CEP Europe Announces Campaigns to Counter Extremist Narratives, Squelch Social Media Propaganda and Recruitment; Group Opens Offices in London, Berlin and Brussels as Part of Larger Continental Effort
Brussels – The Counter Extremism Project Europe (CEP Europe), an organisation working to bring together a global force to combat extremism, launched today in Brussels at a press conference led by former diplomats, government officials and private-sector leaders from the United States, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom.
CEP Europe marks the first international expansion of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a non-profit, non-partisan policy and advocacy group that launched in the U.S. in September 2014. CEP Europe joins CEP and the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) in a partnership, which will operate under the auspices of CEP. The organisation, which will operate out of London, Berlin and Brussels, unveiled a double-pronged campaign that emphasises countering extremist recruitment messaging and disrupting extremist digital media strategies.
“The purpose of this event is to announce a very important global partnership, uniting the best experts in counter extremism,” said former Ambassador Mark Wallace, CEO of the Counter Extremism Project. “Governments have been grappling with how to deal with the growth of extremism worldwide. What we’re seeing now with lone wolf attacks, is that people can reach into our neighborhoods, thousands of miles away from the Caliphate. We have to degrade their ability to radicalize through the Internet. We need to shut this down.”
Wallace was joined by former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, who serves as a member of the advisory board of CEP. Speaking at this morning’s press conference, Lieberman said, “The world is awash in brutal acts of violence and extremism. This is a global struggle that is totally unconventional. In defense of our humane, shared values, we have to come together to defeat a violent, radical minority. This is not a crisis that cannot be solved by governments alone. We need non-governmental organizations and individuals to be a part of this fight.”
CEP Europe’s formation reflects the recognition that the private sector has an important role to play in responding to the growing threat posed by extremist propaganda and radicalisation strategies. Private groups have a significant role to play in addressing the most critical global security challenge of our time.
Dr. August Hanning, director of CEP Europe’s Berlin operations, spoke to the need for third-party organizations to help combat the aggressive recruitment of millennials around the world.
“We have to realize what the roots are for these kinds of threats, what are the reasons for the draining of these young people to Iraq and Syria,” Dr. Hanning said. “This is not a problem that can be solved only by governments and their agencies. We have to find out who is financing these organizations and we must prevent young people from crossing the border into Syria and Iraq.”
Echoing those sentiments was Rt. Hon Mark Simmonds, former U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, who serves as a London-based adviser to CEP Europe. “We need to join up our effort by pulling the best ideas from all areas,” Simmonds said. “This requires a cohesive strategy. We need to work to reach disenfranchised communities and those who have distrust for their governments and agencies. We are stronger together than we are apart.”
CEP Europe also announced today the launch of two initiatives that will be the focus of the organisation’s immediate efforts.
- CEP Europe unveils a new, multi-language digital disruption campaign. Expanding on CEP’s success in identifying and urging social media platforms such as Twitter to remove extremist English language accounts, CEP Europe will target extremist misuse of Twitter by German, Turkish, French and Italian speakers. CEP Europe will find, translate and expose violent and threatening content, illustrating to Twitter that recent measures to crack down on English-language incitement are not sufficient to address today’s global extremist threat.
- CEP Europe also launches new counter-narrative programme for vulnerable, at-risk populations. This new programme will emphasise an alternative method of deployment, targeting actors with an outsized ability to reach and influence young people – educators, social workers and respected community leaders.
Roberta Bonazzi, director of CEP Europe’s Brussels operations, and founder of EFD, discussed the group’s counter-narrative initiative, explaining, “We are working with actors who are on the forefront, who are able to detect changes within youth and schools. Our colleagues have been working with schoolteachers, and social workers for the last two years and are able to reach one to two hundred young people a month. Certainly, what needs to be done is implementing this kind of work in a systematic way.”
CEP Europe is supported by an advisory board of experts from across Europe, with intentions to open additional offices across the continent over time.
Jiri Schneider, former First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Czech Republic, and adviser to CEP Europe, said, “I’m here [on behalf of the Czech Republic] because this is a burning issue for all of us. I see a lot of challenges that are antagonizing and polarizing European Union societies. I am here as a citizen who cares about the society here in the EU.”
Twitter Q&A session: Principals from both CEP and CEP Europe will participate in a Twitter Q&A session on Monday, June 29, 2015 at 3:00 PM CEST. Participants will have the opportunity to submit questions in real-time to the principals.
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The Counter Extremism Project is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organisation formed to address the threat from extremist ideology. It does so by pressuring financial support networks, countering the narrative of extremists and their online recruitment, and advocating for effective laws, policies and regulations.
CEP uses its research and analytical expertise to build a global movement against the threat to pluralism, peace and tolerance posed by extremism of all types. In the United States, CEP is based in New York City with a team in Washington, D.C.
The European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) is a policy institute based in Brussels that is dedicated to upholding Europe’s fundamental values of democratic governance, political pluralism, individual liberty and religious tolerance. EFD identifies constructive approaches to address threats to Europe’s security and freedoms from individuals and states that espouse radical, extremist ideologies. EFD works with grassroots activists, media, policy experts and government officials in and outside Europe to advance our mission – and to transform ideas into action.
EFD has shaped the debate with cutting-edge research that is central to some of Europe’s most crucial domestic and international policy agendas. EFD regularly and extensively briefs European officials, politicians, diplomats and media members.