Despite countless lives lost and trillions of dollars spent, violent extremism continues to evolve and spread. Addressing this complex, global phenomenon with roots in local contexts continues to be a top priority of USIP.

While attention currently focuses on Islamist movements, violent extremism is a global, centuries-old problem. Similar movements rooted in disparate political, nationalist, or religious ideas have driven recent or current violence in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Burma, the Balkans, Colombia, and elsewhere. Extremist causes germinate in communities seeded with grievances of marginalization or exclusion. They grow and turn to violence where peaceful solutions seem elusive. While policing or military force aim to contain or defeat such movements, these tools cannot dry up the emotional and social wellsprings of radicalization—and indeed can worsen the problem. Any real resolution of violent extremism requires a peacebuilding approach.

USIP’s Work

Calling on decades of expertise, the U.S. Institute of Peace works to deepen understanding of violent extremism and contributes to broader societal goals, such as those outlined in the Final Report of the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Our work unpacks the individual, social, and structural aspects that contribute to violent extremism through utilizing a combination of cutting-edge, policy-relevant research; the direct application peacebuilding tools and techniques in the field; and trusted partnerships that elevate local initiatives to build resilience and explore pathways for disengagement and reconciliation. Our work includes:

Building Community Cohesion to Bolster Resilience

Diminishing ISIS’ Impact in Conflict Zones. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Tunisia, and other regions familiar with extremist conflict, the Institute works with local leaders, community members, and the U.S. government and military to help stabilize communities, end cycles of revenge, and address communal grievances.

Focus on Prevention at the Local Level. USIP supports locally-led and sustainable endeavors with a focus on building communal resilience and providing tools to address grievances before terrorists use injustices to radicalize.

Community-Focused Responses on Reconciliation. USIP works with scholars, governments, and communities to develop strategies for the disengagement, rehabilitation, and community reconciliation of people returning from terrorist conflicts.

Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding. Participation in nonviolent movements can offer positive alternatives to extremist recruitment by providing a group identity, shared causes, and constructive engagement to address grievances. USIP’s Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (SNAP) guide provides activists with the strategy and knowhow to organize, especially in contexts where violent extremist groups operate.

Support for Inclusive Policies

Efforts That Empower Women. Since 2013, USIP has helped build the skills, knowledge, and influence of women leaders in Kenya and Nigeria through the Women Preventing Extremist Violence program. USIP is expanding its work with Sisters Without Borders, helping them grow their network of community leaders throughout East Africa.

Interfaith Initiatives. USIP explores the complex relationship between religion and violent extremism by convening policymakers, scholars, and practitioners from diverse settings and providing recommendations for those seeking to partner with religious actors to build resilience, promote reconciliation, and prevent and counter violent extremism.

Youth as Agents of Change. USIP’s Generation Change Fellows Program provides youth from conflict-affected countries with training and mentorship, supports youth-led community-based peacebuilding initiatives, and helps create mechanisms for youth to engage proactively in their communities. USIP piloted a participatory action research project for fellows in Mombasa, Kenya who engaged their communities and governments on local solutions to address violent extremism. USIP has also partnered with the PeaceTech Lab to provide social media training to Central Asian youth on how to counter terrorist recruitment narratives.

Strengthening State-Society Relations

Work with Police, Justice and Security at the Local Level. In contexts where security forces engage in abuse and corruption or fail to protect citizens, violent extremists can radicalize individuals and sow distrust. USIP has pioneered a method to bring government officials and citizens together to work out the roots of their problems and cooperatively rebuild security. USIP has also developed a model curriculum for proactive community policing in Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan as well as trained the Police Service of Pakistan to develop plans that improve security, with a particular focus on increasing trust between the police and the people they serve.

Cross-Border Dialogue and Convening. USIP enables Central Asian governments and citizens to come together to discuss thematic issues, share experiences, and identify viable solutions related to violent extremism. Topics have focused on youth, religious leaders, policing, and those who have returned from foreign violent extremist conflicts.

Global and Local Policy Influence

Support the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). USIP organizes regional workshops for experts and practitioners to share experiences, develop strategies, and draft good practice documents to help governments focus on the families of people who traveled to fight with ISIS.

Cutting Edge Research. USIP invests in bringing new insights and solutions to the field by using neuroscience to explore the appeals of belonging and group identity and by creating computational modeling that detects the possible impact of simultaneous actions within larger social structures.

 

Related Publications

Bourgeois Jihad: Why Young, Middle-Class Afghans Join the Islamic State

Bourgeois Jihad: Why Young, Middle-Class Afghans Join the Islamic State

Monday, June 1, 2020

By: Borhan Osman

Ever since the Islamic State in Khorasan Province emerged in Afghanistan in 2015, policymakers and security forces have regarded it as an “imported” group that can be defeated militarily. This approach, however, fails to take into account the long-standing and complex historical and sociological factors that make the group’s ideology appealing to young, urban Afghan men and women. Based on interviews with current and former members of ISKP, this report documents the push and pull factors prompting a steady stream of young Afghans to join and support ISKP.

Type: Peaceworks

Violent Extremism

Coronavirus and ISIS: The Challenge of Repatriation from Al-Hol

Coronavirus and ISIS: The Challenge of Repatriation from Al-Hol

Thursday, May 28, 2020

By: Julia C. Hurley

It was just over a year ago, in March of 2019, that the United States and coalition forces declared the territorial defeat of ISIS following the fall of its last stronghold in Baghouz, Syria. Male fighters over 15 were placed in Kurdish run detention centers throughout northeast Syria, while tens of thousands of women and children who were living among the terrorist organization streamed into the al-Hol camp, giving rise to an unprecedented mix of humanitarian and security challenges. If left unaddressed, the camp could easily serve as the breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS, which is already beginning to reemerge in parts of Syria and Iraq.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health; Violent Extremism

Why the U.S. Military Presence in Africa is Vital Beyond Counterterrorism

Why the U.S. Military Presence in Africa is Vital Beyond Counterterrorism

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

By: Judd Devermont; Leanne Erdberg Steadman

Since Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a potential drawdown of U.S. troops in Africa, U.S. congressional leaders, military officers and various commentators have defended the importance of the military in Africa. But they’ve focused almost exclusively on the fight against terrorism. This is not surprising, since the public has for decades really only heard about the U.S. military in Africa when drone strikes hit terrorists in Somalia, when Navy SEALS raid pirate ships in the Gulf of Aden, and when Army Rangers hunt down genocidaires in the jungle.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Global Policy

COVID-19 and Conflict: Violent Extremism

COVID-19 and Conflict: Violent Extremism

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

By: Kateira Aryaeinejad; Bethany L. McGann

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe is reshaping dynamics in fragile states and conflict zones. In this video, part of our #COVIDandConflict series, Kateira Aryaeinejad and Bethany McGann examine the pandemic's impacts on violent extremism: how extremist groups are exploiting the crisis, whether it is impacting recruitment, and how it complicates efforts to counter violent extremism.

Type: Blog

Violent Extremism; Global Health

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