“We have to do a better job of creating alternatives to violent extremism”, US Secretary of State John Kerry from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

John Kerry, US Secretary of State at the World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos (WEF, 23/01/2015)

John Kerry, US Secretary of State at the World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos (WEF, 23/01/2015)

There was probably no need for Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, to welcome an “old friend and supporter” of the foundation by mentioning the magnitude of the current geopolitical crises, for us to understand what John Kerry’s speech would have been focused on. Almost everybody at the small Swiss town was expecting the US Secretary of State to raise his voice about “the foremost issue we have to confront”, as Professor Schwab stated.

“I am here today to talk about countering violent extremism”, Mr. Kerry stated at the very beginning of his speech, while commemorating the suddenly-perished King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. With those words he unveiled his plans to the audience in Davos Congress Centre. “It is a moment of turmoil, a moment of upheaval – the world in transition”, he said. “I, nevertheless, remain very optimistic about the possibilities”, he also said, with pure American passion, “and I’ll share a few thoughts about that today”.

Understand “what we’re facing”

Secretary of State John Kerry soon tried to catch the audience’s attention on the main topic: the IS, or “Daesh”, as Mr. Kerry and other leaders now use to call the self-appointed Islamic State. The naming is definitely not fortuitous, and deserves some attention. The choice of using the acronym of “al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham” comes from a precise will of using a name the IS itself doesn’t like, and for the attempt of drawing a sharp line between the group and Islam.

A few months ago, France‘s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that ISIS was a bit of a “misnomer”, because it was lending “the imprimatur of Islam to a group that the vast majority of Muslims finds despicable”. Mr Kerry’s choice of using this new title says a lot about the US Secretary of State’s strong attempt to tell the world that the West knows that terrorists are not speaking in the Muslim people’s name.

A matter of choices

In order to tell the world who lies under the name “Daesh”, Mr Kerry mentioned the horrible stories of numerous children forced to serve as human bombs in Nigeria, Iraq and Pakistan, and refused to blow themselves up. Those horrendous, disgusting stories have been covered extensively by the main Western media outlets in the past weeks, but John Kerry wanted to proceed with his treatise taking them as an example of choice.

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, those […] examples represent just about the basic – most basic choice there is: between death and life, between destroying and building”, he said. An example to also present the choices the whole West could make, perhaps, and the actions that could be taken, as we will see. That was the main point of Mr. Kerry at the World Economic Forum.

Macabre Crimes

Mr. Kerry soon enriched his speech with explicit elements, definitely not using details sparingly, to drag the audience’s attention to the point. Women killed with stones, little girls sold into slavery, children forced to witness in the torture of prisoners are other more horrific case. Mr. Kerry used to described this “form of criminal anarchy, a nihilism which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation” the world is witnessing, and most of all should not be confused with religious acts.

No grounds of religion

“Religions don’t require adherence to raze villages and blow up people. It’s individuals with a distorted and an even ignorant interpretation of religion who do that”, US Secretary of State firmly stressed. The risk of fuelling religious turmoil – as it happened in the early 2000s, right after 9/11 terror attacks – and sewing anti-Islamism is clear and present, and Mr. Kerry knows it. “The biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes not committed by Muslims alone – crimes that the overwhelming majority of Muslims oppose”, he said.

Actions needed

The main risk for the West now can be that any future move might be used by its opponents as an act against the whole Islam, and to bring the world to the edge of a global conflict. John Kerry’s speech is focused on this main question, and this is evident, as clear it is that taking measures is exactly what the Secretary of State was asking for.

“This kind of atrocity can really never be rationalized; these kinds of actions can never be excused. They have to be stopped”, the American politician told the audience in Davos, last Friday. “We can’t shy away from this reality that terror networks in some places are operating with near impunity, and imminent danger in others, and a potential threat everywhere”, he maintained.

The underlying causes

“So what should we do?”, Mr Kerry asked the audience of the main congress hall in Davos. This was the question the Secretary of State used in order to get to the core of his speech. Kerry’s analysis became even clearer and – I would say – critical.

