these countries are better equipped.
The regional office in Amman works on regional initiatives and projects. We provide support to UNDP’s country offices in the Arab states by helping to develop projects or communicate good examples, as well as offering guidance. I travel a lot between our offices, mostly in Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia, but also to Sudan and Somalia.
I started working for UNDP in 2003 and have worked in Central Asia, Liberia, at the head office in New York, and now at the UNDP Regional Hub in Amman. I believe in the UN, I believe in the multilateral arena, and I am proud to be part of the organisation that works through cooperation to achieve a better world, and concretely for a safer, more secure and more tolerable life for so many people.
It is important that a country like Sweden invests in conflict prevention measures. There is also a real strength in the foreign policy Sweden pursues and the values it stands up for. Perhaps this is how Sweden makes the biggest difference internationally – by standing up for the values of peace, human rights and the equal worth of all people.
Written by Malin Herwig