Effective Approaches to Preventing Violent Extremism: A Peacebuilding Systems Perspective

2018 | Anita Ernstorfer

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, not least due to the availability of related funding lines.

While there is an undeniable need to address violent extremism, this latest Berghof Handbook Dialogue takes as one premise that more often than not, analysis and programming to date often fall short in understanding and tackling the root causes of the phenomenon. Our lead article proposes: “Ultimately, addressing VE is fundamentally about conflict transformation, yet CVE/PVE interventions are rarely designed to be transformative.”

This response to Mohammed Abu-Nimer’s Alternative Approaches to Transforming Violent Extremism. The Case of Islamic Peace and Interreligious Peacebuilding is focused on the question of what makes prevention of violent extremism approaches effective. It will explore in more detail some of the points raised in the lead article related to an insufficient understanding of structural drivers of violent extremism (VE), the limited evidence base and research in relation to the ‘prevention’ or ‘countering’ of violent extremism (P/CVE), unrealistic donor expectations, and weak and externally imposed programme designs. It specifically responds to the encouragement of Abu-Nimer’s request to “delve deeper” into analysing structures of violence, not only the symptoms (Abu-Nimer 2018, 17). This article will explore how to maximise the potential for positive peace impacts of different approaches to preventing violent extremism by applying principles from the peacebuilding field and a systems perspective.


Suggested Citation: Effective approaches to preventing violent extremism: a peacebuilding systems perspective. In: Berghof Dialogue Handbook on Transformative Approaches to Violent Extremism. 2018.