Countering Violent Extremism: A Peacebuilding Perspective

Over the past decade, countering violent extremism (CVE) has emerged as a major global security concern and a key theme within governments’ counter-terrorism (CT) strategies throughout the world. The rise of terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere has prompted the European Union (EU) to acknowledge the importance of addressing VE and radicalisation as key components of the preventive aspects of its CT efforts.

A growing number of EPLO member organisations (MOs) have raised concerns that the mobilisation of domestic and international resources to tackle VE is often shortsightedly focused on reinforcing ‘hard’ security measures and response capabilities, and thus failing to acknowledge the need for a multi-dimensional approach in which emphasis is placed on prevention and the enabling conditions for VE are addressed.

Many EPLO MOs are working on preventing VE (PVE)/CVE as part of their broader approach to peacebuilding without necessarily labelling their work as such. They are contributing to the PVE agenda through programmes designed to prevent conflict, strengthen human rights and the rule of law, and promote peace, tolerance and community resilience. A number of EPLO MOs take the view that applying a peacebuilding lens to the CVE agenda is vital to the effectiveness and sustainability of these efforts. This will require coordinated, context-specific responses which address the root causes of conflict and embrace a whole-of-society approach.

With VE ideologies gaining an unprecedented level of traction in different parts of the world, some EPLO MOs have called for an approach to PVE/CVE which includes efforts to understand how and why individuals become radicalised and turn to VE, and which attempts to identify and address the interplay of ‘push’ factors (e.g. structural conditions such as poverty, inequality, grievances, lack of access to justice and limited political participation etc.) and ‘pull’ factors (e.g. appealing extremist messaging which instills a sense of belonging, charismatic recruiters etc.).

The EPLO office has prepared a briefing paper on the EU’s policy and programming priorities regarding PVE/CVE. The paper outlines key developments since the adoption of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2005 until the presentation of the EU Global Strategy in 2016. It explains the way in which different policy documents have been revised and updated during this time to address new means and patterns of radicalisation, including issues posed by individuals supporting extremist ideology linked to terrorism, lone actors, homegrown terrorists and foreign fighters, as well as the role of the internet and social media for mobilisation and communication. The paper presents the EU’s approach to addressing both the internal and external dimensions of VE and radicalisation, and the core issues framing the EU debate on the need for a more coherent approach to the different dimensions of action underlying the internal-external security nexus. It also highlights links between PVE/CVE and traditional development co-operation, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected countries and regions.

The paper also includes an overview of EU’s programming priorities on PVE/CVE, both outside and inside the EU, and information about key institutional interlocutors and the main lines of cooperation at inter- and intra-institutional levels.

Click here to download the paper.

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