U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy: Countering Violent Extremism Through Public Diplomacy

December 9, 2016


Download audio file

SIM FARAR: Good morning good morning good morning my name is Sim Farar I'm the chairman of the Commission. Welcome to a public meeting for United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. The commission has been around since 1948 the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy has been charged with appraising U.S. government activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics. It also works to increase the understanding of, and support for the same activities the commission conducts research symposiums to provide assessments and informed disclosures on public diplomacy efforts across government such as this meeting. Which is our fourth and final one for 2016.

The work of the nonpartisan commission remains crucial to supporting American public diplomacy efforts. A task that is especially important as we transition to a new administration. Today we'll focus on countering violent extremism through public diplomacy. Growing interest among governments to combat extremism violence raises questions regarding best practices, actor coordination, government-NGO relations, civil rights, and public policy among others. Experts suggest that Strategic Communication is a key variable in any transition towards or away from extremism. As a result, agencies throughout government have directed resources to better understand the role of media, including social media, in facilitating acceptance of extremist violence.

This panel aims to highlight the various ways in which public diplomacy can contribute to combating extremist attitudes and violence around the world by highlighting the best practices and lessons learned. Experts today will discuss social social media campaigns as well as developmental and resilience building efforts that contribute to preventing extremist in the long term.

I want to welcome our new Executive Director today, who really is a star and just got approved a few weeks ago, we're so happy to have him on board. Shawn Powers. Stand up and say hello Shawn, come on. I thought I saw in the audience our past executive director Katherine Brown, who we do miss Katherine, very much so.

Anyway, Shawn's going to moderate a panel of experts today from government, the private sector, academia, and civil society. This discussion will lay the foundation for a forthcoming Commission report which is due in 2017. It aims to map the crucial ways that public diplomacy contributes to preventing and combating extremism in the short, medium, and long term--all around the world. After the initial series of questions Shawn will open the discussion up to the commission members and then the audience will have a chance to ask questions at the same time.

Before we turn to the panel discussion over to Shawn I would like to introduce my colleagues on the commission, our vice chairman of Colorado Springs,Colorado, Bill Hybl. Next to Bill is Anne Wedner from Chicago, Illinois. And our newest member Georgette Mosbacher from New York City. Excuse me Georgette I'm sorry. Detailed biographies for each of the members are also available at the welcome desk in the front. As well our panelists bios and a number of commission reports are out there as well. If you'd like to peruse them. I'd like to now welcome our vice chairman Bill Hybl to introduce our panelists Bill.

BILL HYBL: Thank you Sim. Let me say on behalf of the commission we want to thank all of you for being here. You know we have a tremendous group of experts with us today. And I think this will not only be informative but challenging to all of you as we listen to the discussion. Our first panelist is Dr. Abbas Barzegar and he's the principal investigator of the EU funded "Civic Approaches to Combating Extremist Violence Initiative" at Georgia State University where he is also an assistant professor.

Dr. Sheldon Himelfarb is President and CEO of PeaceTech Lab at the U.S. Institute for Peace. He's an award winning filmmaker, former commentator for NPR, and author of numerous articles on politics, popular culture, and conflict.

Alicia Kearn's is a Director of Global Influence and previously led the UK government's strategic communications campaign in both Syria and Iraq and actually has advised more than 70 international governments on counterterrorism messaging.

Dr. Peter Mandeville is Senior Advisor in the Secretary of State's Office of Religion and Global Affairs, Director of the A.K. Center of Global Islamic Studies, and Professor of International Affairs at George Mason University.

Dr. Sarah Sayeed is Senior Advisor to the Mayor of New York City where she specializes in issues related to the city's Muslim communities, including coordinating with the city agencies to determine how to best serve Muslim-New Yorkers.

Dr. Haroon Ullah, is Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs [at the Department of State] and previously he served as Director of Community Engagement at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan and was a member of the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's policy team on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Great panel and Shawn--

SHAWN POWERS: Thank you Bill, Sim, commission members, friends, colleagues, and last but not least this terrific group of panelists. I am really grateful for each of you for taking the time today to join us and share some of your expertise from operating at the intersections of public diplomacy and violent extremism. We selected this topic in order to highlight how public diplomacy is an important tool in dealing with these challenges, not just in confronting extremist discourse, but also in supporting resilient self-sustaining communities capable of squashing violent extremism over the long term.

So much attention focused on what needs to be done to confront Daesh's presence on Twitter and other social media platforms., but this is just one piece of a much larger puzzle Daesh is just the latest iteration of violent extremism and governments need to see it simply as a temporary fleeting challenge, but rather the result of a range of public policy issues needing our attention. While there is certainly no magic bullet solution. Communications and Public Diplomacy remain at the heart of confronting this challenge.

I'd like to start the panel by asking Haroon, directly to my left, to highlight a few of the programs already underway within the public diplomacy family, that have really had an impact in countering violent violent extremism. The marquee efforts if you will.

HAROON ULLAH: Well thanks to Shawn, thanks to the commission, and thanks to all of you. Honored to be here. And I think this will be a very rich discussion today. So you know what I would say just the sort of outlay why I think this important question is, I've been able to travel you know as I work in the Undersecretary's Office for Public Diplomacy at the State Department and you know sometimes a lot of us here don't get to see the kind of incredible work that public diplomacy officers do in the field. So there's 1200 plus public diplomacy officers, many here in the crowd John Henick Nicole Chuilk, and others. And the kind of work that they're doing to respond to some of these threats you know they're using a range of tools.

So if I try to put you in the shoes of a young officer that's in Islamabad, Pakistan, or in Kabul or in Colombo. You know [for] type of issues they have to face, they have a range of tools, so they have exchange programs, we have oftentimes you're thinking about the audience we might even use Fulbright programs, or English teaching programs. We have other grants and all of these are designed in terms of really thinking about the audience because audience matters and we'll talk, I think in the panel here, about audience, about how to look at effectiveness. These are things that I think are we should sort of delve into because there's a lot of attention paid on what actually works in the field. And I think public diplomacy stands at the frontlines of this work.

If I was to highlight two programs that I think have worked really well. I'd say the following, one is that we talk a lot about our engagement with media and I think I was just talking to the commission members about some of the work. You know when we look at young people in the Middle East and South Asia and Southeast Asia you know they're looking they're consuming information in a new way. We talk about information costs have come down and they're watching things on their phones, they're watching you know interesting content and so public diplomacy has worked with the media industry oftentimes in trying to shape some of that content that has storylines in terms of countering the extremist narrative. I'll give you one example. There's our educational and cultural affairs bureau [who] has worked with media leaders from Hollywood and linking them with media makers in the Middle East and in South Asia. It's called Sunnylands. It's fantastic effort I was to ask everyone out there you know what's the most watched network in the Middle East. Anyone know. I mean it's. Well MBN is very good. And I have to give a shout out to BBG which does really very good work in this space in terms of TV but what is it is Middle East Broadcasting Company (MBC). The biggest channel 60 percent of the audience they have in the Middle East and anyone know the most popular program last year, the most popular drama in the entire Middle East? Eighteen million people watched per episode. Go on take a guess. I know we have some Arabic speakers here. It was a program called Selfie and this is a program that came out of work that public diplomacy did linking Hollywood with change makers in the Middle East. This program Selfie probably did more to combat the extremist narrative Daesh than any program I can think of because they took on Daesh in every episode. They use comedy. They made fun of it. Again it was a most popular program. There was a Saudi comedian that led it and it really sort of again took on Daesh's narratives took them on in a in a funny way in a compelling way that people watch. And is just one example of what I think is in terms of what you see the sort of movement about what actually works and how public diplomacy can work with the with the media and private industry.

