Countering violent extremism: researching challenges in program design and Evaluation
Despite the current focus on countering violent extremism activities as the principal preventive approach to combat terrorism, there is little understanding about what actually works. What we know is that there is no ‘one-size-fits all’ approach to this global threat.
Effective countering violent extremism programs must be tailored to the operating environment and the specific needs of the beneficiaries. In this report, “Designing Countering Violent Extremism Programs: A Strategic Overview” we argue that not only should programs be responsive to the local security and political context, but that there are some contexts where countering violent extremism programs are less likely to be successful.
Through our research we identified that where operating environments do not have basic foundation blocks in place, countering violent extremism programs are less likely to succeed. These are:
- security in the operating environment;
- government accountability and respect for human rights; and
- a strong civil society.
In situations where these elements are absent, countering violent extremism programs might also not address the most urgent needs of beneficiaries. We apply this theory to the operating environments in Kenya and Pakistan. In doing so, we demonstrate that when these foundation blocks are present, programs are more likely to be implemented successfully.
What we recommend
Through our research, we identified five core recommendations:
- practitioners and donors should carefully consider the use of countering violent extremism terminology;
- donor branding should only be employed when necessary;
- consideration should be given to whether countering violent extremism programming is appropriate for the context;
- tailor program design and implementation to the context; and
- conduct regular monitoring and evaluation activities.
We argue that traditional monitoring and evaluation mechanisms may be less appropriate to countering violent extremism interventions. Instead we suggest alternate approaches and strongly recommend increased transparency in this field. This would enable increased sharing of what works — and what doesn’t — in countering violent extremism interventions.