David Cameron unveils Commonwealth unit to target extremism


A Commonwealth unit targeting the extremist "scourge" that is fuelling international terrorism is being set up under plans announced by David Cameron.

At the start of two days of meetings with leaders from across the 53-nation group, the Prime Minister said £5 million would be used to help countries find new ways of stopping "poisonous ideologies" from taking hold.

Mr Cameron arrives in Malta after setting out his case to MPs for military intervention in Syria to defeat Islamic State, warning that the terrorist group was plotting atrocities against the UK.

Boosting counter-extremism operations is top of the premier's agenda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), which is held every two years.

He said: "The fight against extremism is something that affects us all. The Commonwealth has a vital role to play in broadening international efforts to counter extremism.

"Its civil society and education networks make it particularly well placed to complement international efforts to build counter narratives to this poisonous extremist ideology.

"This is the struggle of our generation, but by working together we will defeat this extremism scourge that is a threat to us all."

Mr Cameron pledged £1 million of funding annually for five years to help set up the new counter-extremism unit and a further £200,000 will go on expanding a European counter-radicalisation youth programme to include the Commonwealth.

Experts will work with governments across the group, in particular those in nations with limited resources that have a disproportionately high number of foreign fighters.

French president Francois Hollande, who Mr Cameron met for talks on Monday in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris that left 130 dead, is due to fly into Malta today.

He will attend meetings on climate change ahead of a major summit in Paris on Monday.

The Prime Minister will also attend sessions on the environmental issue, with Government sources saying he believes Chogm will provide an "important opportunity" to try to mobilise the Commonwealth behind securing an "ambitious" deal at the France talks.