I'll mention the second program and then--I also know we have a very we have a lot of great experts and many of these are close colleagues at work on these issues--is a program that if I ask a question. Who's has the number one following in the Middle East on Twitter. Anyone know. The number one following any of the most followers of Twitter in the Middle East, what actor or actress is it what pop star, Anyone want to guess who that person is. I don't know. All right. Well it is Mohamed al Arefe, a Saudi based cleric. His 14 million followers on Twitter. He's prolific on snap. He's prolific on facebook, ok but he's a religious based cleric. And I mention that because oftentimes when you think about the top ten most influential folks on social media they have different backgrounds some of them are religious scholars some of them have. They are the sort of they have the sort of ability to sort of expand and you know his eight second sort of religious rulings as snapchat fatwas, carry a lot of weight. And so there's a program that we started and we in partnership with Facebook called the P2P program it's called a peer to peer program. And what this was essentially was giving students, students who oftentimes in our youth oftentimes the best messengers for the message and giving them a platform for which they can come up with creative ideas. And so this program is at 120 universities around the world. Facebook and other technology partners with public diplomacy have sponsored the program. And and I've I've seen the projects that come out of this and it's sort of this what I think of it sort of organic approach where these projects very little sort of investment oftentimes have huge the campaigns they put together have dramatic impact. And so I'd love to talk to you more about it. I do want to turn back to Shawn but these are just highlighting things some of the programs as a whole range of programs that actually work. A lot of people will tell you about programs that they do. CVE is very popular by the way looking by a number of people here. The number of conferences. I mean you could just go to conferences on CVE and here. But what I think Shawn and what the commission has done here is to really think about what works and why does it work in public diplomacy. Because public diplomacy has a unique set of tools and an approach that makes it different than other counter-terrorism approaches, than other approaches, that don't take into consideration why this is a sort of a generational struggle.

SHAWN POWERS: Thank you Haroon. Peter you're joining us in your last week at the State Department. So thank you. I was hoping you could offer a quick overview of the broader CVE terrain, what religious engagement looks like in this space, and how the Office of Religion and Global Affairs contributes to countering violent extremism.

PETER MANDAVILLE: Sure. Thanks very much Shawn and thanks for the opportunity to be with you all this morning. As I think many of you know, earlier this year the State Department and USAID developed and released a new joint strategy on countering violent extremism that I think is important by virtue of a couple of hallmark characteristics that it has. I think it represents a real step, a significant progress step, beyond some of the debates that we were having about violent extremism and its sources and its drivers in the aftermath of 9/11 and through the kind of various waves of interest in this topic that have come up.

First of all I think there's been a thorough abandonment of the idea that there is somewhere out there a single root cause or a primary cause of violent extremism whether it be ideology, religion, poverty, and you know and that really was the crux of so many of the debates we were having in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. What is the sort of single cause and therefore that would lead you to a silver bullet that you could use to somehow get rid of violent extremism. I think one of the great things about this strategy is that it recognizes first and foremost that violent extremism is a multi-causal phenomenon and that the process of becoming involved in these movements, of radicalization, is not always a linear thing. Second of all, it places great emphasis on the fact that that violent extremism and its antecedent factors vary considerably from setting to setting. So when we're talking about violent extremism, talking about it in a sort of you know abstract almost global way makes very little sense. You need to really kind of focus on the local circumstances and drivers and the strategy we have I think is very valuable because it does that. Now when it comes to religion I think one of the strongest dimensions of the strategic communications work that we do in this space is that our leadership at the State Department I think has recognized very clearly that we need to stay away from religion in the work that we do through for example our Global Engagement Center. The group that many of you have known as the the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, if you look at the various media campaigns that that GEC runs, you'll see that they are notably devoid of references to religion. They focus on information deficits, information gaps, some of the kinds of ideas that Haroon just mentioned making sure that the narratives of those who have been directly affected by Daesh you know are able to come out. We don't get into the business of pointing to specific interpretations of religion and holding them up. Not least of all because we recognize that the United States Government has no standing to endorse or to speak authoritatively on behalf of a specific interpretations of religion. Certainly, most likely the effect of that would be to destroy the credibility of the messenger of those those ideas in the first place. But of course there's good legal reasons not to do so, we have a Constitution in this country that prohibits the federal government from establishing or taking normative positions with respect to matters of religion.

So I think we've done actually a really good job of recognizing the dangers of that space. That said almost everyone who operates in the CVE-space does so I think with the assumption that religion is in there somewhere. And so what we've tried to do in the Office of Religion and Global Affairs is to help our colleagues at the State Department to better understand the specific role or function that religion plays as a causal or contributing factor in specific instances of violent extremism. And given that outreach engagement, in some cases partnership, with religious actors and religious leaders often sort of you know described as as credible voices because that kind of work is often part of CVE work. What we've sought to do is to help our colleagues understand some of the more productive and effective ways of doing that work as well as some of the pitfalls associated with it.

Just to give one concrete example one approach that we really try to push is the idea that we should get away from regarding religious actors and really religious leaders simply as people whose role is to provide something like a theological counterweight or a theological antidote to toxic and hateful interpretations of religion, to in the common parlance to in the case of the Daesh to provide quote unquote moderate Islam to kind of counterbalance the religious discourse of this terrorist movement. For reasons that we might get into later I think sort of you know asking our partners in the religious sector to kind of wade into that terrain. It just has so many downsides to it rather and consistent with a strategy that recognizes that the driving factors that contribute to violent extremism are so diverse from localized conflicts, to deficits an accountable and effective governance, certain kinds of socio economic deprivation, because the drivers are so wide, we need to recognize the broader societal role that religious leaders play and recognize that whether we're doing democracy and governance work, certain kinds of development initiatives, various kinds of public diplomacy initiatives. There is a role for religious leaders in work that is not itself specifically religious by nature. Thanks.

SHAWN POWERS: Great. Thank you, Peter. Alicia, I was hoping you oversaw the UK's anti-Daesh efforts in Syria and Iraq and I was curious if you could maybe talk to us a bit about examples of success in those efforts and how you would measure success in strategic communication campaigns.

ALICIA KEARNS: Morning thank you for having me, and thank you Commission, thank you to Shawn. I'm going to stick very much to public diplomacy rather than going sneaky beaky like because that's what we're here about and it's what I'm really passionate about. So whenever you're looking at achieving effect and achieving measure and no wins in CVE you have to start by looking at what is the effect we're trying to achieve. Is it more defections? Is it less violence is it few people going to travel? Is it more balanced reporting in the media, or is it driving Daesh or other extremists off certain platforms. In government, you are very lucky in that you have access to real world outcomes more than anyone else. You can see what is actually happening and measure the effect of what you're doing. But the challenge is how do you prove that your public diplomacy effort was the thing that did it. Because the challenge is comms should never ever be carried out in isolation and having watched the Syria crisis, when I left the Foreign Office they would want me t-shirts that said "comms is always the answer" because we didn't have a policy. We had comms. Let's go out get Alicia out, she can go to some comms. It's going to be great. This is the challenge. Comms should never be done in isolation, but then if it's not done in isolation, how do you prove that your public diplomacy effort and your budget was the thing to actually prove the effect that made the difference. And this is where the difficulty comes in and this is what proxy measures come in. So I'm going to touch on proxy measures, rather than the kind of harder at crumbs because really that's what you're going to be looking at and that's what you're going to be dealing with. So some of the proxy measures that I think can be most effective are things like for example reducing the volume of the propaganda of your opponent. Essentially how do you reveal what their lies are not true. Make it not cool to be a fanboy, not cool to share their products. And again how do you make the correlation between what you did and results and that is one of the challenges.

