Governments and communities worldwide are now grappling with what to do when citizens who participated in violent extremist conflicts return home. Though the violent radicalization process is complex, it is inherently social in nature—and disengagement efforts will need to address those social factors too. Many returning persons will face prosecution, while others will reintegrate directly into local communities. But once the justice systems mete out their sentences, returnees need processes that enable them to abandon their violent attitudes and behaviors, and communities need approaches that can create social cohesion to avoid further violence, revenge, and future radicalization.

On January 21, USIP kicked off our VEDR initiative to progress past conventional notions of deradicalization—which generally focus on transforming a person’s beliefs about ideologies—and instead develop a systemic approach that simultaneously encourages disengagement and builds social cohesion and community resilience to prevent the reoccurrence of violence.

This panel explored the cognitive, social, and structural factors involved in the disengagement, reintegration, and reconciliation of violent extremists within local communities. The premise of the panel is that sustained, positive, inclusive engagement with local communities is critical for building bonds, generating a sense of belonging, and fostering a cognitive opening to disengage from violent extremism.

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #ReintegratingExtremists.

Panelists

Dr. David Yang, opening remarks
Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace

Dr. Laura G. E. Smith
Senior Lecturer, University of Bath

Dr. Mary Beth Altier
Clinical Associate Professor, New York University

Dr. B. Heidi Ellis
Director, Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center, Boston Children’s Hospital

Dr. Rebecca J. Wolfe
Lecturer, University of Chicago

Dr. Stevan M. Weine
Professor of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago

Mr. Chris Bosley, moderator
Senior Program Officer, Countering Violent Extremism, U.S. Institute of Peace

Latest Publications

Could Algeria’s Referendum Lead to Democratic Progress or Uphold Status Quo?

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

By: Thomas M. Hill

Algerians took to the streets in February 2019 to protest the re-election bid of longtime authoritarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Those protests—which came to be known as the Hirak movement and resulted in Bouteflika’s resignation in April of that year—evolved quickly to calls for a fundamental overhaul of the country’s political system. Few real changes have been made since. This Sunday, Algeria will hold a referendum on constitutional amendments to ostensibly bolster the country’s democracy. But, the Hirak says the constitutional changes do not go far enough. USIP’S Tom Hill looks at why the constitutional amendments have stirred tension with the opposition, the movement’s struggles to coalesce behind specific demands, and the role of Algeria’s military and floundering economy in the transition.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Is China Getting Serious About Crime on the ‘Belt and Road’?

Is China Getting Serious About Crime on the ‘Belt and Road’?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

By: Jason Tower; Jennifer Staats

As China’s leading foreign policy project, its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) should be easy to understand. Yet since its inception in 2013, the BRI has remained remarkably opaque. The government publishes no criteria for approving BRI projects or comprehensive lists of authorized ones. Consequently, a range of Chinese investors—including some linked to organized crime—claim an association with the signature program of China’s leader, Xi Jinping. In host countries, this free-riding identification can threaten governance and stability, while further damaging the international community’s ability to check the spread of related criminal activity.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Final Report and Recommendations of the Senior Study Group on Peace and Security in the Red Sea Arena

Final Report and Recommendations of the Senior Study Group on Peace and Security in the Red Sea Arena

Thursday, October 29, 2020

By: Senior Study Group on Peace and Security in the Red Sea Arena

Between May 2019 and September 2020, the United States Institute of Peace convened a bipartisan senior study group to consider the factors that have reshaped the Red Sea arena. The study group determined that, in recent years, the geopolitical and geo-economic dynamics of the Horn of Africa have become tied to the Middle East and broader Indian Ocean in a manner unprecedented in the last century. However, U.S. strategy in this evolving environment has struggled to keep pace with these interconnected, complex, and transregional dynamics and to account for the region’s increased relevance to U.S. interests. The final report of the senior study group defines U.S. interests within a hierarchy of priorities to assist policymakers in calibrating diplomatic, development, humanitarian, and security interventions and provides recommendations for defending and advancing these interests.

Type: Report

Global Policy

Kathleen Kuehnast on the 20th Anniversary of UN Resolution 1325

Kathleen Kuehnast on the 20th Anniversary of UN Resolution 1325

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

By: Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.

Two decades after the passage of the landmark resolution on women, peace and security, USIP’s Kathleen Kuehnast points to the 86 countries that have taken action to address the unique experience of women in conflict as proof of progress, but says that getting women more involved in peace processes is “a long game … it is difficult to find room for women at any table.”

Type: Podcast

Gender; Global Policy

Afghan Peace Process Tests Women Activists

Afghan Peace Process Tests Women Activists

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

By: Belquis Ahmadi; Matthew Parkes

More than a month after Afghan peace talks formally began, the effort to end the war in Afghanistan is stalled, and no one faces higher stakes than Afghan women. The attempt at negotiations has snagged on preliminary issues, the Taliban have escalated their attacks, and all sides are watching the evolution of the U.S. military role in the country. Afghan women’s rights advocates say the moment, and the need for international support, is critical. U.S. officials have noted how U.S assistance can be vital in supporting women’s rights, a principle that can be advanced at a global donors’ conference next month.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

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