Civil society actors, UN agencies, military leaders, government officials, journalists, sociologists and academics came together in a week-long course to discuss how to design and build national strategies for countering violent extremism (CVE). The course examined the meaning of UN Security Council Resolution 2178 and its implications for states and actors in developing national plans to counter violent extremism. It also identified the root causes and drivers of violent extremism, including online propaganda and terrorists' use of the media. Throughout the course, participants delved into the phenomena of foreign terrorist fighters and learned best practices in designing strategic communications to counter extremists' often highly effective messaging. The course also allowed participants to develop innovative CVE practices.
The issue of CVE has suffered a lack of clarity and understanding among policy-makers and practitioners, who often use the term “counter-terrorism” and “CVE” interchangeably, even though the concepts represent different approaches. CVE deals with preventing terrorism by focusing on human rights, reinforcement of civil society and building community resilience through conflict prevention and development. In this regard, UNSC Resolution 2178 represents an important step forward in that it explicitly highlights the importance of CVE and engaging with civil society and community stakeholders.
During the course, the GCSP hosted a public discussion with GCSP Associate Fellow, Professor Paul Pillar who highlighted the importance of learning from past mistakes in counter-terrorism efforts and highlighted the importance of focusing more on prevention. He discussed how there is an even greater need for developing holistic approaches to conflicts by focusing on the key grievances that drive the ideology that leads to extremism.
Some of the main conclusions of the course were that when designing CVE strategies, states must ensure that any measures taken to prevent and counter violent extremism must comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law.” Nation states and civil society must work in partnership to create a whole-of-society approach to ensure that in the future they will be able to develop a better response to new terrorist threats and at ensure that new strategies are not only effective but sustainable in an increasingly fluid and rapidly transforming conflict environment.