One the other ways you can improve your country by extremism and the best and most fun ways is by getting a reaction from the enemy. So when we were working on countering Daesh narratives one of their big arguments was that they're providing statehood they're providing a state they're great. They're like the first ones to do it. And one of their big arguments was about water. So we pumped out a load of materials for a week that proved it was a massive water shortage in Racha knows a massive water shortage in Mosul. What did you see six days later Daesh created a YouTube video about how much water the water, called abundance of water. And their sole objective was to rebut our stuff and they literally put tweets that we put out into that video. And that's what we need to get to. Too much of countering violent extremism is us on the back foot. But comms 101 is you should never be on the back foot. Why is your enemy letting you get on the back foot. So measuring effect and making them chase after yo, that's a great proxy measure. And it's a way of proving effect and it's a way of showing that you're undermining their narratives.

Another way of doing it, is tracking conversations. So you want to look at, what are people talking about before and what are people talking about after they engage with your product. How can you show that critical thinking has started? Because critical thinking is how we change people's minds. Critical thinking is how we stop people taking negative actions or hurt our communities and communities abroad. And it is difficult to do, but you track it over weeks or months. It isn't a quick win and you can start to prove that's been a measure of effect.

More straightforward ones are things like media titles. So as part of the global coalition to defeat Daesh one of our priorities was to stop major titles from giving Daesh a free ride. Stop showing them propaganda. Stop saying that they're a state. Lets call them Daesh. So those were achievements. Getting the movement of government, and that was actually harder than the media, convincing governments to say Daesh, lets stop saying ISIS or islamic state. Then reducing the amount propaganda that was shown on broadcasters that is a success that you can show as a proxy and you can show helps contribute to policy.

Another one is how public diplomacy can help you actually achieve a result you need. So for example in the UK Government, I need to convince politicians to extend airstrikes in Iraq to Syria. We've lost the vote against Assad. It wasn't a particularly, given the Iraq war was, a very difficult way but by doing public diplomacy effectively for a year and it was a year of slow churn trying to convince them of the arguments, we won the vote and we won it well. But the issue is that you have to build in that time for public diplomacy. Public Diplomacy isn't something you can just suddenly ramp up in a month because you'll be accused of being a warmonger but you can do it gradually.

Another way you can do a proxy measure showing that you're tackling CVE is showing that you've been able to unite people against the concept that these extremists are propagating. How do you show that you have pinioned people together against that group or against those people's views? So one of the things I want to talk about in particular was also the fact that when you are winning at CVE you are also doing stuff proactive. So we need to move to native narratives. As I was saying earlier too much of our time is spent on the back foot trying to respond to Daesh.

So let's look up what are our narratives at home and what are our narratives abroad and how do we push something move proactively. But also how do we think more strategically about the way we tackle them. So there's lots of arguments about being where Daesh is. We need to be everywhere that Daesh is just because they're there. Yes but then what are we doing. What is the effect we're trying to achieve. So I think one the simplest way to look at it is for example hashtags use and shutting down accounts. Social tech companies are constantly being lambasted for not doing enough to tackle extremists. They're doing stuff, we all know that in this room, they're working hard they're trying to do stuff. But you can never do enough and it's an enormous platform but it's about being more strategic. So for example, at the moment, the focus of social tech companies is just taking down accounts. You're in a constant game of Whack a Mole. You can never take down accounts without stopping them popping up again and again and again. And yes the accounts get longer but it's the same thing. So for example let's look strategically how do they gather. How does Daesh communicate? It's hashtags. They have a hashtag. They all follow it. They will know what to do. Sometimes they then move on to other channels. They use the hashtag. So lets flood the hashtag with what Donald Trump had the breakfast or Kim Kardashian's newest dress or whatever is that makes it impossible for them find their information. Alternatively, we have the facts if they're pumping out something it's inaccurate, let's flag that hashtag with the truth of what's really going on. And then the measure of effect that that would be. Let's look at the attack that they were trying to create a hashtag and let's measure how much how far fewer people were able to participate in that attack because of what we did. And you track it and you show that more and more as we get it better. Initiatives like thi--no one is doing this at the moment--but it's something I think we should be doing. You can show you having more and more effect and there are fewer Daesh fanboys being out commit attacks.

So I think to sum up, essentially success is absolutely achievable in CVE but it's about that difficulty about proxy measures versus real world effect. If you want to get into more classified discussions you can absolutely prove real world effect but it is very difficult. And it's the challenge of PD versus policy. And the key thing also is that we do have to focus on effect. You know there's no point saying we did a great CVE initiative if you can't prove a fact. Otherwise it's not a win. It's just something you did and you spent money on. So I think the big challenge is proving effect, making sure that we're looking at proxy measures and recognizing they are valid, but also moving towards preventing violent extremism not just constantly being on the back foot.

SHAWN POWERS: Great. Thank you so much. Sheldon, your piece I've worked with startups around conflict zones to train and workshop how mobile and affordable technologies can be utilized for peace building. Can you offer a few examples from your work to help us understand how technology can be used to combat violent extremism specifically?

SHELDON HIMELFARB: Sure. Thank you Shawn and it's great to be here. I think I've had the best introduction possible between Alicia and Haroon's talking about how tech is already being used in this CVE battle. What's interesting to me is that we really are seeing an explosion of innovative approaches to this problem, and yet, the dominant narrative still seems to be. You know we may be taking back Mosul. We may be taking back Raka. But. Who's winning the recruitment battle online? How are they doing? That we don't really feel as though we're winning when it comes to the countering the narrative. Though, we very well might be and this is this raises the question to me as to--and I think it's a real question for the commission, right? How do you get more media attention for these great success stories that we've already heard about? Now we in the PeaceTech lab have our own kind of a complementary niche or line of work to what we've been hearing about. And that is that we have a program, we in the last two years have gone into 10 countries, have done 20 of these PeaceTech exchanges, whereby we work at a very local level in conflict zones as Shawn said. To bring together local technologists and local civil society to tackle whatever the driver of conflict is that they are most concerned about. And this sort of speaks to Peter's point a really really important point that we all know now, there is no one cause, there is no one magic bullet, if you're going to try to address CVE.

So when we were asked to come into Iraq and work in a number of the cities there both with civil society and local government. The big issue on the table was how can we use low cost, readily available tech, to tackle corruption. To tackle good governance, transparency, and so there we saw a range of solutions--again in this format that we have called PeaceTech exchanges where we spend a lot of months working with civil society and technologists to understand what the problem is and what the possibilities are? And there, in our work in Iraq, what rose to the top was we first need to do something to, if we're going to really tackle corruption at any level, we have to work towards a functioning media sector. So, we devised a platform for mapping attacks on journalists, attacks on media, attacks on citizen journalists, that would enable the media sector to do their work better. Very low cost, easy, crowdsourced solution. It's got real serious, you know challenges in terms of protecting the identity of people, anonymity, making sure people reporting these things are safe. But on one end of the spectrum it was how can we enable the media sector. On the other end of the spectrum it was how can we use low cost readily available tech to improve governance, improve things as simple as delivery of ID cards to both to the internally displaced populations as well as in in some of the towns where bureaucracy and inefficiency. It was just ridiculous. And all of these things help to lay the groundwork for violent extremism, for count, for radicalization when you're not getting government services when you are feeling like you are a marginalized minority community.

