Violent extremism raises its head in many different guises, from foreign fighters engaging in the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, terrorist attacks from Manchester to Kabul, to the promotion of violence-condoning views from the chatrooms up to high political offices. It is unsurprising, therefore, that dealing with violent extremism (VE) has emerged as a central framework of analysis and policy-making in most Western and non-Western government agencies. It is also heavily shaping the programming of non-governmental agencies.
There is an undeniable need to address violent extremism. However, our latest Berghof Handbook DialogueHandbook Dialogues points out that more often than not, analysis and programming to date fall short in understanding and tackling the root causes of the phenomenon. Berghof Handbook Dialogue No. 13 will thus look more deeply at what it takes to formulate transformative approaches to violent extremism. Some of the questions we want to explore are:
- What evidence-based knowledge is there in academia-, practice- and policy-circles on the causes and effects of current-day extremism?
- What are the links between violent ideology, religious or secular, and political action?
- Which pathways are there into violent extremism and, importantly, out of it, both at the individual and, if applicable, group and societal level?
- Which avenues of influence – on which types of actor, at which levels, in which sectors – are particularly promising from a conflict transformation and peacebuilding perspective?
In his lead article for Dialogue 13, Mohammed Abu-Nimer proposes that "ultimately, addressing VE is fundamentally about conflict transformation, yet CVE/PVE interventions are rarely designed to be transformative." The author calls for interreligious peacebuilding, which takes seriously and truly integrates the perspective of actors otherwise often defined as part of the problem. Respondents from various backgrounds will, over the months to come, discuss these propositions. They will shed light on systemic contexts, the role of identity and gender, practice-oriented work with youth and regional contexts such as the Western Balkans and the MENA region.
We gratefully acknowledge funding for this issue of our dialogue series by the German Foreign Office, in the context of their support for our project Preventing Violent Extremism in the Western Balkans.