The evidence shows that security-driven responses produce limited results for countering violent extremism and can even make things worse.
For instance, youth are often the victims of extremist violence, yet they are also subject to excessive security measures to counter these groups. Such responses can have the opposite effect, by making young people feel further marginalized and thus more susceptible to radicalization.
UNDP argues for a different approach, one that embraces youth aspirations for a productive life in a healthy society and builds their capacity to create that society.
In Trinidad and Tobago – one of the largest per capita contributors of ISIL foreign fighters – the “PVE-YES” project focused on empowering youth to make purposeful decisions that positively contribute to society. It also trained prison officers to mentor at-risk youth into becoming role models and agents of change, advancing progress towards a more restorative justice system that respects human rights and nurtures the full potential of the youths.
These interventions offer youth positive alternatives to meet the same needs and aspirations to which violent extremist groups tend to appeal: income, adventure, entertainment, a sense of purpose and belonging.
In sub-Saharan Africa, UNDP works in 25 countries to address the immediate and underlying factors that contribute to the region’s emergence as a new epicentre of extremist violence. In Mali, the project helped to strengthen community radio as a platform to challenge stereotypes, address tensions and deliver messages of social cohesion. In Somalia, UNDP supported the Ministry of Religious Affairs in establishing a network of religious leaders to counter misinformation and promote Islam as a religion of tolerance and peace. The network has facilitated the disengagement and reintegration of 36 ex-members of violent extremist groups.
Extremist groups exploit development failures to recruit new members or find sympathizers. Whether it’s a lack of employment or livelihood opportunities, inequality or social exclusion, societal ills provide an opening for extremists to introduce their corrosive narratives.
Leveraging evidence-based analysis and recommendations from extensive research, UNDP works with 40 countries to improve governance and service delivery and strengthen trust between governments and their citizens.