Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission 

Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission 
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Last month, Boko Haram fighters stormed into Rann, a border town in Northeast Nigeria, setting houses ablaze and killing at least 60 people as they fled. The attack added 30,000 more to the 2 million lives already uprooted by violence in Nigeria. The death toll stemming from Boko Haram’s violent insurgency now stands at more than 27,000, with no end in sight. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who leads U.S. Africa Command, warned Congress earlier this month that Boko Haram and its splinter groups have taken large pieces of real estate in northern Nigeria and could have up to 5,000 fighters.

This terror threat is not unique to Nigeria. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index, terrorists killed nearly 19,000 people in 67 countries and cost the global economy $52 billion in 2017 —  ten times the number of lives lost and five times the cost incurred in 2000.

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Amid this rising tide of global violence, we do see reason for tempered hope and a means to gain an upper hand. In a long-awaited follow-up to the 9/11 Commission’s original 2004 report, the United States Institute of Peace Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States today released its final report, detailing a strategy to address violent extremism. Although the U.S. government has implemented two core pillars of that original report — to degrade terror organizations and protect against future attacks — there has been little progress implementing its third recommendation to prevent radicalization and stop terror organizations like Boko Haram and ISIS from emerging and growing.

Central to the Task Force’s recommendations is the recognition that poor governance and human rights abuses are primary causes of terrorism. “A community tends to become vulnerable to extremism when the compact between society and the state has broken down,” the Task Force highlights. 2017 research conducted by my organization, Mercy Corps, supports this; we found that youth members of armed groups in Mali cited perceived government neglect or injustice as main reasons for joining. Our additional research in Iraq found that improved perception of governance was correlated with reduced support for armed opposition groups. The Task Force also recognizes the importance of empowering local leaders in fragile communities to develop and manage their own efforts to prevent violence.

The Task Force’s key recommendation is a whole-of-government violence prevention initiative. Fortunately, a bipartisan bill, the Global Fragility Act, would create such a plan and is already making its way through the legislative process. The legislation is supported by a coalition of more than 50 development, humanitarian, faith, and peacebuilding organizations as well as by both Democrats and Republicans.

If passed and signed into law, the Global Fragility Act would strengthen the capacity of the U.S. government to identify the ways in which people are vulnerable to violence and conflict and provide diplomatic and development resources to help communities mitigate such threats. The legislation also would mandate the U.S. government to pilot this new approach in no fewer than six countries, offering a laboratory to test which strategies may be most effective for preventing violence in the world’s most fragile places, and then regularly report back to Congress and the American people on what works.

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Implementing these measures would require a significant change from existing practices and dedication of resources. The U.S. government devotes only 2 percent of its assistance to the world’s 27 chronically fragile states to conflict mitigation and reconciliation programs. If we are serious about preventing violent extremism and conflict — not to mention heeding the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to keep Americans safer at home and abroad — we cannot miss this opportunity. We must support programs that promote inclusive, participatory governance and community reconciliation in the fragile states where violence breeds.

The Global Fragility Act, introduced last year by a bipartisan group, including Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump Tillerson told lawmakers Putin was more prepared than Trump for meeting: report Tillerson meets with House Foreign Affairs Committee MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTillerson meets with House Foreign Affairs Committee Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Bipartisan lawmakers urge Trump to reconsider Central America aid cuts MORE (R-Texas) as well as by Senators Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOil companies join blitz for carbon tax Mnuchin says carbon capture tax credit guidance will be out soon Mnuchin signals administration won't comply with subpoena for Trump tax returns MORE (D-Del.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Climate change is a GOP issue, too New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE (R-S.C.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump Senators introduce bill to end warrantless searches of electronic devices at border MORE (D-Ore.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package MORE (R-Fla.), and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungBipartisan senators unveil measure to end surprise medical bills Pence, McConnell eulogize Sen. Richard Lugar On The Money: GOP angst grows over Trump's trade war | Trump promises help for 'Patriot Farmers' | Markets rebound | CBO founding director Alice Rivlin dies | Senate to vote on disaster aid bill next week MORE (R-Ind.), passed with broad support in the U.S. House of Representatives last November but did not receive a vote in the Senate. It should be quickly reintroduced and voted on this session. By passing and funding the act, we will finally be able to heed the call of the 9/11 commissioners to adopt a preventive approach to terrorism and conflict.  

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to correct an editing error that rendered inaccurate Sen. Young's first name.       

Richmond Blake (rblake@mercycorps.org) is director of policy and advocacy at Mercy Corps, where he manages the organization’s Africa, conflict prevention and countering violent extremism policy. He also leads a coalition of 50 organizations in support of the Global Fragility Act. He previously served as a foreign service officer and policy adviser to the under secretary of State for civilian security, democracy and human rights, and as deputy director of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.