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

Takeaways from Blinken’s Trip to the Middle East

Takeaways from Blinken’s Trip to the Middle East

Friday, February 3, 2023

By: Robert Barron;  Caroline Dibble;  Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen;  Garrett Nada;  Ambassador Hesham Youssef

The Middle East has not been a high priority for the Biden administration thus far, with issues such as Russia’s war in Ukraine and escalating tensions with China taking precedence. However, recent developments in the region are catching the administration’s attention, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank earlier this week sought to reaffirm U.S. engagement in the Middle East amid political turnover in Israel, spiraling violence in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, stepped-up Iran-Israel tensions and a deepening economic crisis in Egypt.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Can Blinken’s Beijing Visit Help Build Bilateral Trust?

Can Blinken’s Beijing Visit Help Build Bilateral Trust?

Thursday, February 2, 2023

By: Carla Freeman, Ph.D.;  Adam Gallagher

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned visit to Beijing next week is unlikely to see breakthroughs in the tense U.S.-China relations. However, his visit — the first to China by a U.S. secretary of state since Mike Pompeo’s in 2018 — provides an important opportunity for him to take up a range of issues with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi. There is no doubt that the bilateral relationship is severely strained, but Blinken’s visit is an important follow up to the meeting between President Joe Biden and General Secretary Xi Jinping on the sidelines of November’s G-20 in Bali and a sign that both sides see the need to stabilize ties.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

Four Takeaways from Treasury Secretary Yellen’s Trip to Africa

Four Takeaways from Treasury Secretary Yellen’s Trip to Africa

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

By: Edward A. Burrier

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen’s recent 10-day trip to Africa kicks off a year of sustained, high-level U.S. engagement, aimed at demonstrating that the Biden administration is “all in on Africa, and all in with Africa” following December’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. With trips from the president, vice president, and other cabinet secretaries in the works, this “super-charged” U.S. diplomacy is moving beyond the typical secretary of state visits. A close look at some of the issues encountered by Yellen on her trip demonstrates that showing up on the continent may be the easy part of going all in with Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

EconomicsGlobal Policy

For Israelis and Palestinians, a Tragic Spiral Reemerges

For Israelis and Palestinians, a Tragic Spiral Reemerges

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

By: Robert Barron

Since late last week, violence between Israelis and Palestinians has rapidly escalated in the West Bank and around Jerusalem, and January has proven to be one of the most violent months in the West Bank in decades. Attacks continue, exacerbated by bitter publics, frenzied politics and fragile institutions in the West Bank. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be in a spiral toward a third intifada and even the possible end of the two-state paradigm.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Two Years of Myanmar’s Junta: Regional Instability, Surging Organized Crime

Two Years of Myanmar’s Junta: Regional Instability, Surging Organized Crime

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

By: Priscilla A. Clapp;  Jason Tower

Two years ago today, Myanmar’s military snuffed out the country’s democratic government in a coup and set about restoring the grim dictatorship that dominated the Southeast Asian nation for 50 years. But the generals’ initial moves — jailing civilian leaders, shutting the free press, issuing heavy-handed decrees — were the only things that went according to plan. To date, the coup has instead triggered myriad unintended effects. None are more urgent and consequential than the instability and crime that the generals’ power grab triggered across Southeast Asia, and none more directly implicate U.S. interests in the region.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionGlobal Policy

View All Publications