“Assessing Progress Made, and the Future of Development Approaches to Preventing Violent Extremism” is a report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that logs the accomplishments, observations, and recommendations of the second global meeting on preventing violent extremism (PVE), also referred to as the Oslo II Meeting. The meeting included both thematic and crosscutting findings and revealed that progress has been made in researching and understanding violent extremism. The key recommendations from the meeting were: 1) focus interventions locally, support research on local drivers of conflict and peace, and link activism to the national and international levels; 2) conduct more research on reintegration and rehabilitation trends, including on the various needs of returnees; and 3) draw lessons from the media and communications regarding current events, including private sector initiatives.
The report first addresses progress since the first global meeting in Oslo on PVE. For example, it addresses expanding available knowledge about the influencers of violent extremism, improving the United Nations’ partnership and coordination on PVE both internally and externally, the United Nations’ emerging role as a pioneer in advancing the PVE agenda, implementation of the General Assembly and Security Council’s collaborative resolution on sustaining peace, and the urgency of the PVE agenda has gained attention and support from the global community in a variety of PVE interventions. Ultimately, it appears the global cooperation agenda outlined in the first global meeting has developed promising momentum and is undergoing substantial development. There is, however, still some disagreement about amending the security and development responses in regions where extremism is more likely to regain presence.
The report also addresses the meetings’ thematic findings regarding understanding the drivers of violent extremism, identifying the need for a reintegration strategy for returning fighters, coordinating with the media to prevent misinformation and stereotypes, and understanding the role of gender and youth in PVE. Among the many key recommendations that emerged from the sessions, understanding and addressing the misperceptions that detract from the discourse on PVE was at the forefront. The attendees noted that to successfully engage in PVE, prevention must not focus exclusively on employment solutions, Islamophobia and xenophobia, or stereotyping, but rather find a way to incorporate each associated issue within a broader solution. Moreover, participants called for a more positive stream of communication with the media to eliminate misleading stereotypes about violent extremism. Consequently, participants noted a need for more localized research to better understand how a community becomes vulnerable to violent extremism. Hard-to-reach border regions were identified as increasingly important sites for development initiatives. As a solution, participants emphasized the need for human-rights-based approaches in sensitive regions, specifically when addressing security. An underlying theme of the session was promoting dignity and community rather than simply identifying the qualities that put certain communities at risk for violent extremism. Strategies should be based on respect and equality and promote a sense of purpose, including sensitivity towards the reintegration of disengaged fighters. Such reintegration strategies must consider more than the criminal justice sphere and explore social reintegration, as well as informal transitional justice tools. The framework requires expansion to include stateless children who are at risk.
Gender identity was highlighted throughout the meeting because of the mounting evidence that women’s peacebuilding organizations are effective and sustainable and must become a central focus within PVE. Women’s organizations do not, however, exclude men. By focusing on these organizations, researchers are forced to consider both genders in conjunction with one another to better understand the role of masculinity in violent extremism. Violence against women in communities overwhelmingly impacted by violent extremism must compose a substantial part of PVE, which is why there is an increased need for gender-sensitive programs. Relatedly, the session heavily focused on the role of young people in PVE by recognizing that youth are uniquely positioned to be effective leaders within PVE. The Progress Study on Youth Peace, and Security (2018) concluded that mistrust between young people and the government throughout the last several decades has contributed to young people’s disinterest in engaging in PVE. Participants identified a lack of funding and capacity for youth empowerment.
NOTE: This summary is produced by the Rule of Law Collaborative, not by the original author(s).