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Safa & Hassan Photography

From 2015-2016, project partners British Council, Georgia State University and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue convened two workshops in London and Washington, DC. These workshops surveyed and mapped over 30 civil society organizations which work directly on preventing or countering all forms of violent extremism, as well as organizations championing other community-based initiatives focused on integration, communications, education or arts and culture. The following report, “Civic Approaches to Confronting Violent Extremism” is a culmination of the findings of the workshops and private interviews which captures the perceptions, expertise and experiences of the organizations we studied. The report offers a snapshot of the CVE and wider sector working towards building resilience in communities to provide further insight into a complex topic.

Below are six highlights from the report:

  1. Societies need a holistic approach to confronting violence. Governments must continue to de-prioritize national security and intelligence-based methods, and increase support for civil society organizations’ capacity building programs.
  2. These capacity building programs do the work of ‘building resilience’ in communities, including funding for improved social support programing, education, health (including mental health) care, job training, as well as safe spaces for discussion
  3. CVE (as a term or an approach) is perceived to disproportionately target Muslim communities, thus contributing to their stigmatization and disenfranchisement.
  4. Approaches within the CVE framework are often viewed as overemphasizing Islamic extremism, so the onus is on civil society and government to address all forms of violent extremism, such as right wing and anti-government forms.
  5. Government and civil society actors agree: there is no one way a person can become radicalized. Focusing too much on certain ideologies, especially ideologies tied to religion as the sole cause or root of violent extremism creates more problems than not.
  6. Since they have the knowledge and trust of communities, civil society organizations are uniquely suited to create and disseminate grassroots-based communication, such as “alternative narratives,” i.e. organic messaging that is an alternative to violent extremist messaging.