Can development enhance peace and resilience in West Africa?

A new study shows that it's not only economics, religion or ideology that drive young people to join armed jihadist groups in Mali.

Dakar, Senegal – Unemployed, idle and fanatical; this is how young members of armed jihadist groups in Mali are portrayed. However, there is little empirical data to support this characterisation.

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) conducted a study which interviewed more than 60 youths previously involved with extremists. ‘Factors other than economics, religion or ideology explain why young people join the ranks of armed jihadist groups in Mali’, said Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni, Director of the ISS office in Dakar and leader of the research team.

The study questions the conventional wisdom on an issue that is crucial to stability in Mali and the security of its neighbours. It also shows that proactive approaches that prioritise development and the building of inclusive and resilient societies should be part of the solution.

‘The study has important policy implications for how development actors like JICA could design more effective interventions in affected countries or countries at risk’, said Iimura Tsutomu, the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Resident Representative in Côte d’Ivoire.

‘Concepts like radicalisation and violent extremism are currently in vogue, but should be used with caution, as they could lead to solutions that miss the point’, said Théroux-Bénoni.

The results of the study will be launched on 26 August at the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. The side event will assess whether development interventions can address the region’s security challenges and contribute to achieving peace. A policy brief covering the main findings will be available.

For the full programme and registation details, click here.

For enquiries and to arrange media interviews:

Makiko Naemura, email: [email protected]

Marie Sagna, email: [email protected]

Development partners
The ISS is grateful for support from the following members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
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