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Introduction

This document1 offers guidance for national governments interested in developing or refining a national countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy, or CVE components as part of a wider counter-terrorism (CT) strategy or framework. It includes good practices that have emerged from experiences in this field over the past few years and draws on them to inform future efforts. Where a national strategy is not currently attainable, this document outlines initial steps that could be taken to lay the groundwork for future national CVE strategy development, e.g. initial dialogue between governments and communities targeted for radicalization and recruitment. In this context, CVE refers to the wide spectrum of largely preventive actions and interventions that involves identifying the local factors of radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism, and designing programming to prevent and counter these processes. This includes efforts that may be undertaken by governments, international organizations and civil society.
 


1. The document was drafted by Hedayah (www.hedayah.ae) in consultation with the Global Center on Cooperative Security (www.globalcenter.org), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (www.osce.org/atu), as well as a number of other stakeholders involved in the White House CVE Summit process. It is not intended to be comprehensive of all the possibilities for national strategy development, nor does the language reflect the opinions of any one organization or government. This is a non-binding and living document, and will be updated regularly.

General Guidelines to National CVE Strategies

While national strategies will reflect the context and culture of each country, the following guidelines should be considered in their development:

  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities of different government ministries, departments, agencies and offices with respect to CVE national strategy development and implementation—including intra-government coordination and communications mechanisms;
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities between central, regional and local government and between government and non-government organizations, civil society organizations, communities and private sector when it comes to CVE;
  • Include mechanisms that allow different actors to hold each other accountable;
  • Consider the potential for unintended consequences and assess the risk for approaches that could exacerbate violent extremism or vulnerability to violent extremist messaging, and identify constructive means of addressing grievances (real or perceived); and
  • Promote and foster ownership for non-governmental actors including civil society and the private sector to engage on CVE.

 

Steps

  1. Assess the current status of CVE strategies and policies that exist in that country. This includes:
    • Identifying and assessing the relevance of past, ongoing or planned initiatives in the field of preventing terrorism, whether by public authorities at state, regional and local levels, civil society, academia, international/regional/subregional organizations, or bilateral assistance projects.
    • Identifying main lessons learned in the country through a trends and perceptions analysis, drawing also on relevant lessons from related fields like development, education, communications and community engagement
  2. Conduct an analysis of the threat to identify the local push and pull factors associated with radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism as well as to identify the threat level of violent extremism. This includes taking stock of the prevailing understanding(s) of CVE and its factors conducive in the country by different stakeholders from government (local and foreign), civil society, academia, media, and international/regional/sub-regional organizations.
  3. Review the existing relevant research.
  4. Review other existing national CVE strategies, good practices and lessons learned internationally to draw on the existing body of knowledge.
  5. Identify the key actors and stakeholders to consult and involve throughout the process, including security organizations, non-security parts of government, non-governmental organizations, religious actors, civil society, community leaders and private sector partners. When identifying these stakeholders, be sure to include individuals and groups that could play a critical role in CVE, including women, youth, and local traditional and nontraditional leaders and religious authorities. Also, evaluate the potential of these stakeholders as implementing partners to, for example, promote peer-to-peer action to counter violent extremism or address factors conducive.
  6. Create a designated forum, such as a “working committee” to develop the strategy with clear tasks and responsibilities. Build a coalition; broker understanding and build bridges between civil society organizations, communities, law enforcement, private sector, and religious leaders/authorities to galvanize a CVE response.
  7. Create a timeline for the development process of the strategy, with key objectives and milestones that includes time for non-working committee stakeholders to review and provide feedback.
  8. Set priorities for CVE activities and concrete, measurable goals.
  9. Determine budgetary resources and capacity (including staffing) needed, and assess availability. If the resources are not available, outline an approach to attain them or prioritize based on an analysis of the threat.
  10. Develop and disseminate the strategy document to all relevant stakeholders and partners and ensure the following actions are taken:
    1. Prioritize specific CVE programming to address local push and pull factors.
    2. Create clarity on roles, responsibilities and tasks of all implementing partners.
  11. Develop a strategic communications plan that enhances transparency about the programs and communicates them in a manner that is suitable to the context, demystifying the programs and building local awareness about the threat, recruitment strategies, persuasive narratives and means of challenging them and building resilience.
  12. Review local push and pull factors, analysis of the threat, and strategy systematically and periodically. Be prepared to adapt the strategy in response to changes in the push and pull factors, and create an environment for frank and honest evaluation that can inform the next iteration of programs and policies.
  13. Build local, particularly community-based awareness of the general violent extremist threat, to include recruitment narratives, techniques, and avenues of communication.
  14. Monitor programs during implementation and evaluate results based on goals established in step 8.

