Mercy Corps Welcomes Passage of Legislation to Better Address Drivers of Violence

December 8, 2016

National Defense Authorization Act reflects growing recognition that military tools alone are not enough

WASHINGTON, DC – The global organization Mercy Corps applauds the U.S. Congress for including a provision in the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will enable the U.S. government to more effectively tackle drivers of violence and violent extremism.

Section 385 of the NDAA allows the Secretary of Defense to transfer up to $75 million to agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State to implement foreign assistance programs, such as community-led conflict mitigation, good governance and peacebuilding, to address the root causes of violence.

“Senator Kaine, Representative Tim Walz and the Armed Services Committee, including Chairmen McCain and Thornberry and Ranking Members Reed and Smith, should be commended for taking an important step to address one of the most pressing security challenges of our time,” says Andrea Koppel, Vice President of Global Engagement and Policy for Mercy Corps. “This provision ensures that more resources and the most appropriate agencies can work to address the root causes of the grievances that fuel violence and radicalization.”

Funding to address violent extremism has flowed disproportionately to the Department of Defense (DOD) versus the State Department and USAID. Since the September 11 attacks, Congress has funded Global War on Terror operations at a ratio of roughly 92 percent for DOD to six percent for foreign aid development programs and diplomatic operations.

“The intent of this provision is to increase the flexibility of the tools we’re applying to counter violent extremism worldwide,” says U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), lead author of the provision. “The Department of Defense has long recognized the principle of incorporating more non-military solutions in countering violent extremism. This provision allows for a broad inter-governmental approach, with the military working cooperatively with civilian agencies like USAID. In a constrained budget environment, this provision will enable the DOD, State and USAID to work together to counter violent extremism in a more efficient, coordinated and responsible manner.”

Mercy Corps research in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Colombia and Somalia has shown that feelings of injustice driven by marginalization, security abuses and weak and corrupt governance are often the leading reason young people join extremist groups. A new Mercy Corps study in Somalia drawn from a multi-year development program shows that combining secondary education with civic engagement opportunities decreased the likelihood of youth participating in and supporting violence.

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