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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism


February 19, 2015
Department of State

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Good evening, everyone.  Eric, thank you for those extraordinarily kind words.  I want you to know as you were singing my praises, Kerry’s over there panning me, questioning every word of your kindness, so I appreciate it all the more.

But I – Eric, I really do want to thank you genuinely for your many years of friendship and partnership.  It’s really been a tremendous honor to serve with you in President Obama’s Administration, and I know I speak for all of your colleagues and friends in the Administration and around the world when I say how grateful we are to you.  Thank you for all you’ve done during your outstanding service as Attorney General to make our country better and our world safer.  We will miss you mightily.  (Applause.)  And John Kerry, I love you too.  (Laughter.)

I’m the clean-up act, so I’ll try to be relatively brief after what I know has been quite a long day, and actually a long couple of days.  John and I were talking before I came on stage, and we wanted to thank you for your extraordinary endurance, your patience in still being here through many hours, but more importantly, for your incredibly valuable contributions to making this summit a success.  And for all of that, we’re very, very grateful.

In this room, we of course have leaders from many faiths and backgrounds.  We’ve come from every region of the world to stand united behind a shared mission: to break the cycle of hatred and despair that drives extremism.  This summit is a firm rebuff to those who propagate the false narrative of a world divided.  Over the past few days, we’ve affirmed a joint vision predicated on the dignity of all people. 

Violent extremism isn’t unique to any one people or place.  It’s sown tragedy from Boston to Chibok, from Paris to Peshawar, from Ottawa to Sydney to Copenhagen.  The bottom line is countering violent extremism is essential to the security of all nations, and no one can meet this challenge alone.  To secure our future against terrorist threats, we have to work together as governments and as peoples.  We have to tackle this challenge from every angle, disrupting terrorist plots, destroying safe havens, and deepening our focus on prevention. 

Yesterday and this morning, President Obama clearly laid out the work we all must do to cut off violent extremism at the knees.  We need to discredit extremist ideologies, address the economic and political grievances that can feed extremism, empower local communities while remaining true to our values.  In our meetings, we’ve begun to build an international agenda for action.  And as we return home, we’ll look to each other to keep pushing our strategy forward on every front.

First, we’ve agreed to work more closely as governments to understand the precise nature of threats at the local and regional level and to better coordinate our responses.  Together we’ll invest in more research and regional assessments that can address the unique challenges of countering violent extremism in different contexts.  We’ll share more information about foreign terrorist fighters and secure our borders against extremists returning from conflict in places like Syria and Iraq.  We’re working together, including at the United Nations, to develop integrated response strategies that draw on the skills we each possess. 

As part of this, President Obama has requested nearly $400 million for the State Department to support a wide range of partnerships to counter terrorism, including projects to address violent extremism.  The United States will launch new initiatives to build the capacity of partners in North Africa and the Sahel to develop strategies that counter violent extremism.  And we’re going to track our collective progress with future meetings to make sure our efforts remain linked up.  And to start, as you heard, President Obama has challenged us all to come to the United Nations General Assembly this fall with concrete steps we can take to move forward together.

Second, as we heard during this summit, effective interventions often begin and grow within local communities.  Government partnerships are critical, but the best solutions are often bottom up, not top down.  So we’ll work more closely with civil society and tap the talents of communities which might otherwise be left on the sidelines.

That includes, critically, women and girls, who are some of the most effective voices in countering violent extremism.  Who is better than a mother to spot unusual behavior in her child and intervene?  Around the world, the United States is supporting projects to train women to recognize the signs of recruitment and radicalization in their families and communities and to devise prevention strategies.   

We’re working to build trust and strengthen cooperation between communities vulnerable to radicalization and the police and security forces charged with protecting them.  In countries where people see law enforcement as a threat, it will take a concerted effort to improve relationships.  Here in the United States, we’re expanding the successful law enforcement training programs we’ve piloted in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.  And internationally, we’re working through the Global Counterterrorism Forum to support community-oriented policing in the Balkans, South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel. 

