Countering Violent Extremism: A New Joint Strategy


fightersThe Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have released the “Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism.” In a press conference on May 25, 2016, Justin Siberell, Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism, discussed the international climate in which violent extremism has taken hold. “Even as we degrade terrorist groups’ ability to operate and extend their reach, they continue to attract new followers. […] But they offer something – belonging or adventure or an ideology that resonates. So what is it that we can do – and more importantly encourage our partners to do – to disrupt those pathways to radicalization and recruitment to violence and terrorism?”

After several high-profile attacks, including Brussels and Paris, the Joint Strategy seeks to build on the ideals of the White House CVE (countering violent extremism) Summit Agenda in order to create a more comprehensive approach to CVE strategy – a “roadmap for mobilizing the full range of America’s diplomatic and development tools to meet this challenge.” The report identifies two end goals for the new strategy: violent groups are unable to attract new followers or recruits, and governments, in collaboration with communities and organizations, are able to prevent violent radicalization among individuals and groups. Indeed, this is a lofty goal, but the report does offer five strategic objectives on how to get there:

1) Expand international political will with the intention of understanding the drivers behind violent extremism so that these may be addressed in the international community.

2) Encourage and support partner governments in revising policies to create more effectiveness in CVE strategy vis-à-vis diplomatic engagement and the implementation of the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

3.) Implement foreign assistance tools, including development, to limit social, political, and economic risk factors which foster violent extremism in communities, or put certain populations at risk for radicalization.

4.) Support and “amplify locally credible voices” which have the ability to offer a positive alternative to the propaganda spread by violent extremists. Specifically, the report and Siberell mention that the  role and efforts of the State Department-housed, interagency Global Engagement Center (GEC) will be integral in fulfilling this objective.

5.) Promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of the those individuals caught in the radicalization cycle. This objective is shared between both government and non-government actors, with the goal of breaking the self-perpetuating cycle of violence, focusing on limiting the effects of “hotbeds”, such as prisons.

Siberell notes that not only is international cooperation critical to the success of CVE at a global level, but research at a global level will also be indispensable, giving an empirical base to CVE policies and strategies throughout the international system. Yet, he also acknowledges that “our best partners in protecting vulnerable people from succumbing to violent extremist ideologies are located within the communities themselves – parents, teachers, families, friends, neighbors and faith leaders.”