Ambassador Pratt’s Welcoming Remarks at the Media Forum at the IGAD Center for Excellence

March 22, 2022

Distinguished guests, invitees, and participants, good to see you this morning.  I am delighted to be here for the opening of the IGAD Center of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism’s Media Forum.  The United States values the important role of IGAD’s P/CVE Center and we have supported it in its efforts since the very beginning of the Center and we are very proud and honored to have that role.

The Center’s history of promoting peace and stability in the region is impressive.  IGAD has played an historic role in East Africa and has a continued responsibility to facilitate peace, security, and stability.  Despite ongoing geopolitical challenges in our region, IGAD continues to promote regional cooperation and integration.  Historically, IGAD has been key in resolving national and regional security threats through conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and by strengthening regional cooperation against existing and emerging threats.  I know this very well from my time in Sudan where IGAD implemented the north/south Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  And IGAD, of course, has an historic role in resolving conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia.

Forums like this one here today provide a common language for media practitioners across IGAD member states to counter the narratives of violent extremism. I would like to thank all participants and welcome you to Djibouti.  The workshop will provide you with an opportunity to build a community of professionals as you continue to do the important, and difficult, work of keeping the public informed of events in the region.  Through the stories you and your outlets select, you can show the negative impact of extremists’ false narratives, hate speech, and prejudice.

Current regional challenges posed by violent extremism have increased the need for an evidenced-based understanding of how communities can respond to such threats.  Media strategies can help, but the trust and credibility of information providers is crucial.  I expect this point will form a large part of your discussion over the next few days.  Misinformation, disinformation, and the availability on social media of a wide range of voices with varying agendas makes today’s information environment challenging.  We have to look no further than Ukraine to see the dangerous influence of false information.

I commend this diverse group of participants for coming together to share their experiences and I encourage participants to take full advantage of this opportunity to deepen their understanding of the threat of violent extremism in the region, to use media literacy initiatives effectively, and critically analyze how social media can counter violent extremism.

The United States is committed to promoting security and stability in Djibouti and the region, and to promoting the means for all to achieve prosperity.  Your work in preventing the disruption and harm that violent extremism brings greatly enhances our ability to work with our regional partners to improve the lives of many.

In closing, I would like to say again how pleased I am that you are all here today, committing your time and energy to this forum, and I appreciate the important role you have all taken on as members of the media.  Thank you.