May 2017
REGION: Global

In “Rule of Law Approaches to Countering Violent Extremism,” Nicholas Robinson and Catherine Lena Kelly discuss the use of rule of law as a framework for designing countering violent extremism (CVE) programs. The authors advocate the use of the following established rule of law principles to implement CVE programs and to help diminish the appeal of violent extremism: strengthening judicial institutions, supporting fair and effective criminal justice, protecting and promoting human rights, building the social contract, and combating corruption. The article focuses on these principles because they are successful in establishing rule of law in societies that could benefit from CVE approaches, and they help undermine the drivers of violent extremism.

Research has been unable to identify factors that clearly explain the rise of violent extremism, but “push” and “pull” factors have been identified that enable violent extremist groups to expand. “Pull” factors allow violent extremist organizations to recruit individuals. Many pull factors relate to “various aspects of personal beliefs” and psychology, but they are highly dependent on context. There is “no single path toward radicalization,” and cultural demographic factors, such as religion, are not predictors of radicalization. The most important “push” factor is state curtailment of civil liberties and political rights. Poverty and level of education by themselves are not accurate predictors of violent extremism, but in certain contexts they can have an effect in conjunction with other factors. Political collapse is also an important push factor, as weak governance creates “safe havens” for violent extremists. Corruption can be a contributing factor in that it can lead to greater curtailment of rights.

The report notes that one way to undermine the appeal of violent extremist groups is to utilize rule of law principles in implementing CVE programs. In particular, the report identifies several areas within rule of law that relate to establishing trust between society and the government. Specifically, the report highlights the benefits of strengthening judicial systems, promoting human rights, supporting fair and effective criminal justice, and combating corruption. Each one of these rule of law initiatives works to establish and maintain trust between people and their governments. By strengthening this relationship through these rule of law approaches, CVE programs can reduce the effect of “push” and “pull” factors that drive violent extremism.

Finally, the authors offer the following recommendations to help rule of law practitioners implement CVE in their work: “1) Frame rule of law interventions that relate to countering violent extremism as the means to achieving a set of broader, socially beneficial goals; 2) Critically analyze the consequences of engaging in CVE and of labeling creation rule of law interventions as such; and 3) Design CVE-relevant rule of law programming based on research that identifies the context-specific drivers of violent extremism.”


NOTE: This summary is produced by the Rule of Law Collaborative, not by the original author(s).

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