Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalisation that Lead to Terrorism: Ideas, Recommendations, and Good Practices from the OSCE Region
The full report can be accessed here. Read on for the Executive Summary.
- There is practically no country in the OSCE that has not been affected by violent extremism. In 2016, terrorist attacks in OSCE participating States caused more than one thousand deaths. They destroyed billions of Euros worth of property and infrastructure, undermined people’s confidence in government and institutions, and created fear and suspicion between members of different ethnic and religious communities. Violent extremists not only cause death and destruction, they poison societies with hateful ideologies, and hinder peaceful development, dialogue, and cooperation. OSCE participating States have long recognised this challenged.
- It was in this context that the Austrian Chairmanship asked me to serve as Special Representative on Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalisation. My task was to sharpen the organisation’s focus, highlight existing activities, and offer practical suggestions for enhanced collaboration. The aim was to enable the OSCE to make the strongest possible contribution to what it calls Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalisation that Lead to Terrorism (VERLT), and fulfil the mandate it was given in the 2012 Consolidated Framework as well as Ministerial Declarations from 2015 and 2016.
- This report provides a summary of my findings. It seeks to (1) define key concepts and major dynamics; (2) evaluate the OSCE’s current and future role; and (3) identify areas of good practice, with particular emphasis on preventing and countering processes of violent radicalisation.
- Despite the many challenges that arise from the contentious nature of the issue and the OSCE’s size and political complexity, my overall conclusion is that the organisation can make an important contribution to countering violent extremism and radicalisation. Based on my assessment, the OSCE’s “added value” lies in three areas:
- Its role in preventing and resolving conflicts, promoting human rights, and safeguarding the rights of national minorities, given that terrorism is frequently linked to violent conflicts and that extremist recruiters often seek to manipulate political, ethnic, and religious fault lines;
- Its strong local presence, particularly in Central Asia and the Western Balkans, where the organisation is uniquely positioned to execute local programmes, lead capacity-building efforts, and coordinate among international actors;
- Its diverse membership and convening power, which can facilitate dialogue, cooperation, and the systematic exchange of good practices between participating States with different approaches and levels of capacity, especially in the area of countering violent radicalisation.
- The report does not underestimate the difficulties that are involved. There are few issues in international politics where the underlying dynamics are as contested as with terrorism and violent extremism. Many efforts to enhance international cooperation have failed because participants spoke different “languages” or had contradictory ideas about causes and effects. In some instances, these differences are political, while others result from a lack of clarity and empirical evidence. The report attempts to offer a more nuanced understanding of concepts like violent extremism, extremism, radicalisation, counter-terrorism, and countering violent extremism. It also highlights major dynamics of radicalisation that are rarely mentioned in government-led discussions, especially indiscriminate repression, violent conflicts, and the security implications of migration.
- The largest part of the report describes good practices on countering violent radicalisation from across the OSCE area. The aim is twofold. First, it seeks to illustrate the importance and potential impact of non-coercive approaches in dealing with violent extremism. Second, it demonstrates that neither the OSCE nor any participating State need to start from scratch, but that good ideas can often be found by reaching out to one’s partners. As mentioned above, the OSCE could play a useful role in facilitating this process, especially considering the varying levels of capacity among its participating States.
- More specifically, the report contains 22 good practice case studies from the following programmatic areas: national action plans; prison; policing; youth; education; religion; the internet; women; refugees; interventions; and returnees.
- The OSCE needs to create awareness of the importance of dealing with persistent political and structural drivers of radicalisation. New issues, such as the security implications of migration, should be pro-actively addressed.
- Participating States ought to be genuine – and forceful – in their commitment to resolving such problems, even if it means having to change course or re-examine their own policies and actions.
- The OSCE needs to intensify its capacity-building efforts in Central Asia and the Western Balkans. Given its strong and long-established local presence, the OSCE is ideally suited to take a leadership role vis-à-vis other international organisations. Participating States should support the Secretary-General in seeking local arrangements to this effect.
- The OSCE Secretariat should expand their operations to become an international “clearing house” for good practices in countering violent radicalisation. Participating States should empower the Action against Terrorism Unit to become the world’s most dynamic platform for the sharing of good practices in this area.