IV. Socioeconomic Approaches

Good Practice 14

CVE programming should place a specific emphasis on youth at risk of radicalization and recruitment.

Youth form a natural recruitment pool for violent extremist groups. The recruitment age typically ranges from 15 to 25 in many violent extremist or terrorist groups. For that reason, CVE efforts should concentrate on youth. Youth should be viewed as part of the solution to countering violent extremism, not just a potential violent-extremism problem. Youth typically have energy, a desire to act and be recognized, and often seek to be a part of something larger – and these characteristics can serve as a foundation for CVE programming. Countries should involve at-risk youth as active partners in CVE program design and implementation. Also, youth CVE programming should build and support youth peer groups, as youth are often more receptive to their peers than to adults. At the same time, such programming should involve mentors, families, and communities; research has shown that a caring, consistent mentor is the most effective asset for positive youth development.

Research indicates that qualities such as motivation, perseverance, and risk-aversion are predictive of success in life, and these capacities can be built through “life-skills” training focused on topics such as teamwork and conflict resolution. Young people who have joined violent extremist groups have often expressed a desire for a sense of belonging and purpose; thus, an integrated youth program that addresses these psychosocial, as well as other, youth needs could address more than one condition conducive to radicalization and recruitment. Program design should, where appropriate, take into account the different needs of young women versus young men.


Good Practice 15

Educational institutions can serve as an important platform in countering violent extremism.

Because it reaches and shapes so many children and youth in countries around the world, education can be a critical CVE platform. Education systems can instill the values, skills, and tools necessary for individual success in life by shaping tomorrow’s productive and constructive citizens. Some research has suggested that critical-thinking skills may help to prevent radicalization because they provide students with the capacity to discern between black-and-white argumentation typical of extremism in any form. In at-risk communities in particular, school-based curricula and programming centered on civic education, community engagement, and volunteerism may constructively occupy at-risk youth and build their sense of connectedness to their families, communities, and countries; for those at-risk youth that have dropped out of formal education, or in cases in which young women are not permitted to attend school, other venues may be more appropriate for broadly similar approaches.


Good Practice 16

Promoting economic opportunity among at-risk populations can address a condition conducive to violent extremism.

While research has rejected the thesis that poverty begets violent extremism, the gap between the expectations and reality of an individual’s socioeconomic status can be a condition conducive to violent extremism. At other times, financial payments or material support offered by violent extremists to individuals and/or their families, with little or no economic means, can supply the ranks of such groups. Depending on the particular context, programming supporting economic livelihoods – such as vocational training and job-placement support – may mitigate economic conditions conducive to radicalization and recruitment where relevant among at-risk populations. It will be important to determine the particular economic needs, capacities and opportunities of such at-risk communities or populations in designing such projects to be successful.


Good Practice 17

Women can be a particularly critical actor in local CVE efforts.

Across countries, women play a particularly critical role in their families as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and as primary caregivers, as well as breadwinners. In many places, they provide deep understandings, and even serve as institutional memories, of their local communities. As such, women are particularly well-placed and positioned to serve as locally knowledgeable, credible and resonant CVE voices. Women may be able to identify signs of radicalization and discourage this phenomenon in their families and communities. In some places, they may be the best actors to raise the awareness of, and build capacity among, other local women – thus serving a force-multiplier effect in communities where radicalization and recruitment are possible to occur.