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The Prevention Project
Age is frequently identified as a risk factor or a predictor for engagement in violent extremism. Indeed, certain factors associated with youth – such as changes in social identity, weakened social control and the intensified influence of peer groups – can make individuals more susceptible to violent extremist influences. Yet, using age as a predictor for engagement in such behaviour does not account for the vast majority of young people who do not engage in violent extremism. It also does little for identifying the minority who do engage in it.
Building on fieldwork in 2019 as part of the Prevention Project, this paper provides a brief scoping of the successes, limitations and insights from local stakeholders before suggesting recommendations with relevance for the wider prevention field.
Mentorships, as interventions targeted at the specific needs of individuals or groups of individuals and adapted to the local environment, are assumed to have a higher chance of tackling violent extremism than broad approaches targeting general populations. This paper demonstrates that evaluations of mentorship interventions are limited in number and scope – as with the wider P/CVE field. Existing evaluations often lack well-developed theories of change and are over-reliant on anecdotal evidence.
Recognising that terrorism ‘is not simply violence but communication’, P/CVE communications have become a prominent, if not staple, strand of preventive policy and programming. Designed to discredit, counter or confront extremist messaging, or strengthen the digital literacy and critical thinking capabilities of recipient societies, these measures include a diverse spectrum of interventions, both on- and offline.
The term ‘countering violent extremism’ (CVE) first began to circulate in policy circles under the George W Bush administration as part of a policy associated with the ‘War on Terror’, rather than a ‘softer’ approach aimed at countering terrorism.1 Since then, CVE – and its contemporary adjunct ‘PVE’ (preventing violent extremism) – have grown in popularity, embodying one of the most important lessons of the last two decades: military and security-focused operations, in isolation, do not end terrorist movements.2 The em
In the context of the broader global shift towards ‘softer’ approaches to countering terrorism, education has gained increasing prominence in combating radicalisation and recruitment by violent extremist groups and offering positive alternatives to it. While the relationship between education and violent extremism remains ambiguous, the potential of educators and school systems to increase the resilience of students against violent extremism has been highlighted by policymakers and practitioners alike.
This paper focuses on women-centric efforts in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) – in other words, interventions that seek to work with, or target, women and girls specifically. The use of ‘women-centric’ rather than ‘gender-centric’ is deliberate. While understandings of gender norms, relations and behaviours underpin many of the assumptions explored in this paper, the explored initiatives all focus on engaging women. Interventions and accompanying literature on the specific roles of men in P/CVE are hard to come by.
In January 2018, the Norwegian government commissioned RUSI to lead the Prevention Project, which ran for over two years.