SUMMARY: A ‘Whole of Society’ Approach? Exploring Civil Society Inclusion in National Frameworks to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism

In “A ‘Whole of Society’ Approach? Exploring Civil Society Inclusion in National Frameworks to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism,” David Dews discusses ways in which countries should involve civil society in their national frameworks to preventing and countering extremist terrorism (P/CVE). The brief analyzes 20 national frameworks to discuss research, development, localization, implementation, coordination, communications, and monitoring. Dews notes that national frameworks were examined as written; as such the involvement of civil society may differ on the ground.

Dews outlines the importance of a “whole of society” approach to P/CVE acknowledging the necessity of nongovernmental actors to augment traditional government-only approaches. Civil society is local, knowledgeable, trusted, and well-integrated into the societies in which they work making it a crucial component of P/CVE. The UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the Global Counterterrorism Forum recommend an inclusive, participatory approach that involves civil society at all levels of the framework planning and implementation process. While international guidance is clear that P/CVE frameworks should be highly inclusive of civil society, many governments fail to do so and in some cases, are growing increasingly restrictive of civil society activity.

International guidance stipulates that national frameworks be evidence-based. Civil society can be an important source of information on local and national drivers of violent extremism. Many national frameworks fail to cite the evidential basis for their P/CVE approaches. However, a positive trend is that most national frameworks included the importance of collaborating with civil society to build evidential bases for P/VCE.

Including civil society in the development of national P/CVE frameworks is important, but the extent to which countries do so differs significantly. On one end of the spectrum, countries failed to involve civil society in their framework development entirely.  On the other end of the spectrum, frameworks were developed after significant consultations with civil society. Likewise, civil society can help governments understand local needs and drivers of violent extremism. One noteworthy national framework established local committees comprised of local government and civil society members to map issues unique to various geographic regions.

Because of their involvement and experience with local communities, civil society is ideal for gathering feedback on project implementation and increasing trust of government programs. Governments must protect the legal rights of civil society, provide support to them, and not heavily burden them with restrictions so they are able to operate to their full potential and implement policies.

Dews cites the international guidance recommending the creation of a committee to centralize communication between government and non-government organizations involved in the planning and implementation of frameworks. This communication and cooperation between governments and civil societies is especially important in nations in which trust is damaged or lost between the communities and the government. Dews argues that by providing information and explanation of the government’s actions through trusted civil society actors, governments promote transparency and confidence in local communities. To create this meaningful exchange, it is important civil societies are involved in creating the framework. If governments involve civil society in the design and implementation of P/CVE frameworks, civil society should have an equally important role in monitoring the implementation and effects of the frameworks.

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

Highlighted Publications

Stay connected with JUSTRAC+ to receive updates, news, and resources.