Lifecycle Initiative Toolkit

Role of Families in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism

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Family members are usually the first and best equipped to recognize signs of potential radicalization to violence.

GCTF created a new working group focused on the important role of families in preventing and countering violent extremism. The working group underlined the fact that family members are usually the first and best equipped to recognize signs of potential radicalization to violence. Despite this understanding, families are often under-utilized in this area, probably due to the challenging nature of such partnerships between governments and non-governmental actors.  

“Linking parents, teachers, social workers/counselors, religious leaders, police, and young people in sustainable ways pools the necessary perspectives and experience for effective prevention work.” 

Governments may be reluctant to bring in family members into their counterterrorism and CVE efforts for a variety of reasons, including the fact that families may sometimes be part of the problem, in cases where family members are supportive of the terrorist ideology or causes. Families, on the other hand, may not always be inclined to work with or assist the government in furthering its counterterrorism agenda.  In spite of these obstacles, families can play such a vital and unique role, that it is key that both sides work to overcome these challenges, where possible. 

While family members can be instrumental in pulling their relatives away from the terrorist influence, there are also other actors who can play similar roles.  For example, when a relationship between child and parents is weak, officials may utilize other members of the individual’s support system such as a community or religious figure.

“Mothers are situated at the heart of the family, and are often best-placed to identify, predict, and respond to potential vulnerabilities to VE. In many cases, women are also well-positioned to offer meaningful counter-narratives: they can humanize the impact of terrorism, or highlight the hardships, economic and otherwise, that may be imposed on a recruit’s own family if he/she leaves. The voices of women need to be amplified.”

To advance the GCTF’s work on this critical issue, the CVE working group launched a new workstream, in collaboration with Hedayah, regarding the role of families in P/CVE. The main objective was to underscore the importance of family involvement in P/CVE and develop a series of good practices in this area. Furthermore, it sought to create resources for practitioners and strategies to empower and encourage family members as members of P/CVE. The working group compiled a list of recommendations for better CVE programs revolving around families, including supporting and engaging both parents and improving school-parent relationships.


Notable Quotations

“Families are vital to preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). From shaping attitudes toward non-violence to serving as a “front line” actor in identifying signs of possible radicalization to violence, preventing such radicalization’s onset, and intervening in the radicalization process, families represent key, often under-utilized, partners in P/CVE efforts.”

“Fathers and male family members are also central in shaping notions of masculinity that VEs have proven adept at manipulating and militarizing. Fathers, brothers, and other men in the community can work to blunt such narratives – including by calling attention to the falseness of VE propaganda, or by emphasizing culturally relevant, non-violent values of protection of, and provision for, family.”

“The ability to resist VE is multilevel in character. It is a property not only of individuals, but of families and communities, requiring common values, strong social networks, and shared problem-solving mechanisms. Yet, in many communities, women and children’s access to the public sphere is limited.”

Sector: Government Institutions, International Agencies, Civil Society, Communities, Families, Academia,
Theme: Community Policing, Women and CVE, Families and CVE, Juvenile Justice,
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