Honorable Deputy Prime Minister Mesi, Minister Nikolla, Coordinator Sojati, Mr. Vurmo, distinguished guests. It is my honor to be here with you today.
Let me begin by congratulating IDM. The results of your study will help strengthen all of our efforts to counter and prevent violent extremism in Albania. The U.S. Embassy is proud to have been your partner in this effort.
Every person in this room today plays an important role in preventing and combating violent extremism. Whether you are a government official, a member of law enforcement, a religious leader, a community mentor, or a representative of civil society, you are here because you understand the challenges we face. You understand that we are in a battle of ideologies – one that pits our value of pluralism and acceptance against an ideology of violent extremism. And I say “acceptance” with intentionally and not tolerance. Because what I appreciate very much as a pillar of Albanian identity is the acceptance of others. Not just merely tolerance. This battle for ideas is the fundamental part of the global war we must win. I applaud each one of you for everything you are doing to ensure that the peaceful values prevail.
The United States’ commitment to winning this battle is constant and firm. Our approach is best described in the National Strategy for Counterterrorism released by the White House last month. At the core of this strategy is an emphasis on working with our international allies and partners to “champion and institutionalize the prevention of violent extremism.” You are among those close international partners and trusted allies. I want to thank you for your dedication to our shared goals.
Together, we are advancing important CVE projects across Albania. With the support of more than $5 million in U.S. assistance, we are working with you to build community resilience, empower women and youth, strengthen local governance, and promote moderate voices within religious communities. We are also working together to establish schools as community centers, to support the operation of the National CVE Center, and to implement prison reform to ensure that violent extremism is unable to spread. We are proud partners with you on each of these initiatives.
And though we are your partner, you deserve the credit for Albania’s success. Your efforts have served to raise awareness around the risks of violent extremism, and have offered alternatives to those who might otherwise be attracted to it. These efforts stretch across all levels of society. At the national level, the Albanian government is setting the standard in the region, through its National CVE Strategy and its status as the first country in the Balkans to prioritize national funding for countering violent extremism. The National CVE Center is another clear example of Albania’s commitment to the issue. And, perhaps most importantly, Albanians’ long-held passionate defense of religious tolerance and inclusivity has made the country inhospitable to those who wish to sew hatred and division.
At the local level, government officials, community leaders, and civil society members are building communities that offer opportunities for youth engagement while providing off ramps from violence. And at the individual level, all of you are building relationships that keep others from becoming disenfranchised and disillusioned, so they can instead become engaged and energized to contribute to the common good.
Again, I wish to congratulate IDM and everyone here today for your commitment to this important issue and for your partnership and friendship with the United States of America.