A little more than a year ago this time, the 2016 January-February thematic issue of the Horn of Africa Bulletin (HAB) addressed the issues of countering violent extremism and policy responses to these problems at the national and regional level. Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) is not only an emerging and topical policy agenda and sphere of programmatic interventions, but also a vast and complex research agenda for academia, civil society and government agencies. P/CVE programmatic interventions are garnering momentum, support and resources across the world, a state of affairs also reflected in the Horn of Africa (the Horn).
Gaps in concepts
The concept of P/CVE is bedevilled by multiple conceptual gaps and contradictions. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is often distinguished from Counter Terrorism (CT) and/or Counter Insurgency (COIN) with CVE being understood as encompassing softer approaches, many critics believe that in practice the lines between CVE, CT and COIN are often blurred. Some of the foundational terms associated with P/CVE are contested, a key instance being the concept of ‘violent extremism’. An issue that raises greater perplexity is the lack of consensus over the precise relationship between ‘radicalisation’ and violent extremism.
The majority of experts and analysts also question the utility of focusing on the role of ideology in terms of violent extremism arguing that there is little empirical basis for the role of ideology. Instead an emphasis on ideology can have the effect of stigmatising and stereotyping communities as a whole
Lack of Consensus in Definitions
A key takeaway is the lack of consensus on some of the foundational definitions and concepts associated with CVE practices. The evidentiary basis for much of what constitutes effective CVE programming is at best flimsy or worse, non-existent. However, the growing topicality of violent extremism as a policy issue and the expansion of resources devoted to CVE, has meant that a growing number of governments, donors and civil-society actors are supporting and engaging in CVE projects. This is occurring in spite of the multiple gaps and weaknesses that still characterise much of the thinking and practice of CVE alluded to in the earlier paragraphs.
Current Discourse and Emerging Issues
The upcoming July-August 2017 thematic issue of the HAB will in general terms address the current state of CVE discourse and programming in the Horn. It seeks to be forward looking, paying attention to emerging issues, shifts at the conceptual and also level of practice in terms of discussions and research on violent extremism and CVE. It also seeks contributions that focus on some of the gaps and issues mentioned earlier from the perspective of practitioners, academics, and policy actors, and suggest policy options.
MORE | Read the full Concept Note of the upcoming issue
CATCH UP | Read the 2016 January-February CVE themed issue of the Horn of Africa Bulletin (HAB)
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