So, as Peter was saying different causes, different places, in Iraq we were tackling the challenge of corruption. In Pakistan, we were asked to help develop a platform for mentoring. A technology platform to allow mentoring of youth, especially youth who were already in prisons. Where as we know a great deal of radicalization takes place. How could we connect them with mentors? We were also asked in Afghanistan, how could we connect to young people who were being, terrible unemployment problem people roam the streets finding their way into jails having no legal representation, how could we connect youth in Afghan jails, who again are really susceptible to radicalization, how can we connect them with both mentors and legal counsel on the outside using low cost readily available tech?

So, honestly we could spend the next two hours listing examples, in Burma we were working with how to counter online hate speech. Which was a very real problem there. For every cause of the of violent extremism we've seen many many creative innovative tech solutions at the local level and it's a story that really doesn't get told at all. And we need to be working harder and getting that word out.

SHAWN POWERS - Well the commission is happy to help tell that story. Thank you. Thank you Sheldon.

Abbas you're the academic lead on a project that studies civic approaches to confronting violent extremism looking specifically this year at how faith based and Muslim non-government organizations are helping to build resilient communities. I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about the recent meeting you convened in Brussels and maybe an example or two about faith based actors helping to take care of extremism.

ABBAS BARZEGAR: Absolutely. And thank you Shawn. Thank you for the commission for having me here. I should say also think it's Rebecca Zylberman from the British Council here, who has been a great partner in this project for the last few years, and of course to yourself Shawn, who has abandoned me now at Georgia State as a partner in this project. But I should say quickly that the EU Commission has funded us to do effectively which is, effectively what would be a civil society sector survey on CVE. So we began on the first year last year studying what civil society perspectives are on ideological approaches to countering violent extremism. This year we're working on what role Muslim humanitarian organizations and other faith-based humanitarian organizations play in creating kind of indirect CVE programming in the Middle East and in relationship to the refugee and forced migration problem.

I should say that what's happened is that the original conception of the project was to basically get a sense of what this whole programming structure looks like from a transatlantic perspective, from a transatlantic framework, from the perspective of the civil society local level groups that are that are feeling the brunt of it. And so it almost as a kind of a conduit to tell government and international organizations and private companies that are working in this space. What do the rest of the folks feel so we've convened focus groups, workshops, dialogues, six of them now over the last couple of years on this area and what effectively emerges is that there's an engagement problem, a kind of an alignment problem between government and civil society approaches. We can go into some of those things in just a bit. But I think that what we can what we can say is that. Many of us are familiar with the problem of the kind of kiss of death engagement with civil government led CVE programming by the civil society group is going to lead to the de-legitimization of that group. But there's also the case and I think the social media space now where there's a kind of a wink of death or a Facebook like of death which is to say that there are certain kinds of messaging that whether or not the funding trail is there or not--get flagged and recognized as a foreign governments you know initiative in this sort of space. And the groups that are spearheading this work do have genuine shared interests with our interests and the U.S. government and interests in the UK and Europe to see a stabilized region to see reduced extremism and whatnot. However the mechanisms to get there to be extremely productive are very very difficult.

I'd like to give just two examples, since you asked for them Shawn, about effective and maybe not so effective relationships in this space. Many of us might be familiar with the Burka Avenger cartoon. Has anybody ever heard about this? There's a wildly popular program in Pakistan that I believe is being dubbed into Arabic now. And this is an online animated comic superhero about a schoolteacher by day and sort of superhero by night. It's a female teacher who dons a burka and instead of beating up her opponents she uses pens and pencils as weapons and sort of the messaging in the script and the messaging in the program is not exclusively about religious extremism. It addresses a range of social issues. And I think that goes to the core of Peter's comment that the drivers of violent extremism are multiple. So the responses need to be multiple and we have to be able to accept the fact that we have to have long term engagement in this space and not demand necessarily all the time measurable quantifiable results that are directly correlated but to understand that good governance healthy societies are naturally resilient against extremism. And we have to be confident in that approach in order to push it forward. Burka Avenger also succeeds because we take the lead on something like that from the local actor, the native narrative, I believe is the word that you use there and that is that the marker of success there is that the creative forces behind that were independent. They were autonomous and they had creative control over the product there was a sort of second or third step away from government initiatives and so that local led force creative, indigenous force allows for the product to really take shape in a healthy and efficient way and now I believe it is the number one watched children's programming in Pakistan carried by Nickelodeon and is now being attempted to be broadcast into other forum so that we so we get them into rural areas in Pakistan and whatnot.

Another very positive local initiative was a group called Radical Middle Way in the UK that the story of Radical Middle Way sort of represents what is at stake with CVE in public diplomacy in this space and that is the Radical Middle Way, it was a group that was concerned about positive, religious social messaging for UK British Muslim youth and they received funding and sponsorship from the government. That relationship was very very open and it caused severe de-legitimization for the organization but they carried through and they stuck to it. They stayed with the line. And then when the administration changed in the UK they got there cutting their funding cut and then they became the subject of political battles. And now they've lost everything in terms of their legitimacy in the space and they're barely hanging on. And so what happens there is the instrumentalization of these local actors can have massive consequences not just for the groups but for the very goals that we have in mind. So we can go into more detail believe of it later.

SHAWN POWERS: Thank you, it sounds like you're doing fine on the project without me us. I don't know. Let's turning to the domestic front. Sarah, on the one hand your job is fairly straightforward, engage Muslim communities to ensure they know where to receive social services, the benefits of the social services, and how to better connect Muslim communities to the City of New York more broadly. On the other hand these engagement efforts are seen as a crucial part of a broader effort to combat violent extremism. How do you see these two functions connecting and working together?

SARAH SAYEED: Shawn, thank you for including the New York City perspective in this conversation and I think it's important to note that the New York City perspective is distinct from broadly the international perspective but also the domestic perspective as well because, as you just, people have pointed out every context is different. And I think what I want to say in answer is that I'm not sure that my work is seen in the way that you describe by everybody. I think it really depends on who you ask the question too. For policymakers, who see it in that way, I think they would say that a vulnerability to extremist violence is basically a product of a hostile or nonexistent or weak relationship with government. And one of the ways that you remedy that is by providing better social services.

From a community vantage point as we've seen really clearly in New York City. My role in government and my work. In the community's mind is not related at all to CVE. And if we discussed it that way I think that it would cause a breach of trust between government and community, and community would reject it as stigmatizing and they would see my role as a tokenization in government. And that's because the CVE framework broadly speaking, at least in America, is experienced as stigmatizing to Muslim communities because every time we talk about CVE what is in the back of our head at least until this point has been Muslims and Islam. And Islam is the problem. Religion is the problem. So even though it's shifting up here like you're talking about at the State Department level that hasn't gotten down to the grassroots. Right? So we're still dealing with the effect of what has been state ideology for a while now.

