Counterterrorism Policy Programme

This programme focuses on improving effectiveness and impact of counterterrorism policy in the UK, EU, and internationally through our research and by providing training and support.

A key portion of RUSI’s Terrorism and Conflict group research contributes to the discussion on how to improve effectiveness and impact of counterterrorism (CT) policy in the UK, EU, and internationally. The sub-sections on this page highlight different policy areas in which we are researching and providing training and support. 

It is important to highlight that these areas of policy research drive learning for the subsequent programming implemented to fulfil policy goals. Consequently, this research is very closely linked to our other programme focused on Counterterrorism & Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Programmatic Learning.

Many of these projects are being jointly conducted and implemented by our team members across the RUSI London, Nairobi, and Europe offices.

Protect & Prepare

Protect and prepare are two pillars of the UK’s CT policy CONTEST. Protect is focused on the protection of people, information, and physical assets from terrorist attacks. This involves a diverse spread of inter-disciplinary stakeholders across a wide number of different contexts. Prepare is focused on mitigating the impact of a terrorist attack that cannot be stopped. This involves both planning for how to end an attack, as well as resilience-building strategies to aid recovery after an attack.

Research highlights that enhancing the protection of publicly accessible locations against threats such as terrorism has been difficult for policymakers and practitioners for several reasons, including the vast number of stakeholders responsible for keeping people safe, a previous lack of legislation, cost of measures, as well as the relative rarity of attacks leading to complacency. There are also complex conceptual considerations of unintended consequences, proportionality, and required diversity and inclusivity measures. RUSI is committed to researching this space in an effort to increase effectiveness and impact of this specific policy and its associated programming.

Related project

Evaluating Security Interventions in Public Locations

Working in partnership with Coventry University, we aim to develop and test a co-created framework for evaluating protective security.

EU Policy Support

RUSI has a long record of supporting EU CT policy through implementation of and contribution to EU funded projects. These projects have included multiple large-scale preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) programme iterations, through the EU’s Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism (STRIVE) platform. We also contribute support and training globally for EU delegations and regional and national governments on CT policy and programming.

Additionally, we implement the second iteration of the Counter-Terrorism Monitoring, Reporting and Support Mechanism (CTMORSE) and are a consortium member for the delivery of the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Policy Support.

We are pleased to support the positive development of meaningful policy through our research and practical lessons learned. Additional information on our engagement with the EU can be found on the RUSI Europe website.

Crime-Terror Nexus

The crime-terror nexus has become an increasingly popular term amid warnings that the ‘evil twins’ of criminality and terrorism can erode political, economic and social stability, undermine security and hinder development processes. Yet the majority of research in this area is dominated by donors and national governments and focuses on top-down understandings of the relationship between these two threats. It also focuses narrowly on legally defined organised crime and terrorist groups, while underplaying state actors’ involvement in generating insecurity through corruption, criminality and violence. Such an approach means that the reality on the ground may be overlooked, to the detriment of effective responses.

Related project

Organised Crime, Terror and Insecurity in Africa (OCTA)

Investigating the interface between organised crime and terrorism in Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria, focusing on local experiences.

Foreign Fighters

The legal category of foreign terrorist fighters was established relatively recently, in response to mass travel to join ISIS. However, this terminology presents some very complex problems to address, including its differentiation from foreign fighters. Government positioning on the legality and acceptability of fighting in foreign conflicts is normally highly dependent on political perception of the relevant conflict context.

In the case of those traveling to join ISIS, there was commonly a dearth of evidence with which to prosecute individuals. Therefore, the legal category of foreign terrorist fighters was established under which anyone traveling to fight with a proscribed terrorist organisation could be prosecuted. This has, of course, created unique challenges for the issues of repatriation, prosecution, and eventual rehabilitation and reintegration of these individuals and their families under national laws.

Alongside exploring solutions that address these challenges, RUSI is conducting research on the ideological biases in the legal frameworks around foreign fighting and how this might become a more challenging dynamic in the future with those traveling to fight in conflict contexts where there are clear far-right ideological narratives but not necessarily links to proscribed terrorist organisations, such as in Ukraine.


RUSI offers a range of policy and practitioner-focused training, workshops, and advisory services for government departments, including CT practitioners, law enforcement and other security professionals. RUSI’s training and advisory services leverage our world-class research and expertise to build organisational capacity in line with CT policy best-practice, inform the development and implementation of programming, and assist in the development of P/CVE national actions plans. We also seek to improve equality and diversity within CT policy by furthering the Women, Peace and Security agenda through our extensive gender-related expertise.

RUSI conducts these services in the UK, EU and overseas, including in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. They are delivered in-person, hybrid and virtually. Additionally, services can be designed at a regional, national or local level and are tailored to the context in which they operate – including accounting for the nature of the terrorist threat and the current CT response, capacity and need.


There has been increasing attention on the need for a 'women and a gender' lens to be included in peace and security policy and programming over the last two decades. This has been driven by the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 and nine subsequent resolutions, which form the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. Due to their commitments to this agenda, governments have been working to improve their policy approaches. This often occurs through the implementation of gender-mainstreaming strategies documented in WPS or gender action plans.

However, there remains a significant lack of clarity at the policy level around the purpose of these strategies and how they can be practically implemented, as well as sometimes a lack of institutional commitment to the gender equality goal they espouse. RUSI’s work in this space highlights some of the practical challenges for high-level policy and subsequent programming. The projects and outputs highlighted below offer analysis and recommendations for how to translate policy commitments into transformative gender-mainstreaming strategies.

Related projects


Different Cities, Shared Stories: Gender and Violent Extremism


Gender in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism

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