Good Practices and Principles

  1. A national CVE strategy that is comprehensive and integrated into a wider counterterrorism strategy framework should include all relevant government (both national and sub-national) and non-government actors to address the complex and transnational challenges posed by contemporary violent extremist groups. On the governmental side, stakeholders often include traditional security policymakers as well as policymakers from other sectors such as education, social work (including women and family support), human rights, youth and sport, health and/or emergency services, and local officials who can speak to the sub-national context. These stakeholders may also include civil society voices that are often underrepresented such as women and youth.
  2. An agreed mechanism and platform for flexible and responsive coordination and communication is critical to addressing what may be a rapidly evolving challenge. Communications between relevant stakeholders at the local, national and international levels will be key, including also frontline CVE implementers and practitioners, to ensure consistency in strategy delivery and messaging.
  3. An effective dissemination plan for the CVE strategy must ensure consultation and engagement with critical stakeholders including local governments, communities and partners.
  4. It is important to focus CVE national strategies and prioritize based on a well-informed threat analysis of identified drivers, the nature and level of the threat as well as available resources.
  5. Trust-building and respect between governments and communities is crucial to developing a comprehensive national CVE strategy and successful programming at the grassroots level. This includes a focus on youth by fostering communication and understanding within communities – to include teachers and youth themselves, into high schools and after school programs.
  6. National strategies may be sector-specific and include non-traditional stakeholders in counter-terrorism such as the private sector, human rights NGOs, grassroots organizations, religious leaders etc.
  7. It is important to ensure that national strategies are developed with due consideration of regional and international strategies that aim to prevent and counter violent extremism. The UN Strategy elaborates a broad range of counterterrorism measures and acknowledges that national governments, different parts of the UN system, regional and sub-regional bodies, and civil society each have important roles to play to promote and ensure its effective implementation. Because the nature of the threat varies in different locations and contexts, however, it is important for each region, sub-region and country to develop their own strategies and ensure that they reinforce broader international efforts to counter violent extremism. Effective implementation of any CVE strategy will therefore need to take into account local needs, perspectives, and priorities and involve the active participation of key sub-regional stakeholders, including national governments, sub-regional bodies, and civil society.
  8. National CVE strategies should ensure they are also in alignment with other national action plans (NAPs) and strategies that are related in terms of common objectives or stakeholders. For example, this may include relating CVE strategy development to NAPs on Women, Peace and Security or good practices in the non-binding Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) framework documents.
  9. When creating and implementing a national CVE strategy, it is important that governments adhere to their international law, including international human rights, refugees, and humanitarian law obligations, as underscored by the UN Global CounterTerrorism Strategy.

Content of the National CVE Strategy

Below are examples of the kinds of content of a comprehensive national CVE strategy. These general points should be tailored to the actual national and local contexts of radicalization and recruitment:

  1. National CVE strategies may consider grievances that might contribute to radicalization and recruitment, including (but not limited to) prolonged unresolved conflicts, weak rule of law, violations of human rights, (real or perceived), ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, socio-economic marginalization, and/or weak good governance.
  2. National CVE strategies may include raising early identification or warning, and response capacities of practitioners and frontline workers. Examples of this include training frontline workers (educators, police officers, prison officers, youth workers) on processes of radicalization and recruitment; providing opportunities for communities to engage directly with governments; and creating support hotlines, other communication mechanisms or information systems for communities to use and access.
  3. National CVE strategies may include broader activities to build community resilience, including (but not limited to) formal and informal education programs; sports, arts and cultural programs; technical and vocational skills development; municipal or neighborhood associations and meetings; after-school and family-oriented programs. If focused, such interventions can contribute to promoting pluralism, tolerance, critical thinking, which can challenge and counter violent extremist messages.
  4. National CVE strategies may include individualized interventions such as direct efforts to prevent an individual from radicalization/recruitment, de-radicalization, disengagement and reintegration programs for those individuals already radicalized and prosecuted (prisoners), as well as disengagement and rehabilitation programs for individuals re-entering society.
  5. National CVE strategies may include strategic communications efforts, including those to counter and reject misinformation, dispute messages of violent extremists, reinforce and communicate national governments’ messages, promote alternative, positive messages and address illegal media content. Strategic communications in this regard may also include amplifying local community voices and leaders that counter the message of violent extremism, but may not represent the government officially or unofficially. It is also important to build the resilience of young people to violent extremist messages in social media, for instance through the educational system and in other settings.
  6. National CVE strategies may also consider how CVE efforts connect with other counter-terrorism measures, including (but not limited to) protection against attacks through border control and/or surveillance and intelligence; crisis management and follow up in case of an attack; and legislation outlining terrorist crimes and prosecution strategies.

ANNEX 1: Existing National, Regional and International CVE Strategies

This Annex includes an illustrative list of links to existing examples of national, regional and international CVE strategies or CVE components of national, regional and international strategies. It is not intended to a comprehensive overview, but a living document. For additions, questions or more information on any of the links, please contact info@hedayah.ae or Sara Zeiger at sara.zeiger@hedayah.ae.

 

Australia

Documents available on request:

  • A National Approach to Countering Violent Extremism in Australia: The CVE Strategic Plan (2011)
  • Communication and Engagement Guide – Helping all Levels of Government work with Communities to Tackle Violent Extremism
  • Preventing Violent Extremism and Radicalisation in Australia
  • Education and Training Initiatives to Counter Violent Extremism

Living Safe Together Website: http://www.livingsafetogether.gov.au/

 

Canada

 

European Union

 

France

 

Finland

 

Netherlands

 

Nigeria

Documents available on request:

  • National Security: The Journey So Far (2012-2015)
  • Nigeria’s Countering Violent Extremism Programme

 

Norway

  • Action Plan Against Radicalisation and Violent Extremism 

https://www.regjeringen.no/en/dokumenter/Action-plan-against-Radicalisation-and-ViolentExtremism/id762413/

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

 

Spain

 

Sweden

 

Switzerland

 

United Nations

 

United States

ANNEX 2: Resources, Toolkits and Training and Capacity-Building for National CVE Strategies

This Annex includes a non-comprehensive, living overview of existing resources, toolkits, good practices and available trainings for countries looking for further assistance on developing national CVE strategies. For additions, questions or more information on any of the links, please contact info@hedayah.ae or Sara Zeiger at sara.zeiger@hedayah.ae.

 

Canada

 

Geneva Center for Security Policy

 

Global Center on Cooperative Security

 

Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund

 

Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF)

 

Hedayah

 

Institute for Inclusive Security

 

Sweden

 

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

 

Switzerland

 

Turkey

 

United States