Third, we’ll keep working to expand opportunity, particularly for marginalized populations.  If, from an early age, young people can picture a promising future for themselves and see a path to reaching that future, they will be less likely to turn to violence or terrorism.  So, in partnership with the private sector and academia, with charitable groups and civil society, and with each other, we’re going to increase access to education and offer professional training, leadership skills, and mentorship. 

The United States is particularly focused on expanding economic opportunity for young people.  We’re nurturing entrepreneurship and strengthening innovation in emerging markets through our Global Entrepreneurship Summits and the Global Innovation through Science and Technology program.  Our READY Initiative to foster Resilient, Entrepreneurial, and Dynamic Youth teaches young people computer coding, and then places them in online internships with tech companies.  Through the NeXXt Scholars Program, we’re providing young women in Muslim-majority countries with new opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math. 

We’re investing in the potential of young leaders with initiatives in Africa and Southeast Asia.  And we’re rallying our partners across a broad array of sectors—including heads of the entertainment and technology industries, philanthropists, and policy makers—to expand economic opportunities for vulnerable and marginalized communities. 

Fourth, we’re playing better offense when it comes to undermining the corrosive messages of violent extremists and pushing back with counter narratives of our own.  Violent extremists like ISIL offer nothing but death.  They achieve nothing but the slaughter of innocents.  So we’ll amplify the stories of former recruits who can speak personally about the futility and the barbarity of ISIL’s cause.  We’ll lift up the voices of religious leaders who can speak with authority about how ISIL is in conflict with the peaceful tenets of Islam.  And we’ll encourage students and community leaders to emphasize how ISIL is destroying Muslim communities. 

As the President said earlier today, together with United Arab Emirates, we’re establishing a new digital communications hub to counter terrorist propaganda.  Working with other governments and private sector partners, we’re helping influential community members and religious leaders become more tech-savvy so they can better contest ISIL’s online activities.  Here at the State Department, we’re launching a new Peer-to-Peer Challenge that will encourage university students around the world to develop digital content that stands against extremism.  And yesterday, Secretary Kerry designated the first Special Envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications to drive our government-wide efforts to discredit terrorist messages. 

Finally, we’ll reaffirm our core values and strengthen protections for all our peoples, including religious and ethnic minorities.  We must always take care to protect human rights, including freedom of expression.  We cannot advance our cause by suppressing ideas or curtailing speech.  Offensive speech must be met with more speech.  But there must also always be a line between voicing objectionable ideas and incitement to violence and terrorism. 

As President Obama outlined, people who feel persecuted, targeted by discrimination, or disempowered are more likely to listen when extremists peddle false promises of power, redemption, and belonging.  There’s no one path to violent radicalism.  Extremism can take root wherever someone promotes an ideology of “us” against “them.”  We have to guard against threats that spring from animosity towards any group, whether from anti-Semites, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or any hate group.  So we’re going to create dialogues that facilitate understanding and help communities communicate with respect across religious, sectarian, and ethnic lines.  We’ll work for inclusion so that people feel invested in their societies.  And here in the United States, we’ll continue to affirm that our country is home to people of all faiths. 

So let us leave here today with a renewed commitment to building a world unmarred by terrorism and ideologies of violence.  Countering violent extremism is a difficult challenge, but it is not an insurmountable one.  Our timeline for success may be measured in years, if not decades, but we will prevail.  And that’s because, together, we offer what terrorists never can—a positive vision for a more just, more equal, and more peaceful world.   

And at its most basic, that’s what countering violent extremism is all about:  nurturing those better angels of human nature against the demons of hopelessness and hate.  If we succeed in moving towards the ambitious agenda we have set for ourselves at this summit, we will not only strengthen security for all of our peoples today, we will bequeath to our children a safer and brighter future.   Thank you so much for your partnership in this mission.  Thank you for coming together and thank you for the work we will continue to do.  (Applause.)