“Eliminating the terrorists who confront us today actually only solves part of the problem. We have to do more to avoid an endless cycle of violent extremism, a resupplying on a constant basis. We have to transform the very environment from which these movements emerge”, he said. This is, I believe, a crucial point for the actions needed to be taken in the future, an analysis that could sound as a response to the numerous nationalist parties in Europe, which claimed that suspending the visa-free Schengen Area or thickening borders would be the best response now.

It’s the “underlying causes” which have to be studied and then fought, as John Kerry said during his speech, the ones the West should “respond effectively” to.

Creating alternatives

Although Mr. Kerry openly mentioned the military side of the response to the terrorist menace, he proceeded with proposals that concern the “social” side of the question, and the reasons on the basis of the terrorist groups’ origin which are related to decline and neglect. “Now inevitably there will be, yes, a military component to the strategy. […] But ultimately, this fight is not going to be decided on the battlefield”.

The outcome is going to be determined in classrooms, work places, houses of worship, community centres, urban street corners, in the perceptions and the thoughts of individuals, and the ways in which those perceptions are created”, the American official underlined. “In short, we have to do a better job of creating alternatives to violent extremism”.

Frustration vs. opportunity

In substance, the US Secretary of State was in Davos to ask the world for more. Especially to ask the existing US partners and allies to do more to fight against terror groups – yes, with military actions, but not only. His analysis was not merely practical. He covered with acute sense of observation of this very moment in history many other aspects that are peculiar to understand the future risks for the West, Europe, and the world itself.

He then mentioned one of the biggest plagues in Europe too, an immense threat for the European Union’s development itself: youth unemployment. “In some countries – and I hate to say this, but including in Europe – as many as 60 percent of young people are both out of school and without regular jobs. Each one of these men and women, my friends, is a story that will end either in frustration or opportunity”, he said. Truth is, any vacuum left by institutions represents an opportunity for any terrorist group to find new followers, to gain more power. That’s the risk in our cities’ poorer areas, in Paris’ banlieues, in Rome’s suburbs, in London’s outer districts.

Finding the money

Mr. Kerry’s speech turned more practical towards the end. “We need to put resources into helping to build the enterprises that can counter these extremists. And using many of the same mechanisms that we use to deal now with global challenges like disease and famine, Ebola, AIDS, poverty”, he outlined. And in order to prevent any question regarding where to find this money in a historic moment in which it seems very hard, John Kerry provided a clear – although quite personal – explanation: “Historically, when we have believed we need to do something, we found the money. We did it. We found the resolve”. “We made things happen”, Mr. Kerry said.

Investing today

The US secretary of State also cited one of the major economic moves in the EU recently as a proof of the feasibility of gathering funds for important reasons. “Just yesterday, the European Central Bank announced they have plans to purchase more than a trillion dollars’ worth of public and private sector bonds as stimulus. They perceived a clear need to combat inflation and stagnation, and so they found the money”.

Now, I believe that the ECB launching a trillion-euro bond-buying programme in a bid to ward off deflation and boost the Eurozone economy is slightly different thing than governments putting resources to organise common actions;  they are simply not comparable, but John Kerry’s message was clear: fighting violent extremism is a priority. “Let’s prove it”, Mr. Kerry said. “If we don’t make those investments today, we will pay far more for it down the road”

Positive ending

The US Secretary of State concluded his passionate speech with a positive message. “ I see nations working together to negotiate new and far-reaching trade pacts, to bring an end to the Ebola epidemic; to seek a peaceful resolution to the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program; to restore peace based on law in Ukraine and having come together around sanctions and held together and made a difference”, he posited.

He did want to leave the stage without an affirmation of faith in the Western world’s possibilities and will of contrasting the new issues and crises, the ones Professor Schwab referred to before. “We have faced even more significant threats in the past – and we have prevailed”, Mr. Kerry said, before concluding. “We are where we are because we […] are builders. We’re the descendants of innovators and doers who survived slavery, plagues, global conflicts, depressions, fascism, totalitarianism, and the Holocaust. So now, it’s our turn.”

It remains to be seen with much interest how Mr Kerry’s commitments in Davos will be monitored in real time international relations strategies in the months to come.

