We understand violent extremism generally as violence associated with radical ideologies or groups which strive for a complete, not gradual or incremental, change of political and social relations. We bear in mind that although violence and extremism are not bound to one specific religious or ideological setting, discussions of the concept are usually associated with a very specific empirical reality, i.e. violent Salafist ideologies and/or violence conducted by individuals or groups associated with Al Qaeda and ISIS. There are, in any context, various approaches for dealing with the phenomenon. Although most still lack conceptual, definitional and operational coherence and clarity, it is useful to keep in mind the distinctions associated with them:
Initially a rather cosmetic improvement on blunt anti-/counter-terrorism approaches, CVE has developed into a security-focused approach to dealing with VE which uses a myriad of tools and entry points, but remains rooted in a hard power approach.
PVE as an approach is focused more on bottom-up efforts, and the whole spectrum of root causes. It was first introduced in a 2016 action plan presented by then UN secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Emphasis is put on identifying and tackling the push and pull factors, as well as on strengthening individual and community resilience.
TVE underscores the possibility of changing actors and means of violence rather than solely the need to step up security or resilience to protect and prevent: “Transforming violent extremism recognizes that while violent extremism exists, the reasons and motivators leading to an individual being drawn to violent extremist movements can be transformed into a different type of agency or engagement. This is distinct from countering violent extremism which is reactive to extremist violence rather than aimed at altering the dynamics that motivate it.” (SFCG, TVE report, 2017, p. 4). The term is also taken as lead concept in our forthcoming Handbook Dialogue 13, where lead author Mohammed Abu-Nimer proposes: “What is truly needed to effectively address VE is the development of … programmes that take into account the ‘human factors’ – the community context, culture and religion, building trust with the community, fostering intra-community relationships through dialogue, finding a language of peace and peace education, etc.” (Abu-Nimer, 2018, p. 3)