CT and P/CVE Programmatic Learning Programme

This programme is designed to assess the effectiveness of interventions in these fields as well as what is considered success and how it can be measured.




RUSI’s Terrorism and Conflict group has conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of global counter-terrorism (CT) interventions, including preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) programmes. This programme brings together all the relevant projects that analyse ‘what can work and what has not worked’ in these fields of intervention, as well as what is considered success and how it can be measured.

Research projects have been completed through the RUSI London, Nairobi, and Europe offices, covering a wide range of global locations. Additionally, the research has been supplemented significantly by learning gathered through RUSI’s role in implementing multiple EU-funded STRIVE P/CVE programmes.

Youth & Education

Age is frequently identified as a risk factor or a predictor for engagement in violent extremism. Indeed, certain factors associated with youth – such as changes in social identity, weakened social control and the intensified influence of peer groups – can make individuals more susceptible to violent extremist influences. However, using age as a predictor for engagement in such behaviour does not account for the vast majority of young people who do not engage in violent extremism. It also does little for identifying the minority who do engage in it. Youth programmes are often based on a simplistic understanding of the reasons why some young people engage in violent extremism. Consequently, they struggle with targeting their activities and fail to address the complex factors that drive young people to violent extremism. The programmatic focus on youth as a potential extremist threat and the lack of clear criteria to decide which young people to focus the attention of P/CVE work on can lead to the securitisation of everyday, youth-related activities and the framing of youth as a ‘suspect community’.

Education has gained increasing prominence in combating radicalisation and recruitment by violent extremist groups and offering positive alternatives to it. While the relationship between education and violent extremism remains ambiguous, the potential of educators and school systems to increase the resilience of students against violent extremism has been highlighted by policymakers and practitioners alike. Given that it is often young people who are associated with violent extremist groups and activities, the prospect of reaching a majority of youths – including those who might be at risk of radicalisation or recruitment – through education interventions could be a central element in the reduction of terrorism globally.

Related projects


Projects

Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism (STRIVE) Horn of Africa

Projects

Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism (STRIVE) II Kenya

Prevention Project

Projects

Review of CT and P/CVE Activity Effectiveness

Networks and Social Norms in Kenya's VE and CVE Landscape

Mentorships

Mentorships, as interventions targeted at the specific needs of individuals or groups of individuals and adapted to the local environment, are assumed to have a higher chance of tackling violent extremism than broad approaches targeting general populations. Evaluations of mentorship interventions are limited in number and scope – as are most interventions within the wider P/CVE field – and the existing evidence often lacks well-developed theories of change or is over-reliant on anecdotal evidence. It is, therefore, difficult to draw causal links between mentoring and positive P/CVE outcomes.

However, according to the findings across several research projects, as well as the lessons learned from implementation of mentorship programmes through RUSI’s STRIVE projects, the team is cautiously optimistic about the effectiveness of mentorship programmes.

Law Enforcement

Interventions to build CT and P/CVE capacity in national government and law enforcement agencies have become a common approach. Programming with the aim of capacity building usually includes delivery of training workshops or mentorship programmes, sometimes supported by technical assistance, or even more long-term supply of equipment or expertise.

This type of programming is often built upon two underlying assumptions. First, that it is possible to transfer capacity from high- to low-capacity states, i.e., that violent extremism in developing countries can be countered by importing knowledge, skills and techniques from (or with the assistance of) donor countries. Second, that training and technical assistance are effective methods of transferring capacity. Our research in this space explores whether these approaches are effective and how they could be improved.

Related projects


Projects

Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism (STRIVE) Horn of Africa

Projects

Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism (STRIVE) II Kenya

Projects

Review of CT and P/CVE Activity Effectiveness

Deradicalisation

CT and P/CVE interventions in this space often include programmes aimed at disengagement, deradicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration as part of the same process. The distinction between disengagement and deradicalisation comes with differentiating approaches seeking to remove violence as an acceptable means of engagement versus those seeking to challenge the ideological beliefs of an individual. As the next step of the process, rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives can involve elements such as vocational training, coaching and psychosocial support, and in-kind or cash support.

Most interventions in this space are implemented by governments or partners they choose to provide support in a government-led process. This type of programming often takes place as part of a correctional solution, within prisons, or as part of a probationary programme. The following research highlights some of the main challenges and underlying conceptual dilemmas in this space, as well as providing recommendations for improving approaches.

Related projects


Projects

Review of CT and P/CVE Activity Effectiveness

Deradicalisation and Disengagement Programming in Prisons and Rehabilitatio...

Deradicalisation and Disengagement in Somalia: Evidence from a Rehabilitatio...

clockLong Read

Communications

Recognising that terrorism ‘is not simply violence but communication’, P/CVE communications have become a prominent, if not staple, strand of preventive policy and programming. Designed to discredit, counter or confront extremist messaging, or strengthen the digital literacy and critical thinking capabilities of recipient societies, these measures include a diverse spectrum of interventions, both on- and offline. Despite their ubiquity, there remains significant shortfalls in the evidence base for their effectiveness or acknowledgement of their limitations and ambiguities.

The limitations of common communications approaches are frequently accentuated by the insularity of messaging exercises, a preoccupation with ‘message dominance’ and a neglect for factors that make extremist content appealing in the first place. Crucially, the wider ecology framing how people consume and interpret content, and the dynamics of radicalisation and recruitment processes themselves, are often overlooked. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that interventions are stronger when they recognise and respond to the social and relational dynamics of these processes.

Building off the research, RUSI has been working to develop a preventative communications approach that engages individuals in creating their own narratives as part of the prevention strategy.

Gender

Gender mainstreaming strategies have become a common expectation across P/CVE donors. However, there remain gaps between high-level policy commitments to inclusion of gender perspective and on-the-ground implementation practices. These gaps are commonly rooted in conceptual and practical challenges for practitioners, as well as lack of gendered data and evidence for how to include effective gender-mainstreaming approaches in programme design, implementation and evaluation. In practical terms, the term gender is often equated to women, with the result that most of the ‘gender’ focus in the P/CVE space has been on inclusion of women in programming.

Without an evidence base exploring gendered dynamics of participation in violent extremism and the impact of gendered expectations on the roles that individuals play, many of the assumptions underpinning P/CVE initiatives are based on untested or weak assumptions about women’s allegedly ‘peaceful, moderate and maternal’ natures as the basis for engaging them in preventive efforts – displaying gendered essentialism.

The body of evidence RUSI has gathered from research and practical experience indicates that P/CVE efforts must account for the complex and highly gendered realities of both men’s and women’s roles and relationships, as well as their potential or actual roles in violent extremism itself.

Related projects


Projects

Different Cities, Shared Stories: Gender and Violent Extremism

Gender in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism

Prevention Project

Projects

Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism (STRIVE) Horn of Africa

Projects

Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism (STRIVE) II Kenya

Monitoring & Evaluation

Governments and donors supporting CT and P/CVE interventions are under increasing pressure to demonstrate positive outcomes, value for money, and accountability to taxpayers. Monitoring and evaluation of programmes must address underlying assumptions, conditions for effectiveness, and what works and what does not at an impact level.

While programmes may be able to measure their effectiveness at an outcome level (i.e., whether they achieved their programmatic goals), there is an attribution conundrum implicit in evaluating the impact of CT and P/CVE programmes because a positive result would be the lack of radicalisation or terrorism (i.e., how to you measure the absence of activity, while also accounting for the complex array of intervening factors that may be outside the control of your intervention). These challenges are addressed conceptually and practically in the projects below – including with some examples of how monitoring and evaluation were completed by RUSI-implemented STRIVE programming.


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