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

Central Asia’s Growing Internet Carries New Risks of Violence

Central Asia’s Growing Internet Carries New Risks of Violence

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

By: Rafal Rohozinski; Robert Muggah

The “Great Game” has returned to Central Asia, but with a digital twist. Where once the British and Russian empires competed over lucrative trade routes and territorial influence, today the region is at the geopolitical and ideological confluence between competing visions of internet governance. China, Russia, Europe and the United States are all seeking to shape the region’s technology environment. What happens in Central Asia will have profound implications for the five countries of the region and the future of civic freedoms and digital rights more widely. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Democracy & Governance

Pathways to Peace in Mozambique

Pathways to Peace in Mozambique

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

By: Joseph Sany, Ph.D.

An Islamist insurgency in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province and the grave humanitarian crisis it has created is threatening the promise of development offered by the discovery of vast reserves of natural gas in the region. It is imperative that the Mozambican government, with the support of the international community, make a concerted effort to return peace to this strategically important part of southern Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Violent Extremism

The Evolution and Potential Resurgence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan

The Evolution and Potential Resurgence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

By: Amira Jadoon

Following its formation in 2007, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) emerged as one of Pakistan’s deadliest militant organizations. Military efforts severely curtailed the TTP’s ability to launch attacks by 2016, but recent signs—including a deadly attack in Quetta on April 21—suggest the group is attempting to rebuild its operational capacity. This report charts the rise and decline of the TTP and explores options for the Pakistani state, with cooperation and support from the United States, to stifle its resurgence.

Type: Special Report

Violent Extremism

Three Ways to Make Communities Count in Combatting Violent Extremism in Africa

Three Ways to Make Communities Count in Combatting Violent Extremism in Africa

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

By: Akinola Olojo; Phoebe Donnelly

Nearly 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, the global community continues to struggle with violent extremism and terrorism. While much of the focus in the immediate aftermath was on the Middle East and Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa has drawn increasing attention in the last decade. Seven of the world’s top 10 countries facing the greatest violent extremist threat are in Africa, with the expansion of the Islamic State group (ISIS) and al-Qaida-affiliated groups on the continent. Efforts to combat violent extremism in Africa are now at a critical juncture. But this presents an opportunity to rethink these efforts. A tailored focus on local communities will be key in building better approaches to deal with the violent extremist scourge.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

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