For immediate release | Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Global Organization to Target Extremist Groups, Expose Financing Networks

Multinational, private-sector approach to counter threat on multiple fronts; timing of effort comes as years of public apathy about terrorism risks giving way to surging fears

Press Contact:

Sara Gould

New York, NY – Today, a renowned group of international leaders and former diplomats announced the formation of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), an organization aimed at combating extremism and exposing its hidden support networks through a campaign of international action.

In the works for more than a year, CEP’s formation has particular urgency given the current surge in terror – from Boko Haram to Hamas to the threat of ISIS that has the world on edge and the United States opening another war front in the Middle East. The group’s mission reflects the responsibility of private groups to help with the global security challenge of our time – one that commands an international response and that governments cannot handle alone.

"This is the future of foreign policy: Where a government cannot act, fails to act, or falls short, there is a role for a private, non-profit group to help hold accountable those who support extremist groups,” said Mark Wallace, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. “We do not have armies to command, but we can help degrade extremist organizations by exposing their networks of financial support and bringing to bear enormous public and private-sector pressure."

CEP distinguishes itself from other organizations because it will drive not just thought, education, and policy, but action. CEP will take a multi-pronged approach of exposing shadowy channels of financial support to extremist groups; rallying public and private support to disrupt them; and use social media, regulatory, economic and counter-narrative campaigns to degrade extremism. 

CEP will hold accountable the people, businesses, political parties and governments that support extremist groups, modeled on its founders’ effort to counter Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. 

CEP’s mission is to combat the growing threat posed by extremist ideology. From sub-Saharan Africa to the Far East, extremism is not declining. It is, in fact, accelerating at an alarming rate. The organization will focus on four critical components in its combat efforts:

  • Reveal, degrade, and ultimately stop the financing of global extremist organizations.
  • Build a best-in-class clearinghouse and database of extremist groups and their supporters, mapping the social and financial networks, tools, and methodologies on which these groups rely.
  • Assemble a global network of experts to promote our collective security and the universal values and interests that are threatened by extremist ideology, recruitment, and practices.
  • Stem the spread of extremism by utilizing all the tools of modern communication to offer counter narratives that reveal its true purposes and injustice, and make a compelling case for the compatibility of traditional values with globalization, peaceful coexistence, and progress

“There is a responsibility for private groups – CEP being the most effective example – to organize in opposition to extremists and publicly scrutinize the previously unknown financial architecture that frames and drives violent extremism around the world,” said Ambassador Dennis Ross.

CEP will draw on the expertise of an elite, non-partisan advisory board of leading foreign affairs and international security experts.

Led by Mark Wallace, who served as United States Ambassador to the UN for Management Reform, and Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security Advisor, CEP gathers a non-partisan group of the world’s most notable participants in the discussion of extremism. Senator Joe Lieberman, Dennis Ross, Ambassador Munir Akram, U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith, and nonproliferation expert Gary Samore all hold positions at CEP’s highest level.

CEP will be headquartered in New York City, with teams in Washington, D.C., and Brussels.

As part of its first steps, CEP has released new polling data that frames the challenge in the often under-surveyed area of public attitudes about extremism.

In the United States, Islamic extremism is now seen as the top threat to national security, doubling in priority as the top issue from the spring to the end of the summer. A total of 26 percent – more than 1 in 4 U.S. voters – cite it as the top threat. The numbers are even higher in Europe, where nearly 60 percent of people view Islamic extremism as the greatest threat to their national security.

“There has never been a more critical time to respond to extremist threats than right now. Internationally and here at home, people are concerned about the proliferation of extremist violence and the threat to their own well-being. CEP is the perfect companion to governmental efforts to stop extremist proliferation in its tracks,” CEP President, Fran Townsend said.

At 10:00am EST this morning, a press conference announcing CEP’s launch will be streamed live at the following URL: http://counterextremism.com/press-conference. Further information and research is available at CEP’s newly-unveiled site: www.counterextremism.com. A full list of our leaders and advisors can be found at www.counterextremism.com/leadership; all of our members are available for press opportunities and interviews.