I think that we need to kind of step back and look at the models that we have of community engagement and why we're engaging in a democratic context like the United States and abroad before trying to encourage democracy to flourish. The goal is to build a more informed citizenry that is able to participate in governance. And our goal is yes to stop violence, but I don't believe that that's the end goal. Our goal is to actually empower people to have a say in their own lives and to be heard by government, to have leaders who engage in democratic deliberative decision making between leaders and citizens. To me that's the end goal. And that process I believe has been, either never found in many parts of the world or it has been lost. And I would argue that is true for us at home as well. That we need to find a way forward that truly brings to light this kind of deliberative decision making. And this lack of relationship or destruction of you know Democratic deliberative relationship is really you know a result of bad decisions made by leaders all around the world. And that's why we have what we called non-state actors because people don't get along with government. People are prone to violence. As we've said based on a lot of different factors there are individual factors, there are social factors. One of the strongest predictors of violent behavior is prior exposure to violence. We know that. And so we have to look really self critically I believe at our own decisions to engage in military actions around the world. How deliberative have these decisions been. Have citizens in our country or in other countries around the world participated in the decisions that governments are making to engage in military violence. In the United States, I don't believe that we've engaged in that kind of process. If you look around this country a lot of people are not very engaged in foreign policy decision making. They barely are engaged in domestic policy decision making. So I think it's incumbent on us if we want to achieve the end goal of democracy and deliberative decision making that we need to educate people about what the issues are and we need to make sure that we listen to their input and we hear their voices and I think that's what New York City is trying to do in my view and that's what I'm trying to do in the job that I have.

SHAWN POWERS: Thank you. Thank you. This domestic focus can expect to Abbas work on the role of civil society groups, often operating to fill in for governments and situations where those governments are unable or not willing to provide crucial social services. Some of research highlights how in post apartheid South Africa, weak institutions allowed for the rise of another form of violent extremism--vigilante justice. Can you share with us a bit more about the South African case and how local policymakers and religious leaders worked together to reestablish trust and legitimacy required to hold these violent extremist accountable?

ABBAS BARZEGAR: Yes thanks. And I'm going to take a second on this one because this is really one of the most illustrative case studies that we've come across and I think a number of you may be familiar with the former ambassador from South Africa to the United States, Ibrahim Rasool, and I really have him to thank for bringing this to greater relevance for our current conversation. So this post-apartheid South Africa you have effectively a very weak state, a government that is not capable of even policing itself and policing its own institutions much less the broader society and so you have rampant corruption that is already taking place at the police policing levels and in Cape Town and in Johannesburg. You have effectively the control of these cities in the hands of gangsters, of crime cartels and syndicates and many of these came from the Malaysian and South Asian descent and Muslim communities themselves. Now a secular force that started called "The People Against Gangsterism and Drugs" I love the gangsterism line there but The People Against Gangsterism and Drugs, and they started out as a secular oriented organization that tried to just criticize these crime syndicates and bosses and whatnot. However it was quickly in the post-apartheid period, quickly taken over by ideologically militant forces coming from a sort of Islamist background. The organization became openly militant, openly violent, and acted with impunity on the streets of Cape Town. So much so that what they effectively did was murder gangsters and drug dealers in cold blood in broad daylight filmed by the police and they got away with it. The problem was was that they enjoyed massive popular support. They were seen as a kind of a hero community, it was socially legitimate violence in the eyes of the community because they were doing an effective job at eradicating crime and securing securing safety for certain neighborhoods.

The formula for what we see and violent extremism today is exactly the case back then. But this was before Twitter. This was before Facebook etc. So when you go back to figure out how is it that the society as a whole came together and disarmed vigilante militia we find something that can give us some basic ingredients to think about a holistic recipe to figuring out how to deal with violent extremism today. Back then again we didn't have social media or digital technology but there was still a media space. There was still a social space, a media space, that connected--that sort of convened the entire community and that space was the mosque space, that was that space was the community space their newspapers et cetera. And so what happened in that situation. Was that, through back channel trusted relationships between government, between community leaders, business leaders, clerics, a small group got together and said let's get on a message to say that this kind of violence does not represent our values as Muslims but also our values as South Africans in what we fought for against apartheid and what we want to be in the future. They convene again. They needed to insure one another's trust. These relationships needed to be in place. And on one Friday afternoon all of the mosques in the city convened the exact same sermon and all of the newspapers, pamphlets, and the businesses etc. had the same message and it was coordinated. It was coordinated through back channels of trust and this closed down the social space and media space for the organization to continue its dominance from hegemony in that way.

Because there were the trust and relationships there, the government also provided the incentive for the local group to go ahead and allow these criticisms of government to take place. So the legal space was sort of convened as a place to go ahead and deal with this. The Muslim leaders said we will convict these people but we will do so through transparency, due process, and with the support of all the all the all the state institutions. And if we don't have evidence we can't convict them and if we lose, we lose. That kind of self reflection earned the trust of the community and I think that that parallels what's happening in New York City just now. So the fact that. The New York City government in different channels is acknowledging the mistakes it made that has a profound sort of effect.

The last place the close. Become the financial spaces and the security spaces. Right. However in our dominant approach in some sectors out of the UK, out of the United States, and in Europe is to begin with the security and financial spaces. Which closes the civil society space, which closes channels of trust, and then creates off line mechanisms for media theology etc. to activate. So there are many ways where we can look at the way where--there are many cases where we can look at the way that these problems were dealt with, with the same fundamental ingredients, that don't actually change because of new technology or no communication systems. There are certain ingredients that still lie in place and what our work is trying to do is is kind of come up with the foundational recipe for that.

SHAWN POWERS: Great. Thank you. Peter you've previously argued that traditional diplomacy and development initiatives are quite effective at countering violent extremism and are perhaps undervalued. I was curious if you could talk a bit about that and specifically focus on the potential role of public diplomacy programs, maybe scaled up, to continue to combat violent extremism.

PETER MANDAVILLE: Sure. You know as I mentioned in response to your first question. The strategy that we have in place now recognizes that the very societal factors that tend to be drivers of violent extremism are things that U.S. foreign policy and national security policy already has longstanding tools that we've developed to deal with. You know I've mentioned some of them localized conflicts, certain kinds of socio economic deprivation, deficits in accountable and effective governance, which means that part of the task of addressing violent extremism you know is about learning how to use and properly resource many of the tools that our foreign policy professionals have been working to hone over many decades now. But I think there are you know new opportunities and public diplomacy is a space in which that should be explored.

I'll just offer briefly two thoughts kind of with respect to public diplomacy and violent extremism. One may be somewhat more strategic in nature and the other a little more tactical. I'm one of those who is an enormous fan and was so long before I entered government service of some of the kind of bread and butter of public diplomacy programs that we've been running for years now. The international visitors leadership program IVLP, Fulbright, the various exchange programs. You know I'm someone who was born and raised in the Middle East myself. I have traveled extensively across that region as well as other Muslim majority parts of the world, in the course of conducting my academic research and I very quickly lost count of the number of individuals I encountered in influential locations in societies around the world who it turned out at some point participated in one of these programs and explain to me the the transformative impact that these programs have had on them. Now of course the people who participate in these programs don't simply go back as sort of signed up loyal spokespeople of the United States. Of course not. Many of them continue to be very critical of aspects of our policies, which they should right? We value that freedom of discourse and space. But what a lot of them I think are in a position to do is when they encounter certain kinds of narratives about the United States, certain kinds of narratives that are premised on the idea that America is a certain way, or that American values are something particular--they're in a position to be able to say you know actually there's another side to this country that you don't often hear too much about. I think it's tempting in the present age given the ubiquity and undeniably the importance of social media and online spaces of discourse to think that kind of conventional people traveling the world and meeting other people and having direct experiences and being able to take that experience and back and convey it in a very kind of old fashioned way isn't valuable. I disagree very strongly. I think that there's evidence within the realm of social media research that shows that that these kinds of messages that circulate in social media spaces become that much more powerful when they are validated by individuals that people have actual direct contact with in their daily life. So I think there's a huge role for those kinds of programs going forward.

