25 February 2015
Obama calls on the international community to help fight extremist ideologies
On Wednesday 18 February, President Obama called on over 60 states to join the ideological fight against violent extremist groups such as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The President stated that this was a “generational challenge” which would require governments, communities, religious leaders and educators to come together and “amplify the voices of peace and tolerance and inclusion”, particularly online. White House officials noted that the Presidents “call to arms” signaled a desire to take a leading role in gathering an international coalition to push back against the ideologies of ISIS.
However, several leaders and officials at the conference expressed doubt at the ability of the administration to achieve this result. Sasha Havlicek of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a research organisation based in London, noted that “we’re being outdone both in terms of content, quality and quantity, and in terms of amplification strategies” and that a “monumental gap” existed between the Islamic State’s social media reach and that of governments. “The problem is that governments are ill placed to lead in the battle of ideas,” Ms. Havlicek said, calling also for a more active involvement of private companies in what she termed “the communications problem of our time.”
The Administration has acknowledged the problems. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama stated that countries had a responsibility to help. “If we’re going to prevent people from being susceptible to the false promises of extremism, then the international community has to offer something better,” Mr. Obama said. Affirming the need for the international community to act, the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that “violent extremism and terrorism are problems that affect communities around the world”.
“When governments oppress their people, deny human rights, stifle dissent or marginalize ethnic and religious groups, or favor certain religious groups over others, it sows the seeds of extremism and violence … [and] makes those communities more vulnerable to recruitment” said President Obama.