Remarks at the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) on the Role of the Private Sector in CVE

Sarah Sewall
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights 
New York City
September 29, 2015

Hello and good morning everyone.
As many of you know, the United States and many of its international partners have placed renewed emphasis on broadening our approach to violent extremism. The case is straightforward: if we want to reverse this global threat, we have to do more to address the underlying, local-level dynamics that fuel it.
GCERF is a critical partner in this work given its focus on supporting community-driven initiatives to address those dynamics and build more inclusive and resilient communities.
That is why the United States proudly helped lead the effort to establish GCERF last year and has supported it with over two million dollars in funding, and that is why we are now in the process of awarding the Fund an additional three million dollars.
GCERF was created in large part to help governments and private entities with an interest in supporting civil society-led grass roots work to build resilience against VE a reliable and transparent mechanism for doing so.
Its work is vital, and we strongly encourage not only governments, but also foundations and the private sector, to support GCERF as well.
The United States is also very pleased that – this December – GCERF will approve its first round of grants to local communities in Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Mali who are on the front lines against violent extremism.
This milestone is testament to the leadership of the Board, under the direction of Chairperson Carol Bellamy, as well as the Secretariat under the stewardship of Khalid Koser.
Supporting community-level, community-driven initiatives is vital to our broader effort against violent extremism. That was a key theme of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism last February and will be reemphasized at the Leaders’ Summit later today. We hope it will also be a core theme of the UN Secretary-General’s plan of action for preventing violent extremism, which he will present to the General Assembly in November.
Another key theme of our shared efforts to build a global movement against violent extremism is the importance of mobilizing a much broader range of actors in a “whole of society” approach to violent extremism, including national and municipal governments, multilateral bodies, religious leaders, women, youth, and the private sector.
GCERF epitomizes this “whole-of-society” approach through its close partnership with a wide range of stakeholders.
To build on GCERF’s progress since its inception, I would like to focus on how the Fund can deepen its engagement with the private sector – which is a vital but often under-tapped resource.
The private sector has a major stake in countering violent extremism. From multinational corporations to local businesses, violent extremism threatens the stable operating environment businesses require. It can disrupt the supply chains businesses depend on, the communities that provide local labor, and vital foreign direct investment.
And there is no shortage of ways the private sector can support a positive, affirmative, and proactive effort to stem the tide of violent extremism. Unemployment and economic marginalization can make individuals and communities more susceptible to the propaganda of violent extremist groups. The private sector can help address that, for example, by opening vocational training programs in marginalized communities with guarantees of employment.
GCERF can help actors from the private sector contribute to CVE goals by providing them with a reliable platform to connect with proven, community-level initiatives to build greater resilience to violent extremism in at-risk communities around the world.
Many companies are eager for opportunities to invest in local communities as part of their goals for philanthropy or corporate social responsibility. GCERF can play a key role in helping companies reach those goals by contributing to local CVE initiatives. In doing so, these companies could also help advance longer-term political and economic stability in the places they operate.
As companies increasingly look to social entrepreneurship as promising targets for their philanthropy, GCERF could help them identify and invest in promising social enterprises and other innovative projects. I think GCERF could also look to social enterprises in its own investments as ways to achieve more lasting and significant impact.
GCERF could also engage the private sector around youth-driven initiatives, which are often the most creative but lack even small levels of funding to get off the ground. There is considerable youth demand for greater support from the private sector for this work. Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating in the first-of-its-kind global youth summit against violent extremism that gathered more than 75 youth leaders from some 45 countries to showcase their innovative CVE projects.
For example, a young Burkinabe woman proposed to train youth in a border town between Niger and Burkina Faso on video production and basic filmmaking to engage their peers about the dangers of violent extremism.
We heard from a young Australian woman, who wants to train youth journalists to explore what their peers think about the conflict in Iraq and Syria to give them an opportunity to constructively engage this fraught issue.
A young Tunisian woman outlined her project to partner with teachers to strengthen civic engagement and public awareness about violent extremism in southern regions of the country, where youth are often alienated from civic life and hold many misconceptions about violent extremist groups.
By contributing to GCERF’s rapid response fund, the private sector could help move promising youth-driven ideas like these from concept to reality, and in cases of success, help them achieve even greater scale.
Another way that GCERF could engage with the private sector is by helping to connect the local staff of interested companies with potential GCERF. These local, private sector staff could then provide these grantees with advice on a range of areas, like developing competitive proposals, communication strategies, or plans for monitoring and evaluation.
These are just a few ways that GCERF could deepen its engagement with the private sector. I encourage you to explore others, perhaps by surveying corporate engagement strategies at other multinational funds or developing a mechanism for companies to formally pledge their support for GCERF. Even symbolic steps like this have worked in other areas, such as corporate pledges to combat child labor.
Deepening GCERF’s engagement with the private sector promises many benefits for both sides. GCERF would have greater resources for its work, and the private sector would have a reliable partner to help them invest in promising, pro-social initiatives and fulfill their critical role in our shared struggle against violent extremism.
I’m optimistic that with some frank and focused discussion today, we can agree to a few concrete ideas to strengthen the Fund’s engagement with the private sector.
Thank you.