With respect to something a little bit more tactical. We've talked a lot about communications platforms, we've talked a lot about various media forms, short video formats, you know various forms of entertainment even, that's fine, that work is good. But at the end of the day, I think it's important that public diplomacy initiatives in this space recognize that in many societies where there is the greatest risk of violent extremism that risk comes from the ongoing presence of certain fundamental social contradictions. Contradictions in the relationship between government and society. Things that the governments of these countries are doing that people fundamentally disagree with, whether we're talking about you know young Sunni Iraqis in Anbar province, whether we're talking about disenfranchised Muslim immigrants in the suburbs of Antwerp, or whether we're talking about young men in southern Tunisia who decide to join you know and travel to to Syria to fight on behalf of ISIS. I think it's important that we not shy away from recognizing that in many cases there is a legitimate political grievance that we need to begin by validating and the work that we do, which is to say not to sort of turn away or shy away or be afraid of the political impulse behind it but to actually embrace that. And I think the Radical Middle Way Initiative, Abbas that you mentioned, actually did that in some very interesting ways. So in that sense an effective public diplomacy type initiative in this vein would say OK, let's say you're angry about aspects of of German, or French, or British, or US foreign policy, and you're contemplating traveling. There are ways that you can be engaged as an activist to address those concerns, that are more constructive, that don't involve travel, that don't involve putting yourself at risk, that don't involve the possibility of you falling into the hands of some of these groups and movements. So I think there is there is space for public diplomacy programs that would take those impulses and help to link people with the various NGOs the advocacy and activist groups that will allow them to feel that they are actually being honest to their politics, being honest to their identity, and being engaged, but doing so in a productive rather than destructive fashion.

SHAWN POWERS: Yeah, the kernel of truth approach, you've got to acknowledge what the basis of the opposition is. Thank you so much, Sheldon. You're looking at this from another angle which is how to use technology and data tools to not just deal with violence but also to prevent it before it even happens. Can you talk about some of the programs you have operating in this space and how they can be applied or are being applied to predict and then squash violent extremism before it even becomes a major issue?

SHELDON HIMMELFARB: Sure. I like to think and just follow up with something Peter was just talking about though about the power of face to face contact, face to face exchanges only to say that there is also terrific research available now, MIT has been a real pioneer in this space, that also shows--you know face to face travel is hard, is expensive, the programs that you're talking about don't scale very well because of the expense and there is a terrific amount of research available now. One, the power of online virtual exchanges if you will, carefully facilitating dialogues between people in different cultures, online can have, in some cases can actually be more impactful if they happen over an extended period of time. So this is kind of the space learning, versus the single event learning research. Right. But it's very clear that these things can be extremely effective at helping to shift one's world view if it takes place in a carefully facilitated situation over an extended period of time. And we don't do nearly enough of it. There's a, you know I hope that 20 years from now we're all going to be sitting here in every single school is going to have some program like this, because the research is increasingly clear that it works.

Now in terms of the preventative what we're doing is really in the conflict. Getting ahead of conflict if you will is trying to leverage this unprecedented in human history situation that we have which is the availability of data coming out of conflict areas about human sentiment. Right. I mean not only are we living in a time when a country like Afghanistan has 65 percent illiteracy and 75 percent cell phone penetration. But we're living at a time when the data that's flowing out of these things that are increasingly becoming smartphones, provides us with information we never had about how about, as I said human sentiment.

Now. It's it's no magic bullet. This is tech is not going to, you know you're not going to win the war against violent extremism with more tweets or even more data because the power of this stuff is how you turn that information into the insights that brilliant people like these on this panel can use in their day to day work. And for that I guess I'd just leave this final point which is to say we've got to also do a better job at taking a cross discipline perspective. And that's kind of what you have at this table here, which is you've got me in the tech world, you've got Peter in the religion space, and you've got other experts here on other aspects of this--making sense of all of this data that we're getting that we never had before requires, you know, data scientists working with social scientists, engineers working with conflict experts. This is very much a focus of our work in the PeaceTech lab trying to build that kind of a space for this but we need it. It's desperately needed if we're going to actually use this extraordinary resource that we have that we never had. I mean I started working in conflict countries 25 years ago we had no idea what was happening, 10 years ago we had no idea what was happening on the other side of Bujumbura let alone now you can know what's happening on the other side of the world with the push of a button. So we do have an opportunity for doing early warning. It is only going to be--we're only going to leverage that opportunity if we approach it in a cross disciplined way and then we have to devote just as many resources to having what do we do with that information to response networks, early warning without early response is useless.

And so that's the other focus of the tech lab with these PeaceTech exchanges that I talked about earlier where we work at a very local level, we work in country to try to enable local community leaders to have the tools that they can do more better faster if you will. So early warning, early response, that I think is--we have a brave new world when it comes to the prevention of conflict. And we're only just beginning to understand how to wrap our arms around it.

SHAWN POWERS: I have done a very very bad job of moderating this panel because I've got pages and pages of questions that I promised we would discuss and I simply am out of time. And so what I would like to do is turn things back over to Bill Hybl to start our Q&A session and hopefully we can, we can bring some of these issues back in as we had discussed thanks so much.

BILL HYBL: Questions first by a member of the commission. Anne.

ANNE WEDNER: All right I just want to thank everyone on a panel for a really great beginning discussion of course. I think this could last for days as many of these CVE conferences do. I just wanted to bring into the mix and I don't know how many of you are familiar with this effort in Chicago so we're going to leave the coasts, but in Chicago at the University of Chicago there's the Chicago Project on security and terrorism and their work is unbelievably data driven. So what they have done is test a lot of these assumptions with real data. And what I find, they just published a report called The Social and Neurological Constitution of Martyrdom. And what I like about what they're doing is that they've taken away all of the assumptions that we've made about who the actors are in these spaces and in a way are. I mean, I don't even know where to start but there's so much in this report but, I felt that their overwhelming sort of analysis at the end of the day was that the efforts that were making to delegitimize the arguments of the one side, by putting up our own side whether that's through other people carrying our water or through ourselves, are utterly failing. And the reason is is because we're asking people to replace one authority with another and we're still telling them what to do. And a much more effective way of dealing with these issues is to ask them to be critical thinkers. And so we're thinking about a process and teaching process. I don't know how you do that with traditional public diplomacy but it seemed like it was a really interesting insight.

