Skip to main content

The current state and Future of Preventing Violent Extremism in the Arab Region: Regional assessment and future prospects

Abu Dhabi, UAE

In 2015, the United Nations Secretary-General devised a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE), aimed at reinvigorating pillar (1) of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The Plan, which was largely a reaction to a rising new generation of groups able to spread violent extremist ideologies at an increasingly rapid pace, recognized Violent Extremism (VE) as conducive to terrorism. All over the globe, individuals are exposed to violent material and ideologies in an unprecedented manner. In just three years, the self-labelled Islamic State inspired violent acts across 31 countries.
If each radicalization process is unique, qualitative research suggests that drivers of VE can be categorized into ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. ‘Push factors’, which refer to the structural conditions that can drive an individual into VE, include: the lack of socio-economic opportunities; marginalization and discrimination; poor governance, violations of human rights and the rule of law; prolonged and unresolved conflicts; and radicalization in prisons. On the other hand, ‘pull factors’ refer to individual processes like backgrounds and motivations; collective grievances and victimization; distortion and misuse of beliefs, political ideologies and ethnic and cultural differences; and leadership and social networks.
Against this background, one can easily see how VE can take root in the Arab region, which displays a 30% youth unemployment rate, protracted conflict, exclusive understanding of ethnic, religious and other forms of identities, non-inclusive governance, poor human rights records, etc. The social fabric of a number of societies and communities are eroding, while millions of uprooted IDPs and refugees are at risk of marginalization in host communities with limited resources. The risk for people to resort to violent means of expression similar to the ones that spread across much of the region in 2011 is looming, which would engulf the region into further conflict and drive it away from achieving the SDGs set by Agenda 2030.
This EGM will be co-organized with Hedayah Center’s ICCT, the UAE-based premier international center and operational platform for expertise and experience to prevent and counter violent extremism by promoting understanding and sharing of good practices to effectively serve as the true global center to prevent and counter violent extremism.
Within the thematic framework of conflict prevention This meeting will explore a number of questions regarding the current state and future of Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE), inter alia, in the Arab region. Even though PVE programmes are still very much in their inception, their future seems uncertain. The lack of empirical evidence on the impact of PVE is notably problematic, as results will take years to effectively materialize. Should the region continue investing in such programmes? How should PVE planning be conducted? Can governments devise national strategies if they actively include all actors of society? How should hate speech be combatted and prevented in social media? Is there a role for the private sector in these efforts? Should civil society actors address ‘pull’ factors while development actors address ‘push’ factors?