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

The Persistent Challenge of Extremism in Bangladesh

The Persistent Challenge of Extremism in Bangladesh

Thursday, June 23, 2022

By: Mubashar Hasan;  Geoffrey Macdonald

On July 1, 2016, Bangladeshi militants carried out an attack, targeting mostly foreigners and non-Muslims, at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka. The Bangladeshi government responded to the attack with a concerted and controversial counterterrorism campaign. Although the number of terrorist incidents has been in steady decline since 2016, Islamist groups continue to operate, recruit, and carry out small-scale attacks while aspiring to perpetrate greater violence. This report examines the dynamics, drivers, and manifestations of extremism in Bangladesh and discusses measures to weaken its appeal.

Type: Special Report

Violent Extremism

Somalia’s Critical Transition Comes amid al-Shabab and Hunger Challenges

Somalia’s Critical Transition Comes amid al-Shabab and Hunger Challenges

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

By: Susan Stigant

On May 15, Somali legislators selected former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to reprise the chief executive role he played from 2012-2017. The vote marks a critical transition for Somalia and in the Horn of Africa, particularly after the election was delayed by two years and marred by corruption and violence. President Hassan Sheikh will return to power in a country seemingly splitting at the seams, amid a devastating drought, a metastasizing terrorist threat and a fractious political scene. Meanwhile, President Biden has decided to redeploy U.S. troops to fight the terrorist group al-Shabab, reversing a move made by President Trump at the end of his term.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceViolent Extremism

Al-Hol: Displacement Crisis is a Tinderbox that Could Ignite ISIS 2.0

Al-Hol: Displacement Crisis is a Tinderbox that Could Ignite ISIS 2.0

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

By: Mona Yacoubian

More than three years after ISIS’s territorial defeat, the vexing challenge of displacement threatens to provoke the rise of ISIS 2.0 if not adequately addressed. The May 11 Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS ministerial meeting in Marrakech, Morocco highlights these concerns over the evolving threat the so-called Islamic State still poses. The Marrakech meeting coincides with both growing disquiet at deteriorating humanitarian and security conditions in the al-Hol displacement camp in northeast Syria — ground zero for the ISIS-related displacement crisis — and some hope for a path forward.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human RightsViolent Extremism

Community-Based Armed Groups: A Problem or Solution?

Community-Based Armed Groups: A Problem or Solution?

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

By: Rida Lyammouri;  Jakana Thomas;  Lauren Van Metre

The RESOLVE Network’s multiyear research on Community-Based Armed Groups (CBAGs) has established critical findings for the international community on how to engage, manage and transform violent actors in conflict-affected states. While mitigation efforts tend to target anti-state extremist organizations, understanding the behavior of CBAGs is essential for comprehending complex conflict ecosystems and reassessing approaches toward peace and stability. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionViolent Extremism

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