They also have seen the success of all of these recruitment videos. So ISIS has done a much better job than al Qaeda ever did. You know they've recruited in a short period of time what al Qaeda had recruited over many decades and others, so why, they ask why is why are their efforts so much more successful. They actually went through and viewed every single martyrdom video, every single one, over the last several decades. And their conclusion is that there's been a stark change in what these videos actually show, and that now what the success is what those videos do that ISIS shows, about the people that you know do suicide bombings or participate in their stuff, is that they have created classic hero stories so remember Homer. Right. And the 12 stages of progress that the hero. So what you're not looking at are people who are disaffected, or poor, or poorly educated, because the other work that they've done at the University of Chicago has proven that actually people who engage in this kind of terror are mirror regular society in terms of their education, employment, and all that. And actually the ones in the United States are not particularly Islamic, 65 percent are recent converts to Islam, and recent being in the last few months--so this isn't really a religious phenomenon and that in that sense. But the, but the power of the narrative of the hero's narrative and the meaning that that gives to people's lives. And what we've seen as the sort of alienation in our own western lives, is something I think that we need to think about as we're doing programming. So I've gone on a long time but I really wish that the Chicago people had been at this session. And sadly they're in Chicago so they're not here but, curious about your reactions please.

HAROON ULLAH: Anne, thanks for that. And I agree with you more. I think you know, I actually did my doctoral work in TV and game theory, and so I'm very partial to sort of thinking about data, and I think why public diplomacy works and where I've been very heartened over last few years is because we've now started using data in the field to build into the actual design of these programs. So for example, Abbas kindly mentioned, I didn't pay him to mention Burka Avenger, which was a program that we did, I helped run in Pakistan when I was there. And we came up with it. Now the reason it worked was because as Abbas said is that we looked at the type of data that you said in the Chicago study. Many of the people who are doing fantastic work. And when you strip away the narratives you can look at exactly what you can try to get at sort of the causation piece of it and you try to look at that hero journey and that's exactly the impetus of why we want to do Burka Avenger because we wanted to sort of, we saw that there was a gap for young people, and that they don't have role models. They didn't have these sort of--this is broadly now in the Middle East and South Asia. And I think that's why the program resonated in a way and I would say why the Chicago study I think is particularly useful and why it's instructive for diplomacy is because it uses field experiments. It looks at polling, it looks at front end and back and research. And now these I think become a hallmark of public diplomacy and thinking about metrics, because you know at the end of day and Alicia you mentioned this, it's what works what actually works on the ground. And when you look at changing attitudes to behaviors it's very difficult to quantify, but we have to, with oftentimes very few resources, I think that's why public diplomacy has been so effective in getting at that.

I just want to mention two additional things just quickly and I know we're going to go to questions in terms of opportunities. One thing I've noticed in public diplomacy is the enormous sort of volunteerism of Americans that we need to better capture. And what I mean by this is that people like at the University of Chicago, in academics, and in the private sector, they want to serve. They may never ever be a chance to serve in the military or have what they want to serve, in terms that they feel that there's outpouring sense of what I call citizen diplomacy in this world of CVE and I think the Commission and others, we've got to find a way or better using what I call "spare power" of these Americans. They are abroad doing work humanitarian work. They're in the technology sector, they want to donate their time and we have to find a way to plug them in. And the last thing I mentioned on the metrics is that, we have to continue, I think we have to continue using big data. And because oftentimes we have fewer resources and that's what I'm most heartened by. And as some people mentioned the Global Engagement Center. But we have a new entity that's been that's been developed at the State Department. That again is bringing the best from the private sector and thinking about how to use data in this space.

BILL HYBL: Let me let me go on and have another question, questions by the Commission?

GEORGETTE MOSBACHER: Thank you. The one thing that as I listen to all of our experts today and thank you very much, it's been both interesting and informative. Is there seems to be something missing from this equation. And it was particularly struck me when Dr. Sayeed spoke. And that is we're talking about all the things that we can do for the Muslim community. And if you take a walk around Europe or the United States, the Muslim communities have not been properly assimilated. And we talk about what we can do for them. I think that part of public diplomacy, we need to also explain that they have a responsibility if they want to have a voice in government. And what our values are and how do we assimilate them into our community, so they can have a voice in government and where they are, we are comfortable, and not isolated and if we don't--they don't feel that there are programs that are just set up, for them, as opposed to bringing them into the process where they aren't isolated. You see, whether you see it in France, or you see it in England, or you see it in the United States, we're working on these programs. So that they won't get radicalized, that they feel a part of the community. But at the same time. What are we, what are the tools, and what are we--what are we trying to get across to them that there are responsibilities to democracy, there's responsibilities to assimilating in a community. And that they have to take those responsibilities and step up to them. We can't do that for them. We can help and we can educate through public diplomacy programs, but they have to participate. It's not something that's just given to them. They can't just participate and have a voice in government, without understanding what the responsibility is to be a citizen in order to have a voice in government. And I think that's that's a that's an important piece that I really I wasn't hearing and maybe I just missed it.

Maybe you were all saying it.

SARAH SAYEED: I want to just very very quickly highlight something that you said that I think is missing in this conversation. You mentioned the Chicago study. Before I get to your question, you talked about the neurological dimensions of martyrdom and the importance of heroes stories, and I think what has been missing a lot in these conversations is that there is a neuroscience of conflict and emotions are really a really important part of conflict they drive conflict ,and a lot of our analysis of conflict often leaves that part of conflict out. And the reason why heroes stories are so effective is because they call on people's emotional commitment. They let them, kind of be inspired. Facts don't inspire. It's you know, emotions that inspire, that evoke a connection. You know sense of meaning is emotionally laden. And I think we really need to be thinking more carefully about neuroscience and we need to be thinking about human beings as whole human beings not just rational actors. And I feel like a lot of our work has left that out because we engage in binary thinking that pits rational and emotional versus one another.

About what you were talking about. I think that it's very true that you know we need to educate, part of what we're trying to do in New York City is just let people know what is civic engagement about. You know, do you know who your local elected official is? Do you know the interrelationship between state government and city government? Right? And what does it mean to volunteer in your community? How does that help you become more civically engaged? So there is that, very much--a lot of people don't know that, a lot of people really don't know that. So that's definitely true. And then one of the first things that happened when I came, you know literally like the week that I started working, I got pulled into a meeting at the international affairs office because the State Department was in New York City about to launch the Strong Cities Network in a few months, and they wanted New York City to be a part of the conversation. You know what New York is an important place to participate in this conversation and we had really fruitful exchanges and New York became a member of the network, but that was not viewed in a positive light by by our community. And when we brought the community in to talk about this network, their first question to us is like why are you only bringing us into the room when you want to talk about security. We've got a lot of other issues that we want to deal with as New Yorkers and you have to think about what security means to us. It's not just about international terrorism, it's about what's happening right here on the ground to our communities. We are, you know facing hate crimes. Our kids are getting bullied in schools. You know women in hijab are getting fired from work like, securities has to be thought about much more expansively. So we're trying to engage people, both educating them about civic engagement but also talking about broader issues that impact their lives including the ones I've named but also things like, you know, what does it mean to have affordable housing? How do you create policy that, you know, allows people more access to housing? How do you reduce homelessness? How do you give minority and small business owners, women business owners, better access to contracting? How do you have better criminal justice and prison reform? I mean all of these issues impact communities no matter what their faith is and Muslim New Yorkers are very very diverse and are touched by a lot of different issues. So I think you're absolutely right that, we need to not only talk about issues that impact communities, but also how to, how to engage those and I think there is an art of being a citizen you know and we all can be better at that for sure.