Stay tuned at the European Sting, the only Brussels media that effectively broke the “Brussels bubble” and made it to Davos with live critical coverage of the most important sessions of the World Economic Forum 2015.

You can view his full speech from Davos here:

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU finally to extend sanctions on Russia despite arguments; Greece again in Europe’s spotlight

What is the Internet of Things?

Scale of displacement across Myanmar ‘very difficult to gauge’, says UN refugee agency

EU migrant crisis: Germany, France and UK to show the way. Will the rest of the EU follow?

Global Recovery: The EU disburses SDR 141 Million to the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust

Joint  EU-US Statement on  the Global Methane Pledge 

“Joining forces to #BeatPollution”, a Sting Exclusive by the Head of UNEP in Brussels

This is what CEOs around the world see as the biggest risks to business

How scientists are turning living cells into the tiny factories of the future

COVID-19 is threatening the lives of migrant children held in US custody

The COVID-19 recovery can be the vaccine for climate change

At G20 Summit OECD’s Gurría says collective action vital to tackle global challenges

UN rights chief ‘appalled’ by US border detention conditions, says holding migrant children may violate international law

Why trade wars have no winners

GSMA Announces Final Event Lineup for Highly Anticipated 2019 “MWC Los Angeles, in Partnership with CTIA”

EU leading in global agri-food trade

Member States’ compliance with EU law in 2018: efforts are paying off, but improvements still needed

The widely advertised hazards of the EU not that ominous; the sting is financial woes

South Korea once recycled 2% of its food waste. Now it recycles 95%

MEPs adopt Technical Support Instrument to speed up post-COVID-19 recovery

MEPs demand end to EU arms exports to Saudi Arabia

The ECB ‘accidentally’ followed IMF‘s policy advice for growth and job creation by printing more money

Brexit: European Commission publishes Communication on preparing for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

The gender gap of medicine in 2018

Why our future relies on more inclusive and transparent innovation

What’s behind South Korea’s elderly crime wave?

European Commissioner for Youth wants young people to be at heart of policy making

EU: All economic indicators in free fall

Stop wars disguised as peace missions

Young translators at EU schools – Commission opens registration for 2020 translation contest

Social, cultural diversity ‘an enormous richness, not a threat’ Guterres declares calling on investment for a harmonious future

ECB money bonanza not enough to revive euro area, Germany longs to rule with stagnation

Five avoidable deaths per minute shows urgent need for action on patient safety

Towards a seamless internal EU market for industrial goods

Digital Green Certificate is the right move but speeding up vaccination is key

Myanmar doing too little to ensure displaced Rohingya return: UN refugee agency chief

Brexit: UK business fear of a no-deal scenario preparing for the worst

How man and machine can work together in the age of AI

MWC 2016 LIVE: Orange targets VoLTE and Voice over Wi-Fi; strikes Google partnership

75 years after Auschwitz liberation, antisemitism still threatens ‘foundations of democratic societies’

UNESCO food and culture forum dishes up fresh serving of SDGs

European markets itchy with short-term disturbances

Bioethics: how to recover trust in the doctor-patient relationship

This Kenyan company makes fuel from human poo

“Healthcare system and socioeconomic inequities”-through the lens of developing nations

China repels EU allegations of export subsidies

Germany’s fiscal and financial self-destructive policies

Cameron readies to support ‘yes’ for Britain in the EU

How Bangladesh’s leaders should respond to the economic threats of COVID-19

Civil protection: Parliament strengthens EU disaster response capability

Where are fleeing Afghans finding refuge?

Why the 33,000 staff European Commission did not have a real contingency plan for the refugee crisis?

MEPs approve the EU’s new culture programme

Human Rights breaches in Russia, Afghanistan and Burkina Faso

From raised fists at the 1968 Olympics to taking the knee: A history of racial justice protests in sport

Trump’s Russian affair spills over and upsets Europe

Why is Merkel’s Germany so liberal with the refugees? Did the last elections change that?

MEPs vote for upgrade to rail passenger rights

Mobile technology saving lives: changing healthcare with simple technology solutions

European Defence Fund on track with €525 million for Eurodrone and other joint research and industrial projects

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: