Remarks of the Head of Presence, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt, in the conference
“United in Countering Violent Extremism”
It is a great pleasure to be back to Elbasan, 6 years after ending my assignment to Albania as German Ambassador. I’m truly looking forward to our fruitful cooperation together during the term of my mandate. I am proud to speak at the opening of this unique and important event jointly organised with the Elbasan Muslim Community and the Mayor’s Office. Together we have brought stakeholders from not just a cross-section of Elbasan society, but also from different agencies, civil society and religious communities, to discuss the topic of countering violent extremism together.
Violent Extremism has no justification, and it should not be associated with any race, ethnicity, nationality or religion. It fuels division, marginalization, prejudice, discrimination and other human rights violations. The OSCE stands as one in countering violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations, while upholding human rights and the rule of law.
Albania and indeed Elbasan have a proud tradition of religious tolerance. This is a trademark of Albania the country is proud of. Nevertheless we have seen radical dogmatic influences reaching even Albania, influencing people against their own traditions. I understand that sometimes young people are in need for spirituality, religion or other orientations. But they should not end up on the internet with websites offered by radicals or with seducing alleged new radical prophets of an old faith.
This is a first field of intervention that can be identified and were families, women, religious, cultural and educational leaders can play a crucial preventive role by fostering mutual respect and understanding, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence among cultures. They will need information and training to be able to identify the early signs of dangerous radicalization of their sons, daughters, community members or others. Large parts of Europe are dealing with this problem. We all can learn from the experiences made in other OSCE participating states without “reinventing the wheel”.
The role of the Municipality is equally important, as it not only provides opportunities for dialogue, social cohesion, citizen wellbeing and a platform which foresees complete community inclusion. The Municipality can be actor and should be facilitator for actors dealing with countering violent extremism.
Endangered groups, in particular youth, need exposure to alternative peer groups, they need room for other reflections and for voicing discontent. They may also be in need for a different religious or spiritual guidance.
The OSCE Presence recognises the work of the Mayor’s Office and has for some time worked closely with the Municipality to raise awareness on minority rights and domestic violence. Our cooperation with the State Police in Elbasan is also well developed. Yet we must stand together to help address these challenges in the community. To counter any form of criminality, violence or extremist behaviour requires society and the community to say no. Therefore the only solution for success is one which considers a multi-stakeholder community engagement approach linked to initiatives for change. The OSCE approach is of course inclusive and one we are happy to share with our partners, when implementing joint initiatives in Elbasan today and in the future.
We must all rise to the challenge of responding to the corrosive appeal of violent extremism by promoting tolerance, mutual respect, pluralism, inclusion, and cohesion.