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 EngelOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine House chairman subpoenas Trump's Afghanistan negotiator Giuliani tears into Democrats after House opens probe into whether he pressured Ukraine to target Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTexas Republicans sound alarm about rapidly evolving state Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks House panel calls for Afghanistan envoy to testify about deal with Taliban, hints at subpoena MORE (R-Texas) as well as by Senators Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew Coons The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Democratic senator warns O'Rourke AR-15 pledge could haunt party for years Scalise says it's unclear if bipartisan deal on guns will happen MORE (D-Del.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Graham: US should consider strike on Iranian oil refineries after attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (R-S.C.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees MORE (D-Ore.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio Rubio The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick joins CBS News as contributor MORE (R-Fla.), and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess 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.