BILL HYBL: Good I think, thank you, I think we should go to the audience. I could see hands were moving. And the fact is, identify yourself and your organization if you would. And we have microphones on both sides. Yes sir. Yes sir. You had your hand up first. There's a mic right there.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello I'm Sanjay. I Am a Fulbright scholar at American University. I'm from India. And I was just wondering that no one you know did talk about the Digital Outreach Team, its effort in fighting terrorism. So I would explain that how do you know someone else can throw light on that. And another thing is when we look at the US effort you know to fighting online terrorism, that they are trying to control the narrative. Their approach seems to be more ostentatious or [inaudible]. Instead I mean will agree with Peter that there should be more integrative and more you know collaborative networking approach to fight terrorism.

BILL HYBL: Who would like to respond to that. Sure.

ALICIA KEARNS: I think it's it's interesting that you bring up digital outreach actually at this point. I just want to say I think we also need to--I just want to reframe the conversation as well before I answer question--which is we've been talking in this room a lot about Islamic extremism. We all have duties to recognize there is also environmental violent extremism. There is violent extremism by Christians, violent extremism Buddhists, violent extremism by far right Christians. And we also have to recognize that we all have responsibility to recognize that we have to challenge all these things, because it's the same issues across all of them. And it's the same networks that need to be tackled--now in terms of your question about outreach. There was a constant challenge in government between should we be spending our time on digital outreach which is cheap and free and mainly just free and easy to do and anyone can do it anywhere you are. But it's about how you do it. Abbas touched on this earlier, which is essentially the same ways we've been talking about social tech companies and whether they're responsible for what's happening. It is the same networks and the same conversations taking place as were taking place without when al-Qaeda was here. And I actually disagree with what the university was saying about how Daesh so much better than al-Qaida's at doing social media, at doing comms. Osama bin Laden was in a cave and he became world renowned, before 9/11. He was doing effective comms but he didn't have social media. It wasn't as easy. He didn't have videos and YouTube and kids around all the place doing it. He still had hero stories. Been the same way that Al-Nusra doesn't want any person to come and fight for them. You have to be vetted. You have to part of the network. You have to be proven to be a proper religious zealot. That's the same way Al-Qaeda works. They wouldn't take anyone Daesh because they'll take anyone. And it doesn't matter where you come from or how disaffected you are or not, they'll take you. It's just whether you can be doing toilet cleaning or whether you're going to be fighting or not. That's the distinction. So I think on the question of digital, it's not about should we be doing digital or not it's about where is your audience? Who do they trust? Who do they listen to and where are their networks? Because we all know that face to face engagement is the way that you really change minds, hearts and minds. But that's not always possible. So you need to look at. Do you need to be reaching people when they're on the toilet? Do you need posters what they're looking at? Do you need to be reaching older siblings through children's TV programming? Because actually when you look at the Burka Avenger and stuff like that it might be for a children's program but actually we're trying to reach the older siblings who are watching that TV program. Do you need to be doing pamphlets? Do you need to be doing games? For example the far-right, music is a really good way to get in or biking initiatives. You know there are so many different ways of doing it. Another way you can do it is by actually switching on the Internet. Should we be switching on the Internet in places where extremists are switched off. The challenge is you're helping information get out--the truth. You're also helping information get in--we're coming for you. Don't worry about it we will come for you. It's awful at the moment but we are coming. But you're also potentially helping the terrorists get their messaging out.

So the question for me is not should we be doing digital but when she would be doing digital and it should always come back to target audience analysis and too often in public diplomacy people say I don't need to spend half a million pounds on a TAA, a target audience analysis--you do. You need to know the language the audience is using, when they use it, and not just the language, but how do they understand the language, how they want to receive it? And then when psychologically, what you're saying about neuroscience, when in their journey are they open to the message you're trying to push. Because there's no point to them when they're cooking, unless that's the best time to receive it. So I think the question with digital is not should we but when. And also we are becoming reliant on it.

BILL HYBL: Good. Thank you. Questions. Yes sir.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm Kalyl Bentwila from Al Hurra TV station. I was thinking to ask this question or no. I found myself forced to ask it, even in my poor English. So the whole question is about what's the message, what's the content of all these campaigns on Twitter and Facebook et cetera. So with the tools, we know all the tools everyone, like TV stations, movies everything. But what's the content. Because if we want to fight the extremism, and then the radicalism, and the violent takes extremism, all we have to go to the to the content of this, that say What's the Jihadism, why people believe on jihad, because the jihad exists in a book and Muslim believe that God told them. But they have to fight non-believers, this is first. Second, you can't convince anyone of these people if you show him Kim Kardashian or whatever. It doesn't work for him. You show him a successful story in Chicago or whatever. It doesn't work. So people who works on these platforms Twitters, Facebook, everything they have only one goal is to find people who knows if it's really exist and it works. And let's say some of this jihad does it exist on this time, that God said you should find these people, all the time or especially in one time like 14 centuries ago or a lot of things like this. Let's talk about what God said in the Koran he said is the only one who knows about the woman if she has a baby a male or female it's only God, after 14 centuries science discovered that with something we know is. How can we, I mean transmit this.

BILL HYBL: Good will get a response on that.

PETER MANDAVILLE: OK. Just just quickly about core messaging and to get to your point. I think that the both the academic and policy community transatlanticly is coming to the conclusion--if they want to accept they're not that is a different question--that there isn't a single driver, and that single driver definitely isn't some ingredient of theology or Islam. I think that that's a consensus out there.

One of the things that they are avoiding, that they also have a consensus on is that the messaging does not address a core messaging of the radical, which is human suffering. People do not realize that human suffering is at the core of the messaging strategy of all of these organizations. And the fact that human suffering cannot be addressed because of political exclusion, that there is no other viable political way other than fighting and doing it this way. This is what makes it, this is what the core of the argument is. You can you can look at any of the videos and the kind of narrative structures of all these messages across time and space not in and outside of the Muslim community and it's suffering and political exclusion.

What we need to do is is do what is not easy for us and that is engage actors that are on the ground that are not going to develop just the basic sort of positive life, positive identity holistic, abstract, message but instead also address political exclusion and human suffering. The groups that do that, we've engaged for the last two years are Muslim humanitarian organizations that are based in the United States, in Europe, in the UK. These are organizations that are in desperate need of, and are extremely desirous of, and have the will to expand their capacity, not in CVE but in conflict transformation. So are we willing to change the frames of reference just a little bit there, to partner with organizations that are subject to public scrutiny, that will be a political liability for us to work with. But can we empower those organizations as a set of actors that are already doing amazing work that align with our interests. But to do that in a way that we give them the same kind of freedom we do give other ones. I would suggest that we have that we've remarkably overlooked this sort of this resource.

BILL HYBL: Excellent. You know hopefully our panelists can stay because I know there are a number of other questions and for a moment or two and I'd ask Anne. Anne?

ANNE WEDNER: Thank you very much. Bill, thank you, thank you everyone for being here. We have to always end on time that's one thing that the commission does so I apologize. I know we cut off a bunch of good ideas and comments that need to be made. As I mentioned earlier, this panel will serve as a foundation for a report that the commission publish the first half of 2017 mapping the various ways public diplomacy programs have and can prevent and combat extremist violence. If you're interested in contributing to this report, or just interested in hearing more. Please reach out to our Executive Director, Shawn Powers, he is eager to engage with all interested stakeholders on this issue. The commission will hold its next public meeting in March 2017. We should have the final date soon, so stay tuned. And before you leave I invite you to come and say hello to the commission members and the panelists if you want to. Please feel free to take a copy of our 2016 report which we still have a few of outside. And as always, we're open to convening discussions on and conducting research on topics that may be of importance to you, so please let us know what your priorities are and thank you all for coming today.